This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Sycamore, Illinois" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (May 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Downtown Sycamore - Looking west from State Street and Main Street.
Downtown Sycamore - Looking west from State Street and Main Street.
Location of Sycamore in DeKalb County, Illinois.
Location of Sycamore in DeKalb County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 41°59′2″N 88°41′39″W / 41.98389°N 88.69417°W / 41.98389; -88.69417
CountryUnited States
 • Total10.18 sq mi (26.36 km2)
 • Land10.12 sq mi (26.21 km2)
 • Water0.06 sq mi (0.15 km2)
 • Total18,577
 • Density1,835.67/sq mi (708.73/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code(s)815
FIPS code17-74223
Wikimedia CommonsSycamore, Illinois
WebsiteOfficial Website

Sycamore is a city in DeKalb County, Illinois, United States. It has a commercial district based and centered on Illinois Route 64. The population was 17,519 at the 2010 census, up from 12,020 in 2000. As of 2019, the population has grown to an estimated 18,322.[2] Sycamore is the county seat of DeKalb County and was named after the sycamore tree.


Sycamore Public Library (1905) a Carnegie library
Sycamore Public Library (1905) a Carnegie library

Early settlement

The first European settlers to the Sycamore-area arrived in 1835 and concentrated themselves mostly north of the Kishwaukee River and the present site of Sycamore. The original town was platted by a New Yorker named Christian Sharer. A mill was constructed and the Kishwaukee dammed but the town failed. By 1837, after some controversy, the location of county seat was settled in favor of Orange, Sycamore's original name, and the settlement moved to the present-day site of the city.[3]

The present-day town site was platted by James Waterman and Evans Wharry in 1837 (the same year Chicago was founded). The first settler at the new site was Carlos Lattin, who preceded the town, having arrived in 1835.[3] Lattin staked a claim that included most of the present west side of the city and erected his first cabin just north of downtown.[3]

County seat location

Early in the city's history, it seemed that Sycamore might not be the location of the DeKalb County Courthouse: other towns were vying for the county seat title. A now-defunct town called Brush Point was the choice of a Dr. Henry Madden; and the Clerk of the Court Rufus Colton would have preferred Coltonville, where he made his home.[4] Colton had set the first session of county court to be held at his home in Coltonville.[5] In his attempt to make Coltonville the county seat, Colton decided to hold a new election for the status in 1837. Colton made sure that Coltonville would win the election by telling only the population of Coltonville about it. His political tactics were eventually cancelled by an act of the Illinois General Assembly,[4] after the DeKalb County court intervened. When court convened the sheriff served a court order declaring Sycamore had built a Courthouse and that the Court session should be held there.[5] Afterward, Coltonville eventually suffered the same fate as Brush Point and disappeared from the map.[4] These events settled for a time the issue of where the courthouse and, in turn, the DeKalb County seat was going to be located.[5]

In 1903, as the county prepared to construct a new courthouse, the debate over county seat was reignited. This time, it was the city of DeKalb that sought to wrest the title of county seat away from Sycamore. Two of DeKalb's most prominent citizens, Jacob Haish and Isaac L. Ellwood, each promised to donate $20,000 to help absorb some of the new building's cost. The city of Sycamore responded, raising funds of their own, and after some back and forth and legal wrangling, the issue was settled in Sycamore's favor.[4]

Later settlement

Following the end of the second county seat controversy, in 1839, the first DeKalb County Courthouse was built in the city, as well as Sycamore's first hotel. A year later the settlement consisted of 12 houses, which increased to 18 by 1844. Sycamore then began an era of steady growth marked by population increases in 1848 to 262, 1849 to 320, 1850 to 390, 1851 to 435.[3] The Sycamore and Cortland Railroad arrived in the late 1850s and a station was erected in Sycamore. Sycamore was home to 41 commercial and industrial business by 1855. In 1858, Sycamore was incorporated as a village. Following the American Civil War the railroad began to assist Sycamore's growth and the settlement was incorporated as a city in 1869.[3]

Maria Ridulph murder

Main article: Murder of Maria Ridulph

Sycamore is the location of a notable cold case, the 1957 abduction and murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph. On the evening of December 3, 1957, Maria disappeared while playing outside her family's Sycamore home. She was last seen by her playmate Kathy Chapman (née Sigman) with a young man who called himself "Johnny" and had approached the girls offering them piggyback rides. A search and investigation by local and state police and the FBI failed to locate either Maria or "Johnny", and the following April, Maria's body was found in a field approximately 100 miles from Sycamore. The case remained unsolved for over 50 years until in 2011, Jack Daniel McCullough, a former neighbor of the Ridulphs, was arrested and convicted of kidnapping and murdering Maria. The case received national news coverage as the oldest cold case in US history to result in a conviction.[6] However, in April 2016, McCullough's conviction was overturned and he was released from prison after a post-conviction review of the evidence indicated that he could not have committed the crime.[7][8]

2010 earthquake

Main article: 2010 Illinois earthquake

On the morning of February 10, 2010 at 3:59 a.m., Sycamore was near the epicenter of an earthquake. The shock had a moment magnitude of 3.8 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of IV (Light).[9] It was felt 133 mi (214 km) away in Madison, Wisconsin. When the quake was first reported, it was thought Sycamore was the epicenter. However, revised data from the USGS determined the epicenter to be closer to Virgil. This was the first earthquake in Northern Illinois since a M4.2 (intensity V (Moderate)) event in 2004.[10]


Sycamore is located along Illinois Route 64 (State Street in Sycamore) about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Rockford and 55 miles (89 km) west-northwest of Chicago. It is along the south bank of the East Branch of the South Branch Kishwaukee River in DeKalb County.[3]

According to the 2010 census, Sycamore has a total area of 9.768 square miles (25.30 km2), of which 9.73 square miles (25.20 km2) (or 99.61%) is land and 0.038 square miles (0.10 km2) (or 0.39%) is water.[11] The terrain in Sycamore and the surrounding area is gently rolling and contains rich soil which was originally heavily forested.[3]


The commercial district of Sycamore is based on Illinois Route 64, and stretches about a mile down starting from the intersection of route 64 with Illinois Route 23 and ending at Center Cross Road. The district is composed of two-story shops, a bank, small movie theater, and former Midwest Museum of Natural History. The town also has the county courthouse, built in 1904, of limestone.


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[12]

As of the census[13] of 2000, there were 12,020 people, 4,692 households, and 3,148 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,191.6 people per square mile (846.9/km2). There were 4,925 housing units at an average density of 898.0 per square mile (347.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.39% White, 2.74% African American, 0.22% Native American, 0.83% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.56% from other races, and 1.24% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.27% of the population.

There were 4,692 households, out of which 36.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.9% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.9% were non-families. 27,4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.13.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 28.0% under the age of 18, 8.3% from 18 to 24, 31.3% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 10.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $51,921, and the median income for a family was $62,083. Males had a median income of $42,676 versus $27,520 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,112. About 2.3% of families and 3.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.3% of those under age 18 and 4.6% of those age 65 or over.


Sycamore has never had a large manufacturing or industrial sector.[3] Among Sycamore's early industries were Marsh Harvester Manufacturing, R. Ellwood Manufacturing, and Sycamore Preserve Works. Marsh Harvester was established in 1859, Ellwood in 1875 and the preserve works in 1891. R. Ellwood Manufacturing relocated to DeKalb in 1891.[3]

Today, Ideal Industries a privately owned manufacturer is based in Sycamore.

Arts and culture


The DeKalb County Courthouse lawn becomes a colorful display of pumpkins during the annual Sycamore Pumpkin Festival.
The DeKalb County Courthouse lawn becomes a colorful display of pumpkins during the annual Sycamore Pumpkin Festival.

Sycamore is home to the annual Sycamore Pumpkin Festival, a pumpkin festival established in 1962 when local resident Wally Thurow began displaying pumpkins on his front lawn. The festival features many activities, a carnival, and a parade. The lawn of the DeKalb County Courthouse is the center of the event and includes a display of decorated and carved pumpkins.[14] The event attracts thousands to Sycamore from locations throughout northern Illinois, the Midwest, and the broader United States.[14][15][16]

The city is also home to the Sycamore Historic District, an architecturally interesting area containing over 200 individual properties.[17] The district was established in 1978 when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The area is bounded in an irregular pattern along Main and Somonauk Streets but contains portions of several other streets and includes much of the downtown commercial district and residential areas north and south of downtown.[3] During the summer, the Sycamore Historical Society offers guided walking tours with a local historian.[18]

Sycamore is also home to the former Midwest Museum of Natural History, which featured a varied taxidermy collection and closed in February 2020.

Historic sites


DeKalb County Courthouse (1905) in downtown Sycamore
DeKalb County Courthouse (1905) in downtown Sycamore

Sycamore features a Council-Manager government. Policy is developed by an elected City Council and then implemented by an appointed professional City Manager. The Sycamore City Council consists of a Mayor elected at-large and eight Aldermen representing one of four wards (two per ward). The Mayor and Aldermen serve four year terms, with one Alderman from each ward being elected every two years. Sycamore's current mayor is Steve Braser.[19]


Public schooling began in Sycamore as early as 1839, with classes held in the first DeKalb County Courthouse, a log building across the street from the courthouse's current location.[3][20] The city's first school building was built in 1853.[3] Current public education needs in Sycamore are provided by Sycamore Community Unit School District 427. The current Superintendent of Sycamore School District is Steve Wilder.[21] The district operates Sycamore High School, Sycamore Middle School, and five elementary schools. The newest elementary school, North Grove, opened in 2009 was built for access by the nearby subdivision.[22]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  2. ^ Bureau, U. S. Census. "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Wagner, Robert. "Sycamore Historic District Archived December 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine," (PDF), National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form, December 13, 1978, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, accessed May 21, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d Klein, Ron and McIntyre, Mac. "Looking Back at the DeKalb County Courthouse Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine," DeKalb County Online. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c History of DeKalb County Courthouse Archived January 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, 16th Judicial Circuit, 2005. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  6. ^ Greg Fisher, Judy Rybak, and Peter Henderson (producers) (May 24, 2014). 48 Hours Presents: Cold as Ice (documentary). CBS News. Archived from the original on April 24, 2016. Retrieved April 19, 2016. Oldest cold case to go to trial in U.S. tests memories, forces family to expose deep, dark secrets in search of justice for murdered girl
  7. ^ O'Neill, Ann (April 15, 2016). "Judge Overturns 1957 Cold Case Murder Conviction; Jack McCullough Goes Free". Archived from the original on April 15, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  8. ^ O'Neill, Ann (April 22, 2016). "Charges Dropped in 1957 Cold Case Murder". CNN. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  9. ^ USGS. "M3.8 - Illinois". United States Geological Survey. Archived from the original on January 12, 2018.
  10. ^ USGS. "M4.2 - Illinois". United States Geological Survey. Archived from the original on January 12, 2018.
  11. ^ "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  12. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  13. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  14. ^ a b Frillman, Carrie. "Pumpkin enthusiasts pack streets", Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), October 28, 2007, accessed May 21, 2008.
  15. ^ McMurray, Andy. "Families travel from near and far to see Pumpkin Parade", Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), October 30, 2006, accessed May 21, 2008.
  16. ^ Johnson, David. "Pumpkins aplent -- thousands gather for fest", Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), October 26, 2002, accessed May 21, 2008.
  17. ^ Bigolin, Steve. "Welcome to a bright new town - Sycamore: A wealth of sites will be covered in this tour Archived May 31, 2009, at the Wayback Machine", Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), August 14, 2006, accessed May 21, 2008.
  18. ^ Staff. "Year's last guided walking tour of the Sycamore Historic District is Sunday", Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), August 27, 2007, accessed May 21, 2008.
  19. ^ "Mayor & Council". City of Sycamore. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  20. ^ "DeKalb County Courthouse Archived August 31, 2006, at the Wayback Machine", Taming the Wild Prairie Digitization Project, 2004, Northern Illinois University, accessed May 21, 2008.
  21. ^ "Superintendent - Sycamore Community School District 427". Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 9, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)