Wilmette is best known for its tree-lined, brick-paved streets, nice homes, and lovely lakefront. Yet a peek beneath this placid suburban surface reveals a surprisingly lively history, ranging from the early years of hardscrabble farms carved out of dense forest to decades of conflict with German-speaking tavern owners in the culturally distinctive village of Gross Point. “No Man’s Land” along Sheridan Road once sported a dazzling movie palace and a Jazz Age nightclub, along with hot dog stands, beach clubs, and speakeasies that defied Wilmette’s buttoned-down reputation. The huge engineering effort to reverse the flow of the Chicago River bestowed on the village a cozy harbor and a busy lakefront park, both soon dominated by the massively incongruous but serenely beautiful Baha’i Temple. Hometown to such diverse figures as Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, Bill Murray, Pete Wentz, and Rahm Emanuel, Wilmette has long been a fine place to grow up, as well as a bustling, civic-minded community with more than its share of surprises.
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