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Skokie (; formerly Niles Center) is a village in Cook County, Illinois, United States, neighboring the City of Chicago's northern border. Skokie lies approximately 15 miles north of Chicago's downtown loop. Its name comes from a Potawatomi word for "marsh." For many years Skokie promoted itself as "The World's Largest Village." Its population, according to the 2010 census, was 64,784. Skokie's streets, like that of many suburbs, are largely a continuation of the Chicago street grid, and the village is served by the Chicago Transit Authority, further cementing its connection to the city.
Skokie was originally a German-Luxembourger farming community, but was later settled by a sizeable Jewish population, especially after World War II. At its peak in the mid-1960s, 58% of the population was Jewish, the largest percentage of any Chicago suburb. In recent years, several synagogues and Jewish schools have closed. However, Skokie still has a very large Jewish population. It is home to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which opened in northwest Skokie in 2009.
Skokie has received national attention twice for court cases decided by the United States Supreme Court. In the mid-1970s, it was at the center of a case concerning the First Amendment right to assemble and the National Socialist Party of America, a neo-Nazi group. Skokie ultimately lost that case. In 2001, although Skokie was not a direct party to the case, a decision by the village regarding land use led the court to reduce the power of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
According to the 2010 census, Skokie has a total area of 10.06 square miles (26.06 km2), all land. The village is bordered by Evanston to the east, Chicago to the southeast and southwest, Lincolnwood to the south, Niles to the southwest, Morton Grove to the west, Glenview to the northwest, and Wilmette to the north.
The village's street circulation is a standard street-grid pattern, with major east-west thoroughfare every half-mile: Old Orchard Road, Golf Road, Church Street, Dempster Street, Main Street, Oakton Street, Howard Street, and Touhy Avenue. The major north-south thoroughfares are Skokie Boulevard, Crawford Avenue, and McCormick Boulevard; the major diagonal streets are Lincoln Avenue, Niles Center Road, East Prairie Road and Gross Point Road.
Skokie's north-south streets continue the street names and (house number) grid values of Chicago's north-south streets – with the notable exceptions of Cicero Avenue, which is renamed Skokie Boulevard in Skokie, and Chicago's Pulaski Road retains its original Chicago City name, Crawford Avenue. The east-west streets continue Evanston's street names, but with Chicago grid values, such that, Evanston's Dempster Street is 8800 north, in Skokie addresses.
In 1888, the community was incorporated as Niles Centre. About 1910, the spelling was Americanized to "Niles Center". However, the name caused postal confusion with the neighboring village of Niles. A village-renaming campaign began in the 1930s. In a referendum on November 15, 1940, residents chose the Native American name "Skokie" over the name "Devonshire."
During the real estate boom of the 1920s, large parcels were subdivided; many two- and three-flat apartment buildings were built, with the "Chicago"-style bungalow a dominant architectural specimen. Large-scale development ended as a result of the Great Crash of 1929 and consequent Great Depression. It was not until the 1940s and the 1950s, when parents of the baby boom generation moved their families out of Chicago, that Skokie's housing development began again. Consequently, the village developed commercially, an example being the Old Orchard Shopping Center, currently named Westfield Old Orchard.
During the night of November 27–28, 1934, after a gunfight in nearby Barrington that left two FBI agents dead, two accomplices of notorious 25-year-old bank-robber Baby Face Nelson (Lester Gillis) dumped his bullet-riddled body in a ditch along Niles Center Road adjoining the St. Peter Catholic Cemetery, a block north of Oakton Street in the town.
The first African-American family to move to Skokie arrived in 1961, and open-housing activists helped to integrate the suburb subsequently.
The name of the town was changed from "Niles Center" to "Skokie" by referendum in 1940. "Skokie" had previously been used as the name for the marshland on which much of the town was built; the term "Skokie marsh" was being used by local botanists, notably Henry Chandler Cowles, as early as 1901. Maps long named the Skokie marsh as Chewab Skokie, a probable derivation from Kitchi-wap choku, a Potawatomi term meaning "great marsh".
Virgil Vogel's Indian Place Names in Illinois (Illinois State Historical Society, 1963) records the name Skokie as:
In Native Placenames of the United States (U. of Oklahoma Pr, 2004), William Bright lists Vogel's Potawatomi derivation first, but adds reference to the Ojibwa term miishkooki ("marsh") recorded in the Eastern Ojibwa-Chippewa-Ottawa Dictionary (Mouton, 1985), by Richard A. Rhodes.
The 1940 change of name may also have been influenced by James Foster Porter, a Chicago native, who had explored the "Skoki Valley" in Banff National Park in Canada in 1911 and became captivated by the name. Porter supported the name "Skokie" in the referendum when he returned to America.
Twice in its history, Skokie has been the focal point of cases before the United States Supreme Court. National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977), involved a First Amendment issue. Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S. 159 (2001) touched upon the Commerce Clause.
In 1977 and 1978, Illinois Nazis of the National Socialist Party of America (derived from the American Nazi Party) attempted to demonstrate their political existence with a march in Skokie, far from their headquarters on Chicago's south side. Originally, the NSPA had planned a political rally in Marquette Park in Chicago, however, the Chicago authorities thwarted these plans, first, by requiring the NSPA post an onerous public-safety-insurance bond, then, by banning all political demonstrations in Marquette Park.
Seeking another free-speech political venue, the NSPA chose to march on Skokie. Given the many Holocaust survivors living in Skokie, the village's government thought the Nazi march would be politically provocative and socially disruptive, and refused the NSPA its permission to hold the event. The NSPA appealed that decision, and the American Civil Liberties Union interceded on their behalf, in the case of the National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie. An Illinois appeals court raised the injunction issued by a Cook County Circuit Court judge, ruling that the presence of the swastika, the Nazi emblem, would constitute deliberate provocation of the people of Skokie. However, the Court also ruled that Skokie's attorneys had failed to prove that either the Nazi uniform or their printed materials, which it was alleged that the Nazis intended to distribute, would incite violence.
Moreover, because Chicago subsequently lifted its Marquette Park political demonstration ban, the NSPA ultimately held its rally in Chicago. The attempted Illinois Nazi march on Skokie was dramatized in the television movie, Skokie, in 1981. It was satirized in The Blues Brothers movie in 1980.
In 2001, Skokie's decision to use an isolated wetland as a solid waste disposal site resulted in a lawsuit. Ultimately, the case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and resulted in an overturn of the federal migratory bird rule. See Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook Cty. v. Army Corps of Engineers for more information.
The Skokie Park District maintains public spaces and historical sites within its more than 240 acres (0.97 km2) of parkland and in its ten facilities. The district is a recent winner of the national "Gold Medal for Excellence" in parks and recreation management. Every May since 1991, the park district hosts the Skokie Festival of Cultures to celebrate the village's diverse ethnic composition.
Westfield Old Orchard, an upscale shopping center, is one of the country's first and is the third largest mall by total square footage in Illinois. One of two in the Chicago area of the popular burger chain "Shake Shack" is located there.
Skokie has a sculpture garden that is situated between Dempster Street and Touhy Avenue on the east side of McCormick Boulevard. It was started in 1988 and now has over 70 sculptures. Three areas are toured in May through October of each year, on the last Sunday of the month with a presentation by a docent. Just north of the sculpture garden is a statue to Mahatma Gandhi with five of his famous quotations engraved around the base. This was dedicated on October 2, 2004.
In addition to municipally-managed public spaces, the village is also home to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, encompassing Centre East, Northlight Theatre and the Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra. The facility celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016.
The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center opened in Skokie on April 19, 2009.
On October 7, 2008, the Skokie Public Library received the 2008 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from First Lady Laura Bush in a ceremony at the White House. The National Medal is awarded annually by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation's 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums, to five libraries and five museums. The library's cultural programming and multilingual services were cited in the award presentation. Skokie Public Library is the first public library in Illinois to be awarded the medal.
Additionally, the Skokie Library also offers a bookmobile service that provides a mini-library around the community.
The village's AAA bond rating attests to strong economic health via prudent fiscal management. In 2003, Skokie became the first municipality in the United States to achieve nationally accredited police, fire, and public works departments, and a Class-1 fire department, per the Insurance Services Office (ISO) ratings. Likewise, in 2003 Money magazine named Skokie one of the 80 fastest-growing suburbs in the U.S.
Besides strong manufacturing and retail commerce bases, Skokie's economy will add health sciences jobs; in 2003, Forest City Enterprises announced their re-development of the vacant Pfizer research laboratories, in downtown Skokie, as the Illinois Science + Technology Park, a 23-acre (93,000 m2) campus of research installations (2-million ft.² [180,000 m²] of chemistry, genomics, toxicology laboratories, clean rooms, NMR suites, conference rooms, etc.). In 2006, NorthShore University HealthSystem announced installing their consolidated data center operations at the park, adding 500 jobs to the economy. Map maker Rand McNally, private label cooperative Topco and online grocer Peapod are also headquartered in Skokie.
According to the Village's 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the village are:
Per the census of 2000, the Village of Skokie was composed of 63,348 people who formed in 23,223 households containing 17,045 families. The village's population density was 6,308.70 people per square mile (2,436.1/km²) living in 23,702 housing units (average population density: 2,360.4/square mile [911.5/km²]). The village's racial composition was: 65.6% White, 4.51% African American, 0.17% Native American, 21.28% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.86% from other races, 3.23% from two or more races. The Hispanic and Latino population, of any race, made up 5.71% of the village.
The 23,223 households comprise: 32.2% with minority-age children (younger than 18 years), 60.5% were cohabiting married couples, 9.9% of households were headed by a woman (with no husband present), and 26.6% were non-family cohabitants, 23.6% were single-person households, and 13.6% included an elder person (65 years of age or older). The average Skokie household size was 2.68 persons, and the average household family size was 3.20 persons.
Chronologically, Skokie's age population comprises: 23.0% of minority age (younger than 18 years); 7.0% aged from 18 to 24 years; 25.0% aged from 25 to 44, 25.5% aged from 45 to 64, and 19.6% aged 65 years and older. The median Villager's age is 42 years; for every 100 women younger than 18 years, there were 90.1 men; for every 100 women age 18 and older, there were 85.2 men.
Financially, Skokie's median household income was $57,375; the median family income was $68,253; a man's median income was $44,869; a woman's median income was $33,051. The per capita income is $27,136; 4.2% of families and 5.4% of the population are below the poverty line income, including 5.9% of children under 18 and 5.3% of elders aged 65 years and older.
As of the 2010 US Census, Skokie had a total of 64,784 people within its boundaries. The village's racial composition was 60.27% White, 7.26% African American, 0.19% Native American, 25.54% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.08% some other race, and 3.65% of mixed race. Hispanic and Latinos, of any race, made up 8.84% of the total population. There is a large Jewish population in Skokie and many of the surrounding areas.
The Chicago Transit Authority's Yellow Line terminates at the Dempster Street station in Skokie. Construction has been completed on a new Yellow Line train station at Oakton Street, to serve downtown Skokie and environs. It opened April 30, 2012. Additionally, the CTA is commissioning an Alternative Analysis Study on the extension of the Yellow Line terminal to Old Orchard Road for Federal Transit Administration New Start grants. The New Starts program allows federal funds to be used for capital projects provided all solutions for a given problem (i.e., enabling easy transportation for reverse commuters to Old Orchard Mall) is considered. The solution recommended by the CTA is the elevation of the Yellow Line north of Searle Parkway to a rebuilt Dempster Street station, then following abandoned Union Pacific Railroad tracks and the east side of the Edens Expressway to a new terminal south of Old Orchard Road. Currently this solution needs to undergo public commenting as well as FTA and CTA board approval to continue.
Although the Yellow Line is the fastest transportation to and from the city, the village also is served by CTA and Pace bus routes. However, Greyhound Bus service to the Dempster Street train station has been discontinued. For automobile transport, Interstate 94, the Edens Expressway, traverses western Skokie, with interchanges at Touhy Avenue, Dempster Street, and Old Orchard Road.
Major highways in Skokie include:
A portion of the city is served by the Evanston/Skokie School District 65.
See the same map as middle schools.
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