Park Forest, Illinois
Flag of Park Forest, Illinois
Official seal of Park Forest, Illinois
"Live Grow Discover"
Location of Park Forest in Cook and Will Counties, Illinois.
Location of Park Forest in Cook and Will Counties, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 41°29′31″N 87°40′26″W / 41.492°N 87.674°W / 41.492; -87.674
CountryUnited States
CountiesCook, Will
TownshipCook: Rich, Bloom
Will: Monee
 • MayorJoe Woods
 • Total4.96 sq mi (12.85 km2)
 • Land4.96 sq mi (12.85 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
712 ft (217 m)
 • Total21,687
 • Density4,371.50/sq mi (1,687.74/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code708
FIPS code17-57732
Wikimedia CommonsPark Forest, Illinois

Park Forest is a village located south of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, with a small southern portion in Will County, Illinois, United States. The village was originally designed by Loebl Schlossman & Bennett as a planned community for veterans returning from World War II.[2] As of the 2020 census, the village had a population of 21,687.

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. The village has multiple public and private schools. In addition to the arts and culture scene including Tall Grass Arts Association[3] and the Illinois Theatre Center,[4] residents also have access to a myriad of recreational opportunities for both children and adults such as the Park Forest Aqua Center.[5]


Developers Nathan Manilow, Carroll F. Sweet and Philip M. Klutznick held a press conference in the Palmer House Hilton 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 partly designed by town planner 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,[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

In 1956, William H. Whyte, an editor at Fortune magazine, published a book called The Organization Man that defined the nature of corporate life for a generation. The book described how America (whose people, he said, had "led in the public worship of individualism") had recently turned into a nation of employees who "take the vows of organization life" and who had become "the dominant members of our society". Park Forest was one of the communities that figured most prominently in Whyte's study of the home life of "the organization man," and should be read by anyone seeking an insight into early Park Forest.

By 1949, the village was home to a chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, a B'nai B'rith lodge and a Hebrew school (Sunday School).[9] By 1955, a second Hebrew school had opened and three new women's groups had formed, including chapters of Hadassah, the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (later renamed Women of Reform Judaism) and a B’nai B’rith Auxiliary.[10] In 1951 and 1957, synagogues opened in Park Forest as Jews became 15% of the population. By 2013, both synagogues had moved outside the town. Although officially desegregated from its inception, Park Forest's first African-American family took residence there in 1959.[11]

Park Forest is known for the "Scenic 10", a 10-mile (16 km) race held annually on Labor Day that attracts runners from around the globe. In 2008, the race was shortened to a 5-mile (8.0 km) course to attract more local runners and renamed the "Scenic Five".[12][13]

On March 26, 2003, a meteor exploded over the Midwest, showering Park Forest with dozens of meteorite fragments.[14] These fragments are currently on display at the Field Museum in Chicago. For further reading see Park Forest (meteorite).


According to the 2021 census gazetteer files, Park Forest has a total area of 4.96 square miles (12.85 km2), all land.[15]

The village is generally bounded by U.S. Highway 30 on the north, Western Avenue on the east, Central Park Avenue on the west and Thorn Creek on the south. Parts of Park Forest are east of Western Avenue, however, including a subdivision called "Eastgate". Park Forest is bisected by the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway (now the Canadian National Railway) double-track main line, which was paralleled a little further north by the Michigan Central (New York Central) railroad. That rail line has been converted to a nature trail called Old Plank Trail. The beginning of the trail is at Western Avenue, and it runs through Park Forest west to Joliet.


Climate data for Park Forest, Illinois (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1952–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 65
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 31.1
Daily mean °F (°C) 23.2
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 15.2
Record low °F (°C) −27
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.49
Average snowfall inches (cm) 10.2
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 10.6 9.0 10.2 12.1 13.1 10.4 9.4 9.1 8.3 10.5 10.1 10.7 123.5
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 5.9 4.6 2.6 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.9 3.7 18.2
Source: NOAA[16][17]


Metra operates commuter railroad service to downtown Chicago. Stations bordering Park Forest include Richton Park (Sauk Trail at Governor's Hwy./Crawford Ave./Pulaski Rd.,) 211th Street (Lincoln Highway) and Matteson stations on the Metra Electric Line, which runs parallel to the Illinois Central Railroad Company (owned by Canadian National Railway Company) but on its own closely adjacent tracks[18]

Pace provides bus service on multiple routes connecting Park Forest to destinations throughout the Southland.[19]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[20]
2010[21] 2020[22]

As of the 2020 census[23] there were 21,687 people, 8,179 households, and 4,738 families residing in the village. The population density was 4,371.50 inhabitants per square mile (1,687.85/km2). There were 9,701 housing units at an average density of 1,955.45 per square mile (755.00/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 70.18% African American, 18.83% White, 0.25% Native American, 0.76% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.39% from other races, and 6.55% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.76% of the population.

There were 8,179 households, out of which 28.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.32% were married couples living together, 23.13% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.07% were non-families. 39.47% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.91% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.38 and the average family size was 2.46.

The village's age distribution consisted of 22.9% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 25.2% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39.4 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.0 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $56,393, and the median income for a family was $65,507. Males had a median income of $41,744 versus $40,219 for females. The per capita income for the village was $26,078. About 5.8% of families and 12.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.7% of those under age 18 and 13.3% of those age 65 or over.

Park Forest village, Illinois – Racial and ethnic composition
Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos may be of any race.
Race / Ethnicity (NH = Non-Hispanic) Pop 2010[21] Pop 2020[22] % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 6,759 3,828 30.76% 17.65%
Black or African American alone (NH) 12,977 15,022 59.05% 69.27%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 37 25 0.17% 0.12%
Asian alone (NH) 157 150 0.71% 0.69%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 10 9 0.05% 0.04%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 41 131 0.19% 0.60%
Mixed Race or Multi-Racial (NH) 587 840 2.67% 3.87%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 1,407 1,682 6.40% 7.76%
Total 21,975 21,687 100.00% 100.00%


Park Forest is in Illinois's 2nd congressional district.

Local Government:

Presidents/Mayors of Park Forest:


School districts serving Park Forest include:


Arts and culture

The Illinois Theatre Center

The Illinois Theatre Center was established in 1976 by Steve and Etel Billig. At its inception, it was located in Park Forest's public library but was later moved to Downtown Park Forest in 1999. In addition to the main stage series of six plays, the theatre offers programs like The Drama School which provides acting classes for children, teens and adults.[4]

Freedom Hall Performing Arts Theatre

Freedom Hall Performing Arts Theatre is a performing arts theatre and concert hall situated in Park Forest, Illinois. It offers a variety of concerts and theatre performances. Since the opening of Park Forest’s Cultural Arts Center in 1976, Freedom Hall Nathan Manilow Theatre has presented performance arts in the form of theater groups, recitals, lecture events, etc.

The Nathan Manilow Theatre has 287 seats. This theatre has presented a variety of events of all genres for more than thirty years. Such shows include Tom Dreessen, C.J Chenier, The Chicago City Ballet, The National Theatre of the Deaf, Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, Tom Chapin, Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, Corky Siegel, George Winston, The Second City Touring Company, John Houseman, Peter Mayer and many other performances. The goal of such performances is to present the finest cultural events for the Park Forest community and other residents of the Chicago area.[28]

Museum Home

The 1950s Park Forest House Museum is meant to replicate an original home. It was built in 1947-1949 and now stands as a house has remained furnished the same way it originally was back in the years of 1948-1953, just as it was during the first five years that it was occupied by tenants. Visiting this site provides people with the ability to uniquely experience the history of Park Forest, a suburb built after the conclusion of World War II. Initially designed to help veterans and their families returning from the war, it would later become an attraction for enthusiasts of the era.

Visitors can open drawers, cupboards, and closets containing period treasures. Consistent with the way the house was furnished, dolls, toys, built-in bookcases and even a collection of clothes from that period may be found. One of the rooms even recreates a classroom from the very first school in the town.[29]

Tall Grass Arts Association

Tall Grass Arts Association is located in downtown Park Forest Cultural Center; the Tall Grass Arts Association operates a regional art gallery where juried artists are invited to participate in the annual fine arts fair held in September in downtown Park Forest. Artists can display their work in the gallery at least once a year in addition to including their work in the Tall Grass Gift Shop.[3][30]


Park Forest offers a variety of recreational services to its residents and surrounding neighborhoods including the Park Forest Aqua Center, the Park Forest Tennis and Health Club, and park district classes and sports teams.

Park Forest Aqua Center

Park Forest Aqua Center has been a neighborhood institution since 1952. Both seasonal memberships and daily passes are available. Patrons can enjoy a beach pool for toddlers, the 160-foot water slide, 2 drop slides, a 15-foot aquatic climbing wall, and the East Pool, which is designed for adults to swim laps.[5] Additionally, the Aqua Center also has a sand area and a concession stand.[31]

Summer season opens to the public in the beginning of June and ends on Labor Day.[5] Throughout the season, the Aqua Center offers special events, such as Members Only Kickoff, Hawaiian Night, Glow Swim, and Carnival Night, as well as multiple swim lesson programs:[32]

Park Forest Tennis and Health Club

For over thirty years, the Park Forest Tennis and Health Club has offered residents a place to play tennis and workout. In addition to six indoor tennis courts and a fitness area, the Club also has saunas in the locker rooms, a courtside lounge, professional tennis instructors, racquet stringing, and a pro shop.

The Tennis and Health Club offers multiple types of tennis lessons. Group lessons are available for children and adults. The Club also offers private lessons and the Junior Excellence program, which is available to junior high and high school students who are interested in competing.[33]

Park District Programs

The Park Forest Park District runs seasonal programs open to both residents and non-residents and includes a variety of programs for all ages. The Park District offers sports, health & wellness, and dance programs, in addition to special day trips and art classes.[34]


In celebration of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, the Park Forest was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places[35] by the American Institute of Architects Illinois component (AIA Illinois).

Notable people

Main article: List of people from Park Forest, Illinois

See also


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  2. ^ "Park Forest Is Special". Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Tall Grass Arts Association - About Us". Tall Grass Arts Association. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "About ITC". Illinois Theatre Center. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "Park Forest Aqua Center". Park Forest, IL. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  6. ^ Studs Terkel, The Good War. Pantheon Books, NY, 1984
  7. ^ "Past Winners".
  8. ^ "Marshall Field's Park Forest History".
  9. ^ Park Forest: Birth of a Jewish Community:A Documentary Commentary. April 1951
  10. ^ Progress of a Suburban Jewish CommunityPark Forest Revisited Commentary. February 1957
  11. ^ "Park Forest is Special".
  12. ^ Scenic race down to 5, but still alive :: The SouthtownStar :: Matteson :: Park Forest :: University Park :: Richton Park ::[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Running Club Works With Village to Secure Future of Scenic 10
  14. ^ APOD: 2003 May 6 - A Chicago Meteorite Fall
  15. ^ "Gazetteer Files". Retrieved June 29, 2022.
  16. ^ "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  17. ^ "Station: Park Forest, IL". U.S. Climate Normals 2020: U.S. Monthly Climate Normals (1991-2020). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  18. ^ "Metra Electric | Metra".
  19. ^ "RTA System Map" (PDF). Retrieved January 28, 2024.
  20. ^ "Decennial Census of Population and Housing by Decades". US Census Bureau.
  21. ^ a b "P2 Hispanic or Latino, and Not Hispanic or Latino by Race – 2010: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Park Forest village, Illinois". United States Census Bureau.
  22. ^ a b "P2 Hispanic or Latino, and Not Hispanic or Latino by Race – 2020: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Park Forest village, Illinois". United States Census Bureau.
  23. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  24. ^ Slowik, Ted (October 16, 2019). "District 227 board votes to close Rich East High School in Park Forest as part of consolidation plan". Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  25. ^ "Park Forest - Chicago Heights School District 163". Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  26. ^ "Welcome : South Suburban SDA Christian School Park Forest IL". Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  27. ^ "Rich Township High School District 227 Home". Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  28. ^ "Freedom Hall". Park Forest, IL. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  29. ^ "A Brief History". Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  30. ^ "Tall Grass Arts Association - Gift Shop". Tall Grass Arts Association. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  31. ^ "Park Forest Aqua Center". Chicago Parent. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  32. ^ "Park Forest Aqua Center | Jeff Ellis Management". Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  33. ^ "Park Forest Tennis and Health Club". Park Forest, IL. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  34. ^ "2019 Autumn Recreation Programs and More". Village of Park Forest.
  35. ^ Waldinger, Mike (January 30, 2018). "The proud history of architecture in Illinois". Springfield Business Journal. Retrieved January 30, 2018.