Evanston, Illinois

Evanston, Illinois
Evanston, Illinois
Fountain Square Evanston.jpg
Fountain Square
County: Cook
Township: Evanston
Incorporated: City, 1872
Mayor: Elizabeth Tisdahl
ZIP code(s): 60201, 60202, 60203, 60204, 60208, 60209
Area code(s): 847/224
Population (2000): 74,486
Change from 1990: up 1.37%
Density: 9,584.1/mi² (3,698.6/km²)
Area: 7.8 mi² (20.0 km²)
Per capita income: $33,645
(median: $56,140)
Home value: $290,800 (US Census, 2000)[1]
(median: $285,000 (median sale price, 2009-2010)[2])
Website: cityofevanston.org
Demographics (2000)[3]
White Black Hispanic Asian
65.23% 22.50% 6.11% 6.09%
Islander Native Other
0.09% 0.19% 2.85%

Evanston is a suburban municipality in Cook County, Illinois 12 miles north of downtown Chicago, bordering Chicago to the south, Skokie to the west, and Wilmette to the north, with an estimated population of 74,360 as of 2003.[4] It is one of the North Shore communities that adjoin Lake Michigan. The boundaries of the city of Evanston are coterminous with those of Evanston Township – although school districts 65 and 202 take in a small portion of eastern Skokie. Evanston is the home of Northwestern University.



Prior to the 1830s, the area now occupied by Evanston was mainly uninhabited, consisting largely of wetlands and swampy forest. However, Potawatomi Indians used trails along higher-lying prehistoric ridges that ran in a general north-south direction through the area, and had at least some semi-permanent settlements along the trails.

A part of downtown Evanston, as seen in October 2005.

French explorers referred to the general area as "Grosse Pointe" after a point of land jutting into Lake Michigan about 13 miles (21 km) north of the mouth of the Chicago River. After the first non-native Americans settled in the area in 1836, the names "Grosse Point Territory" and "Gross Point voting district" were used through the 1830s and 1840s, although the territory had no defined boundaries.[5][6] The area remained only sparsely settled, supporting some farming and lumber activity on some of the higher ground, as well as a number of taverns or "hotels" along the ridge roads.

In 1850, a township called Ridgeville was organized, extending from Graceland Cemetery in Chicago to the southern edge of the Ouilmette Reservation, along what is now Central Street, and from Lake Michigan to Western Avenue in Chicago. The 1850 census shows a few hundred settlers in this township,[6] and a post office with the name of Ridgeville was established at one of the taverns. However, no municipality yet existed.

In 1851, a group of Methodist business leaders founded Northwestern University and Garrett Biblical Institute. They chose a bluffed and wooded site along the lake as Northwestern's home, purchasing several hundred acres of land from Dr. John Foster, a Chicago farm owner. In 1854, the founders of Northwestern submitted to the county judge their plans for a city to be named Evanston after John Evans, one of their leaders. In 1857, the request was granted.[7] The township of Evanston was split off from Ridgeville Township; at approximately the same time, that portion of Ridgeville south of Devon Avenue was organized as Lake View Township.[8]

Evanston was formally incorporated as a town on December 29, 1863, but declined in 1869 to become a city despite the Illinois legislature passing a bill for that purpose. Evanston expanded after the Civil War with the annexation of the village of North Evanston. Finally, in early 1892, following the annexation of the Village of South Evanston, voters elected to organize as a city.[9] The 1892 boundaries are largely those that exist today.

During the 1960s, Northwestern University changed the city's shoreline by adding a 74-acre (300,000 m²) lakefill.[citation needed]

In 1939, Evanston hosted the first NCAA basketball championship final at Northwestern University's Patten Gymnasium.[3]

In August 1954, Evanston hosted the second assembly of the World Council of Churches, still the only WCC assembly to have been held in the United States. President Dwight Eisenhower welcomed the delegates and Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary-general of the United Nations, delivered an important address entitled "An instrument of faith."[10]

Today, the city is home to Northwestern University and other educational institutions as well as headquarters of Alpha Phi International women's fraternity, Rotary International, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the National Lekotek Center, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, the Sigma Chi Fraternity and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.

Evanston is the birthplace of Tinkertoys, and Evanston, along with Ithaca, New York, Two Rivers, Wisconsin and Plainfield, Illinois also lays claim to having originated the ice cream sundae.[11]

Evanston was a dry community from 1858 until 1972, when the City Council voted to allow restaurants and hotels to serve liquor on their premises. In 1984, the Council voted to allow retail liquor outlets within the city limits.[12]


Evanston is located at 42°2′47″N 87°41′41″W / 42.04639°N 87.69472°W / 42.04639; -87.69472 (42.046380, -87.694608)[13] and is at an elevation of 600 ft.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.8 square miles (20 km2), of which, 7.8 square miles (20 km2) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) of it (0.26%) is water.

In August 2004, there was some confusion as to the size of Evanston. Evanston is often locally listed as being 8.4 square miles (22 km2), but this number appears to be incorrect. The 7.8 square miles (20 km2) listed by the United States Census Bureau is more accurate.


As of the census[14] of 2010, there were 74,486 people, 33,181 households, and 15,952 families residing in the city. The population density was 9,575.3 people per square mile (3,698.6/km²). There were 30,817 housing units at an average density of 3,978.4 per square mile (1,535.3/km²). The 2010 census showed that Evanston is ethnically mixed with the following breakdown in population: 61.2% white, 18.1% black or African American, 8.6% Asian, and 3.8% from other races. 9.0% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 29,651 households out of which 25.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.4% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.2% were non-families. 36.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 3.03.

The median age was 32 years, with 20.2% under the age of 18, 16.4% from 18 to 24, 32.0% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 10.8% who were 65 years of age or older. For every 100 females there were 89.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.4 males.

Evanston is economically diverse. According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $69,303, and the median income for a family was $102,258.[15] Males had a median income of $51,726 versus $39,767 for females. The per capita income for the city was $33,645. About 5.1% of families and 11.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.3% of those under age 18 and 7.1% of those age 65 or over.

Government and politics

Evanston has a council-manager system of government and is divided into nine wards, each of which is represented by an Alderman, or member of the Evanston City Council. Its current mayor is Elizabeth Tisdahl, replacing longtime mayor Lorraine H. Morton.

In the April 2009, municipal elections, Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl won a landslide victory in the race for mayor over three opponents in a low-turnout election.[16]

Evanston was heavily Republican in voter identification from the time of the Civil War up to the 1960s. Nixon carried Evanston in the 1968 presidential election.[17] Then it began trending Democrat and now almost exclusively identifies with candidates affiliated with the Democratic party in elections on all levels of government.

In the 2004 presidential election, Democratic candidate John Kerry won 82% of Evanston's vote. His Republican opponent and the nationwide winner, President George W. Bush, only won 17% of the vote in Evanston[citation needed]. In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama won approximately 87% of the vote in Evanston over Republican Senator John McCain.[citation needed].


  • Early after its founding Evanston, because of its strong Methodist influence, and its attempt to impose moral rigor, was called "Heavenston."[18]
  • In the early 20th century Evanston was called "The City of Churches."[19]
  • The varied works of numerous prominent architects, and many prominent mansions, especially near the lakefront, gave the town by the 1920s the sobriquet "The City of Homes,"[18][20] a fact often touted by local real estate agents.[21] Use of the phrase has been attributed to a 1924 speech at the local Kiwanis club.[22]
  • Since the late 20th century, because of Evanston's activism and often left-of-center politics, it is sometimes humorously (or sarcastically) referred to as "The People's Republic of Evanston."[23][24][25]
  • "E-Town" is a nickname used often by Evanston's youth populace, and is especially common among students and even faculty at Evanston Twp. High School, as well as Northwestern students.[26][27]


Evanston Public Library

Public schools

High school

Most of Evanston (and a small part of the village of Skokie) is within the boundaries of Evanston Township High School District 202. The district has a single high school, Evanston Township High School (ETHS) with an enrollment of just over 3000, covering grades 9 through 12. The school's mascot is Willie the Wildkit (a diminutive of Northwestern's Wildcats) and the school's colors are orange and blue. Its biggest rival is New Trier High School in Winnetka. Its superintendent is Dr. Eric Witherspoon.

Primary schools

Evanston-Skokie Community Consolidated School District 65, covering all of Evanston and part of Skokie, provides primary education from pre-kindergarten through grade 8. The district has ten elementary schools (through fifth grade), three middle schools (grades 6 through 8), two magnet schools (K through 8) and three special schools or centers.


Shops along Davis Street, looking West, August 2006. The Davis Street Metra stop is visible in the lower half of the photograph.

Evanston's growth occurred largely because of its accessibility from Chicago by rail. The Northwestern founders did not finalize their commitment to siting the university there until they were assured the Chicago & Milwaukee railroad line would run there. C&M trains began stopping in Evanston in 1855.[28] Evanston later experienced rapid growth as one of the first streetcar suburbs. The North Shore Line which gave the area its nickname started at Church Street in Evanston and continued up to Waukegan.

Transit continues to make Evanston attractive today. The CTA's Purple Line, part of the Chicago 'L' system, runs through Evanston. From its terminal at Howard in Chicago, the line heads north to the South Boulevard, Main, Dempster, Davis, Foster, Noyes, and Central stations, before terminating at Linden in Wilmette. Metra's Union Pacific/North Line also serves Evanston, with stations at Main Street, Davis Street and Central Street, the first two being adjacent to Purple Line stations. The CTA's Yellow Line also runs through the city, though it only stops at Howard.

Evanston is also served by six CTA bus routes as well as four Pace bus routes.

Active modes of transportation include miles of sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

The largest automobile routes from Chicago to Evanston include Lake Shore Drive, the Edens Expressway (I-94), and McCormick Boulevard, although the first twp of those do not extend to Evanston itself and require driving through Rogers Park (via Sheridan Road or Ridge Avenue) and Skokie, respectively. The principal routes from the north are the Edens, Green Bay Road, and Sheridan Road.


Top employers

According to the City's 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[29] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Northwestern University 5,325
2 NorthShore University HealthSystem 3,780
3 Saint Francis Hospital 1,649
4 City of Evanston 1,000
5 Evanston-Skokie Community Consolidated School District 65 700
6 Evanston Township High School District 202 566
7 Presbyterian Homes 533
8 Rotary International 460
9 Jewel/Osco 455
10 C.E. Niehoff & Co. 450

Commercial districts

Once the home of one of the first Marshall Field's[30][31] and Sears stores in suburbia, Evanston remains an important shopping destination for the north suburbs and North Side of Chicago, with numerous commercial centers throughout the city. The principal ones are as follows:

  • Downtown - centered around the Davis St. Metra and "L" stops,[32] Evanston's downtown adjoins Northwestern University. Over 300 businesses,[33] several highrise office and residential buildings, three traditional low-rise shopping areas, an 18-screen movie theatre, and over 85 restaurants
  • Central Street - actually several shopping districts linked along the northernmost of the city's principal east-west arteries,[34][35] with the most active clustered around the Central Street Metra station and characterized by specialty shops and restaurants[36] in a walkable environment with an eclectic, vintage "small-town feel"[37][38] strongly protected by the community[39]
  • Dempster Street - just off the Dempster "L" stop; over 60 shops,[40] many of them small and hip, including Bagel Art, the vegetarian Blind Faith Cafe, The Mexican Shop, 2nd Hand Tunes, lollie (children’s boutique), FolkWorks Gallery, Union Pizzeria and SPACE, a music venue and recording studio.[41]
  • Main Street Station - approximately 3 blocks of small, interesting shops[42] abutting both a CTA and Metra stop, in a gentrifying neighborhood.[43] Since 1917,[44] the neighborhood has been home to the South Branch[45] of the Evanston Public Library, which closed in 2011. It also is home to the Evanston Arts Depot.[46]
  • Howard Street - many small shops line the city's border with Chicago; at the west end of the avenue, near the border with Skokie, Howard Center, a small thriving shopping mall, was built in the 1990s after some controversy.[47]
  • Chicago Avenue - not a separate shopping district per se, this extension of what is called Clark Street in Chicago runs parallel to the rail lines and is the principal north-south artery in Evanston from Howard Street north to its terminus at Northwestern University. Chicago Avenue connects the Main Street, Dempster Street, and Downtown shopping districts. Once home to numerous auto dealerships, it has attracted numerous restaurants and a growing number of multi-unit residential structures and is lined with interesting businesses.

Health care

Two hospitals are located within Evanston's city limits:


Beginning in the late 1990s, there has been considerable controversy over an explosion in high-rise development, especially in the downtown district. Detractors contend that the development has taken away what they call a "unique Evanston identity."[citation needed] They cite a growing number of local businesses that have gone out of business to be replaced with chain stores as its worst offense. In contrast proponents claim that the high-rises have brought much-needed life to what was a dying suburban downtown, and much-needed revenues to chronically underfunded city coffers[citation needed].

Recently (as of 2006) there was concern with Evanston's low-income population being able to find affordable housing. Evanston's west side, a formerly strong middle-class African American community, has been undergoing a redevelopment process, which has led to a steadily decreasing minority population in Evanston. The city's former mayor Lorraine H. Morton has tried to persuade builders to build less expensive medium sized homes under $350,000, but none of her attempts were successful.[citation needed]

University-City Relations

"The Arch", the main entrance to the Evanston campus of Northwestern University

A perennial debate in Evanston is the issue of Northwestern University's status as a tax-exempt institution. In the founding charter of Northwestern University, signed in 1851, the state granted the school an exemption from paying property taxes, and unlike other well-off private universities with statutory exemptions,[48] it provides its own police services, but not firefighter/paramedic services. It pays water, sewer, communications, real property transfer taxes, building permit fees, but not property taxes. Northwestern does not make Payments in Lieu of Taxes for the real estate it removes from property tax rolls.

Northwestern's critics allege that it consumes far more from the city than it contributes. However, its backers contend that the benefits of having an elite research institution justify Northwestern's tax status. This controversy was revived in 2003 when the university purchased an eight-story office building downtown, removing it from the tax rolls. An advisory referendum put on the April elections ballot, dubbed by supporters as a "Fair Share Initiative," received a majority, but was not passed into ordinance by the City Council.

In September 2009, Northwestern purchased a fire truck for the city of Evanston at a cost of $550,000. Northwestern President Morton Schapiro stated "We are pleased to fund the purchase of this new fire engine, which was the top priority of the City in our discussions with how we might assist the City financially."[49]

Local media

  • The Daily Northwestern - the student newspaper at Northwestern University.
  • The Evanston Review - subscription weekly newspaper
  • The Evanston Roundtable - free biweekly newspaper

Use as film location

Evanston's variety of housing and commercial districts, combined with easy access to Chicago, make it a popular filming location. Evanston as of December 2008 is listed as a filming location for 65 different films, notably those of John Hughes.[50] Much of the 1984 film Sixteen Candles was filmed in and around Evanston,[51] as was Home Alone 3.[52] Although not filmed there, the 2004 film Mean Girls is also set in the Evanston suburbs, and makes several references to the area.[53]


Evanston has gained recognition and reputation for efforts related to sustainability, including those by government, citizens, and institutions.

Climate Action Plan

In October 2006, the City voted to sign the United States Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement,[54] and a number of citizen taskforces convened to develop a plan to reduce the city's carbon footprint.[55] The Evanston Climate Action Plan ("ECAP") accepted by the City Council in November 2008, suggested over 200 strategies to make Evanston more sustainable, principally by reducing carbon emissions associated with transportation, buildings, energy sources, waste, and food production.[56][57] In June, 2011, the United States Conference of Mayors awarded Evanston first place in the small city category of the Mayors' Climate Protection Awards, based largely on the City's use of the ECAP, which the City asserts has reduced emissions by 24,000 metric tons per year.[58][59] On Sept. 15, 2011, Wal-Mart presented Mayor Tisdahl with a $15,000 award in recognition of the honor, which the mayor donated to Citizens' Greener Evanston.[citation needed]

Other municipal efforts

An Evanston Strategic Plan passed on March 27, 2006 aspired to create the most livable city in America and to promote the highest quality of life for all residents.[60] One goal is to create and maintain functionally appropriate, sustainable, accessible high quality infrastructure and facilities. This includes continual development of an environmentally sensitive lakefront and implementation of a comprehensive long-range infrastructure plan. Another goal is to protect the city’s natural resources and to build environment, not destroy it. The city also wants to improve its transportation resources to be more safe, integrated, accessible, responsive, and energy-efficient. Evanston has an environment board[61] and an office of sustainability.[62]

Offshore wind farm

The single largest carbon-reducing strategy identified in the ECAP, the development of an offshore wind farm (in Lake Michigan),[63] gained widespread attention.[64] In April 2010, Evanston's City Council voted to authorize issuing a Request for Information (RFI) so that interested parties could provide information on developing a wind energy facility 4 miles (6.4 km) off the coast of Lake Michigan.[65] Following the receipt of responses, the Mayor appointed a committee to evaluate the information received. The committee's report was accepted in spring, 2011, and the City Council voted to move forward with exploration of the concept. In the meantime, Evanston legislators introduced legislation, signed into law in summer, 2011, creating a state offshore wind council to propose how to regulate possible development of such projects.[citation needed]

Citizen and institutional efforts

Northwestern University’s Ford Engineering Design Center is a LEED Silver certified building[66] and the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation has built a LEED Platinum certified synagogue.[67] Not-for-profit groups active on environmental issues include Citizens' Greener Evanston,[68] an outgrowth of the hundreds of citizens who participated in the creation of the Climate Action Plan, the Business Alliance for a Sustainable Evanston,[69] a coalition of local businesses committed to advancing environmental sustainability and economic progress in Evanston's commercial sector, and the Evanston Environmental Association, who organizes an annual "Green Living Festival" and other events.

Points of interest

See also


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  3. ^ 2000 United States Census Data
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  29. ^ City of Evanston CAFR
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  59. ^ "HOUSTON (TX) AND EVANSTON (IL) WIN FIRST PLACE HONORS FOR LOCAL CLIMATE PROTECTION EFFORTS". The United States Conference of Mayors. 2011-06-17. http://usmayors.org/79thAnnualMeeting/documents/RELEASE_CLIMATEPROTECTIONAWARDS_0611.pdf. Retrieved 2011-06-17. 
  60. ^ City of Evanston, Strategic Plan
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  64. ^ Joe Barrett (2010-04-20). "Wind Farms Catch a Gust on Great Lakes". Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304180804575187980582948818.html?mod=WSJ_WSJ_US_News_3. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
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External links

Coordinates: 42°02′47″N 87°41′41″W / 42.04638°N 87.694608°W / 42.04638; -87.694608

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