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Downers Grove was first established as a small homestead for early 19th century settlers, pioneered in 1832 by the town's first resident, Pierce Downer. Within five years, families gradually trickled into the area, drawn to the natural beauty and fertility of the land. A school was opened by 1844 - a sign that the township's steady growth was leading toward a more definitive community. However, it wasn't until the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad was completed in 1862 that Downers Grove started to experience rapid expansion and development.
Downers Grove was situated on the railroad's main line, and its location, just 20 miles from Chicago, contributed to the town's desirability. In 1873, the town of Downers Grove was incorporated, and by the 1890s its population reached 1,000. For the next century, Downers Grove experienced a gradual increase in inhabitants and industry, attracting a wide array of businesses and commerce. Big time, national names such as Butterball, Rossi, and several large insurance agencies moved to the area and now call Downers Grove, Illinois home. These huge companies employ thousands of the town's current residents, which numbers more than 48,000 people today.
If you're looking to spend some time away from home and in the outdoors, you're in luck: the Downers Grove Park District is one of the best public park systems in the greater Chicagoland area, with 48 park sites that encompass more than 600 acres of public land. Most of these parks are open from dawn to dusk, and many of them provide ball fields for youth and adult leagues.
In addition to the more manicured public parks, the Downers Grove Park District also maintains protected wildness areas, including the Belmont Prairie and the Lyman Woods. Belmont Prairie, one of the few natural prairies found in Illinois, is a 10-acre nature preserve that contains more than 130 species of plants and animals, most notably its wild grasses. Lyman Woods is significantly larger, with 155 acres of prairie, marsh and oak forest. In the summer of 2003, the Lyman Woods Interpretive Center was opened, a small building that features nature exhibits and accommodates educational groups.
Golfers will be interested to learn the town is home to a historic 9-hole golf course located at the Downers Grove Golf Club (2420 Haddow Ave, 630-963-1306). The course was established in 1892, and with four different tee-offs for each hole, the par-36 course accommodates players with a wide range of skill sets. In addition to the course, the golf club features a complete driving range with 24 stations, as well as a putting green and a practice sand trap and chipping area. After hitting the links, you can relax in the clubhouse, which has beautiful panoramic views of the course.
The housing stock in Downers Grove reflects its residents: it's extremely diverse and has something to offer families of different sizes and incomes. A large majority (about 80%) of the homes in Downers Grove are single-family detached houses and about 75 percent of these residences are owner-occupied.
Downers Grove homeowners have the option of living in Downers Grove's charming downtown or further out, in a more remote setting with larger lots and vintage houses. There are scores of historic, tree-shaded homes in Downers Grove, as well as hundreds of new construction developments, so no matter what your tastes, you'll find real estate in this Chicago suburb that suits your preferences and needs.
On average, detached two-bedroom homes in Downers Grove, Illinois sells for approximately $265,000; three-bedroom houses go for around $350,000; and four or more bedrooms will increase the average sale price up to about $580,000. A decent portion of the detached, single-family real estate in Downers Grove is valued at over a million dollars. Many of these properties are large, new construction two-stories with four to six bedrooms, landscaped lots, upmarket upgrades, and attached garages, easily big enough for three vehicles. On the other end of the Downers Grove real estate price range are smaller frame houses and brick ranches that start in the low to mid $200,000s for a two- or three-bedroom place. The majority of these residences have an older style and you're not likely to find granite countertops in the kitchens, but there's enough space to raise your brood and the additional grass-covered private yards are a big bonus that attracts many first-time homeowners and young families.
In addition to the good supply of detached single-family homes in Downers Grove, the residential real estate scene here offers homebuyers some very nice attached living options as well. It's tough to find a condo unit in this Chicago suburb for under $100,000, but there are several one-bedrooms available for less than $130,000. Two-bedroom units will generally run between the mid $100,000s and $700,000. Such a large price range means homebuyers have a lot of variance in size, amenities and style to choose from. You can purchase anything from sophisticated, new construction townhouses with vaulted ceilings and hardwood flooring throughout to plain, apartment-like digs in an older building with limited modern finishes. The average sale price for a one-bedroom unit in Downers Grove is around $125,000, for a two-bedroom it's $175,000, and three-bedrooms go for around $265,000, on average.
Downers Grove Residential Real Estate Info for Single-Family Detached Homes
|Average Sale Price 2005-2006||Average # of Days on the Market||Number of Sales 2005-2006||One Year Price Change||Price Change Since 94|
Source: Multiple Listings Service of Northern Illinois
In recent years, Downers Grove has experienced a small influx of trendy, cosmopolitan restaurants, and ZED451, a multicultural steakhouse with a South American spin, is leading the charge. Like some of the bigger Brazilian steakhouses in Chicago, such as Brazzaz and Sal & Carvao, the cooks at ZED451 typically present the selection of meat cuts to diners themselves. The menu is fixed-price (meaning it's also all-you-can-eat), which, at about $45, is a great deal considering the sorts of steaks that are offered at this fashionable Downers Grove restaurant. Of course, not only meat is offered here, the menu also includes a wide variety of excellent salads, roasted vegetables, and pasta dishes.
Traditionally, though, Parkers' Ocean Grill (1000 31st St, 630-960-5700) has been the primary fine dining destination for Downers Grover residents in search of an upscale meal. In a departure from the steakhouse menus that dominate most of the northwest suburbs, Parkers' is a serious seafood restaurant. With vaulted ceilings and a wide open layout, the dining room seats 150, but it feels twice that size. In addition to the dinner service, the restaurant has an adjoining 50-seat cocktail lounge that features live music on the weekends.
While not as fancy as some of the other restaurants in town, Thai Happiness (1202 75th St, 630-241-1914) remains one of the most popular restaurants in Downers Grove because of its consistent quality and excellent service. Thai Happiness serves all the classics, from tomyum soup to spicy garlic chicken, but what sets them apart from most Thai food places is the apparent freshness of the seafood. A similarly unassuming gem can be found in the Cedar Grill (2223 Ogden Ave, 630-241-2525), a small Middle Eastern restaurant located in a Downers Grove strip mall on Ogden Avenue. Cedar Grill vies for the title of best chicken shawarma sandwich in the area, with one of the best rotisserie operations around. It's not just the shawarma that makes the Cedar Grill a good option, the hummus and falafel platters are equally tasty vegetarian options, and the cucumber yogurt salad rounds out a meal perfectly.
Pizza lovers aren't lacking for selection in Downers Grove either, but there is one place that attracts more attention than any other: Aurelio's Pizza (940 Warren Ave, 630-810-0097). Aurelio's has been around since 1959, and its longevity is a testament to its endless ability to please the taste buds of countless Downers Grove residents over the years. Like Cedar Grill, Aurelio's is located in a strip mall and retains a lot of charm from its nearly 50-year legacy. Aurelio's specializes in thin crust pizza with semi-sweet sauce.
The primary shopping area in Downers Grove is a retail district centered about the intersection of Butterfield and Finley roads (which is very close to where I-88 and I-355 intersect). There, you will find several of the town's most popular big box stores, including Bed, Bath & Beyond, Circuit City, Sports Authority, and Home Depot, in addition to Books-a-Million, Circuit City and Toys R Us.
While Butterfield and Finley might attract the most retail traffic, the main commercial district is in downtown Downers Grove along Main Street. Most of the shops on and around Main Street are smaller and independently owned, like Consider it Done (5133 Main St, 630-964-7194), a small stationary and gift shop or Anderson's Bookshop (5112 Main St, 630-963-2665), an excellent independent bookstore that has another location in Naperville and often hosts in-store author readings.
Aside from Downers Grove's two primary shopping districts, there's also the Downers Plaza (146 Ogden Ave, 630-969-7800), a shopping center that features a few bigger stores like Dominick's (42 Ogden Ave, 630-512-0218), Trader Joes (122 Ogden Ave, 630-241-1662), and Office Depot (120 Ogden Ave, 630-971-3305). In addition to Downers Plaza, large retailers like Old Navy (1150 75th St, 630-434-9270), the Gap (1001 75th St, 630-985-8800), and Avenue (7315 Lemnot Rd, 630-960-1183) have stores in Downers Grove.
If you're looking to wet your whistle in Downers Grove, there aren't a whole lot of options, but quality in some cases compensates for quantity. Irish pubs are the most popular nightlife destinations in Downers Grove, with Ballydoyle Irish Pub (5157 Main Street, 630-969-0600) setting the standard. Ballydoyle does an excellent job of imitating the style and ambience of an authentic Irish pub, down to the pour on a pint of Guinness. The bar menu offers authentic Irish bites, which include different takes on corned beef. There's a stage in the front bar room that usually features local rock bands, but if your in the mood for quiet conversation, the back rooms offer a place where you can relax and chat without having to shout.
While Ballydoyle is the established neighborhood tavern, Emmett's Ale House (5200 Main St, 630-434-8500) is the trendier new arrival. Emmett's is a microbrewery offering at least a half dozen handcrafted beers that range from a wheat ale to an oatmeal stout and often change according to the season. The brews are served in different types of glassware that are appropriate to the beer, allowing for an inch of head on any given pour. Like most microbreweries, Emmett's offers a five-beer sampler flight, which lets you try a selection of their brews in small, 2-ounce portions. Food options vary from pub finger food, like calamari and Portobello fries, to dinner entrees such as the filet mignon and salmon farfalle. The whole building was remodeled before Emmett's opened in 2004, and the stained wood adorning the walls and bar give the place a sleek and clean look.
The Dupage Inn Lounge (2410 Ogden Ave, 630-963-2565) is an old standby with an identity crisis. On the one side, it is a Greek diner with a mixture of Greek and American breakfast food and sandwiches. On the other side is a small bar that is very popular among Downers Grove locals. The place has been open for almost 35 years, and it continues to be the place that has the most loyalty among regular patrons.
The Tivoli Theatre (5021 Highland Ave, 630-968-0219) in Downers Grove is one of the oldest existing theaters in the Chicagoland area. The Tivoli opened on Christmas day in 1928 at the corner of Highland and Warren avenues in downtown Downers Grove. The main theater auditorium was built in French Renaissance style and it currently seats about 1,000 people (originally, the auditorium had enough seating for almost 1,400). Several significant changes have been made to the theater since it was first opened. In 1980, the screen was moved and set further back so that the stage could accommodate live shows. Then, in the 1990s, a large theater organ was installed and it is now played before most weekend performances. A new sound system was added in 2006 to further improve the venue's ability to host live performances. Primarily, the Tivoli plays second-run films at a bargain price, but it is also home to several performing arts. The West Towns Chorus and the Midwest Ballet Theatre perform at the Tivoli, and the venue is also used by the village for the annual Heritage Festival in the summer.
The other venue for live performances in Downers Grove is the New World Repertory Theater (923 Curtiss St, 630-663-1489). The non-profit theater was formed in 2003 to explore the idea of family, according to the company's mission statement. Therefore, the plays produced at the theater are 'all ages,' and they feature both adult and child actors. The New World Repertory offers classes for children in addition to programming and performance opportunities for the Downers Grove youth.
The biggest festival of the year, the one that everyone makes sure to plan vacations around, is the annual Heritage Festival, which takes place the weekend of the summer solstice. The festival features more than 60 food vendors (which offer a taste of just about every imaginable cuisine), a car show, an arts and crafts show, and a beer garden. In addition, entertainment includes an eclectic mix of musical performances that include rock, reggae, blues, country and classical music, live dance, and children's shows. The Heritage Festival has been hosted by Downers Grove for more than 25 years, and over that time it has carved-out a place as one of the most popular summer festivals in the Chicago suburbs.
The Heritage Festival is the biggest, but it isn't the only summertime event that Downers Park residents look forward to. The Fourth of July Parade is another celebration that people take pretty seriously around here, and the turnout seems to improve every year. The parade begins at Main and Warren streets and travels north, ending at Downers Grove North High School. Then, later that same week, children participate in the Bike and Buggy Parade, in which kids dress-up their bicycles with streamers and balloons and cruise down Main Street in style.
Another of Downers Grove's most anticipated summer events is the Cycling Championships, which typically take place in mid-August. There are many different events and classes in which cyclists can compete, but the main attraction is the 62-mile USPRO National Criterium Championship. The course is set in a figure-eight shape in Downers Grove and there are some great places for spectators to get in on the action. The corner of Main and Maple streets is the most popular spot to watch the race, as that's where the two parts of the course intersect; the finish line, though, is at the corner of Grove and Main streets.
As with most Chicago suburbs, the majority of Downers Grove residents own their own vehicles and use them as their primary form of transportation. Most homes have their own private driveways, and many also have one- and two-car garages. The village of Downers Grove doesn't require drivers to display vehicle stickers, as Chicago does.
If, however, you commute to Chicago or a different suburb for work, you might consider taking Metra commuter rail or Pace bus, both or which provide service to Downers Grove. The Downers Grove Metra station is at the intersection of Main Street and Warren Avenue, and it will take you directly to downtown Chicago. For the uninitiated, Metra is easily the most comfortable and dependable public transportation option in and around Chicago. A one-way fare from Downers Grove to Chicago's Union Station costs $3.90, but you can get a significant fare reduction when you buy tickets in groups of 10, or if you buy an unlimited ride monthly ticket.
In addition to Metra and Pace, Downers Grove residents have access to the Grove Commuter Shuttle, which is a small shuttle bus that serves the Main Street train station, dropping riders off at the Metra Station, or along Belmont Road. One-way tickets for the shuttle bus cost $2.
- Belle Aire School - 3935 Belle Aire Ln - (630) 719-5820
- El Sierra School - 6835 Fairmont - (630) 719-5825
- Fairmount School - 6036 Blodgett - (630) 719-5830
- Henry Puffer School - 2220 Haddow Ave - (630) 968-0294
- Highland School - 3935 Highland Ave - (630) 719-5835
- Hillcrest School - 1435 Jefferson Ave - (630) 719-5840
- Indian Trail School - 6235 Stonewall Ave - (630) 719-5845
- Kingsley School - 6509 Powell St - (630) 719-5850
- Lester School - 236 Indianapolis Ave - (630) 719-5855
- Pierce Downer School - 1436 Grant St - (630) 719-5860
- Whittier School - 536 Hill St - (630) 719-5865
- Bohemian Garden Restaurant - 980 75th St - (630) 960-0078
- Bakers Square Restaurant - 3000 Oak Grove Rd - (630) 963-1035
- Downers Delight - 401 75th St - (630) 241-9671
- Joyful's Caf? - 2758 Maple Ave - (630) 968-6060
- Omega Restaurant & Pancake House - 1300 Ogden Ave - (630) 963-0300
- Parker's Ocean Grill - 1000 31st St - (630) 960-5700
- Shikara Restaurant - 1620 W 75th St - (630) 964-1720
- Zander's Caf? - 2241 Maple Ave - (630) 435-9520
- Kyoto Japanese Restaurant - 1408 Butterfield Rd - (630) 627-8588
- Lao Sze Chuan - 1331 Ogden Ave - (630) 663-0303
- Thai Happiness - 1202 75th St - (630) 241-1914
- Caribou Coffee - 5100 Main St - (630) 963-4122
- David's Bistro - 623 N Wolf Rd - (847) 803-3233
- Del Debbio's Northern Italian - 908 Ogden Ave - (630) 960-4542
Latin American Cuisine
- La Mex Restaurant - 500 75th St - (630) 963-6500
- Zed 451 - 3008 Finley Rd - (630) 512-0900
Middle Eastern Cuisine
- Cedar Grill - 2223 Ogden Ave - (630) 241-2525
- Aurelio's Pizza - 940 Warren Ave - (630) 810-0097
- Country's Best Pizza, Inc. - 5139 Main St - (630) 434-7777
- Domino's Pizza - 5531 Belmont Rd - (630) 515-1700
- Ballydoyle Irish Pub - 5157 Main Street - (630) 969-0600
- Bonos Pub 1999 - 75th St -(630) 960-0078
- Dupage Inn Lounge - 2410 Ogden Ave - (630) 963-2565
- Emmett's Ale House - 5200 Main Street - (630) 434-8500
- North Beach - 1211 Butterfield Rd - (630) 434-1290
- Stillwater - 5141 Main St - (630) 324-4291