Park Forest, Illinois

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Park Forest is a village located south of Chicago in Cook County and Will County, Illinois, United States. As of the 2000 census, the village had a total population of 23,462. Park Forest is bordered by Olympia Fields to the north, Chicago Heights to the east, University Park to the south, and Richton Park and Matteson to the west.



Developers Nathan Manilow, Carroll F. Sweet and Philip M. Klutznick held a press conference in the Palmer House in Chicago on October 28, 1946 to announce the planned development of a new self-governing community in Chicago's south suburbs. This project, soon to be referred to as Park Forest, was to be developed by American Community Builders (ACB). The Village of Park Forest was designed by Elbert Peets in the tradition of planned communities around the nation to provide housing for veterans returning from World War II.

Studs Terkel, in his oral history of World War II, "The Good War," (Pantheon Books, NY, 1984) says Park Forest and other such middle-class suburbs grew out of the new prosperity after the War. First he quotes an unnamed GI, "The war changed our whole idea of how we wanted to live when we came back. We set our sights pretty high. . . . I am now what you'd call middle class." Terkel goes on: "The suburb, until [about 1946], had been the exclusive domain of the 'upper class.' It was where the rich lived. The rest of us were neighborhood folk. At war's end, a new kind of suburb came into being. . . . Thanks to the GI bill, two new names were added to American folksay: Levittown and Park Forest.

"A new middle class had emerged. Until now, the great many, even before the Depression, had had to scuffle from one payday to the next. . . . [Before there had only been one] car on the block. Now everybody was getting a car. Oh, it was exciting. (Terkel, p. 12)"

Park Forest was honored in 1954 as an "All-America City" for its citizens' help in the creation of Rich Township High School, on Sauk Trail. It was awarded this same honor again in 1976 for open housing and racial integration and initiatives. A village landmark was the Park Forest Plaza, an outdoor regional shopping center of over 50 stores and restaurants which included Sears, Marshall Fields and Goldblatt's.

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