The six and a quarter square miles of land presently known as Niles situated on the northwest border of Chicago, was first settled in the 1700s by Potawatomi Indians.
The first European settlers were mainly German. In 1831, John and Katherine Ebinger came to America from Stuttgart, Germany to set up a farm in the Chicago area. According to local legend, their horse stepped on a rattlesnake and died shortly afterwards. Left without a horse, the Ebingers established a home and farm and settled in what was to become Niles. More immigrants followed in the 1830s and the area around North Plank Road (Milwaukee Avenue) and Touhy Avenue became known as "Dutchman's Point." Bohemian, Polish, and English immigrants helped bring the population of the burgeoning area to 200 people by 1884. At that time, the Village consisted of two general stores, one pharmacy, a harness shop, two blacksmith's shops, one doctor, two hotels, two schools, and three cemeteries. Early Niles residents engaged in farming and horticulture and used North Plank Road to trade goods in Chicago markets.
On August 20, 1835 the U.S. Government purchased a portion of land that included Niles. Niles Township was incorporated in 1850. Forty-nine years later, on August 24, 1899, Niles was officially incorporated as a Village with a population of 500. The name came from the Niles Register newspaper, published in Washington, D.C.
During the first half of the 20th century Niles grew steadily; by 1920, the population was 1,200. Bootlegging became popular during Prohibition Days, with roadhouses outnumbering single-family dwellings. In 1932 Robert Ilg constructed a recreational park for his employees, with swimming pools, cabanas and a unique facade to cover the pool water tank. This facade, a half size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, exists today and is easily recognized as the symbol of Niles. In April 1991, Niles and Pisa, Italy, were officially joined as "sister cities." This relationship encourages student exchange programs as well as cultural sharing and alliances.
Following the end of World War II, the Village of Niles enjoyed extensive growth. In 1959, the opening of the Golf Mill Shopping Center and other specialty shops along Milwaukee Avenue increased Niles' reputation as a premier retail shopping area. By the 1960s, the village began to change dramatically. A park district and library district were established. A new fire station, new police station and many new shopping centers were built and large industrial firms relocated to Touhy Avenue and Howard Street. Due to its many significant accomplishments the Village received the highly coveted "All American City Award." With the coming of the country's bicentennial in 1976, Niles' population had grown to 32,432.
With the dawn of the 21st century, Niles residents reflect back on a tradition of progress and a future of continued success.
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