West Suburban Chicago: Hinsdale & Oak Brook

West Suburban Chicago: Hinsdale & Oak Brook

West Suburban Chicago

View Larger Map of Higley1000 neighborhoods in West Suburban Chicago

The West Suburban cluster of neighborhoods is centered on Oak Brook and Hinsdale. They are the odd couple of Chicago’s suburbs. Hinsdale (the Felix Unger of the two) is older, gracious and stately. Hinsdale’s lovely tree lined streets have been the site of a teardown demolition derby over the last 20 years with the usual local outcry. The two most elite neighborhoods of Hinsdale are the adjacent neighborhoods of Southeast Section and The Woodlands.

Oak Brook is the Oscar Madison of this duo. Oak Brook is the brain child of Paul Butler, the scion of a family that owned a large amount of land where the suburb sits today. The Butler name graces one of the suburbs many golf courses, an elementary school, and a polo ground, Oak Brook is a collection of gated communities and is the most desirable destination for Asians-Americans in the Chicago area. The gated nouveau riche development dubbed The Midwest Club is 40.1% Asian. The similar development of Trinity Lakes is 37.4% Asian. Both have among the highest concentration of wealthy Asians in the United States. The architecture of these neighborhoods tends to the ostentatious McMansion variety (an appropriate allusion as Oak Brook is the site of McDonald’s Corporate Headquarters and Hamburger University). The entire city of Oak Brook was 20.1% Asian (2000 Census). It is interesting that of Oak Brook’s Asian population, 52.5% are Indian and 20.6% are Chinese. Philippinos make up an additional 10.5% if Oak Brook’s population.

Burr Ridge answers the Question of “Where to Build your McMansion when Oak Brook is Built-out?”

Don’t want to teardown a house in Hinsdale or Clarendon Hills? But still want to build that 10,000 square foot trophy house? Burr Ridge is the place for you! The two neighborhoods of Burr Ridge in the Higley 1000 have relatively large Asian populations. Palisades-Oakridge Estates is 14.6% Asian and Devon-Lakewood is 15.7% Asian.

Map of Burr Ridge

View Larger Map of Palisades-Oak Ridge & Devon-Lakewood Neighborhoods

The appearance that wealthy Asians are attracted to gated developments of new homes in the suburbs provides an interesting future research topic for urban geographers.

The 17 neighborhoods in the West Suburban cluster were 86.2% Non-Hispanic Whites and 10.0% Asian. Black (1.6%) and Hispanic (1.2%) household numbers are insignificant. There were 7,470 households in this cluster or 16.4% of Chicago’s Higley 1000 total households.

Beyond the core Hinsdale-Oak Brook cluster there are several noteworthy West Suburban outliers. One of this author’s favorites is River Forest’s central section, a neighborhood graced by eclectic homes from the early parts of the 20th Century. Formerly the favorite of solid citizens as well as Mafia dons, River Forest’s homes have been lovingly maintained. Many of the homes in River Forest have been remodeled and expanded as the downside of the eclectic architecture of the Twenties are small bathrooms, small closets, and small kitchens.

Map of River Forest and Oak Park’s Frank Lloyd Wright Neighborhood

View Larger Map of River Forest Central and Frank Lloyd Wright Neighborhood

Oak Park: A Frank Lloyd Wright Tour de Force

Another noteworthy neighborhood that just missed the Higley 1000 is the core of a collection of Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes in Oak Park. The Block Group that has the Wright homes had a mean household income of $184,868 in 2000, placing it 1004th in the nation.

One may take a variety of tours sponsored by the Frank Lloyd Wright Association located on the Southern edge of this neighborhood. Although Oak Park has a fairly large African-American population, few are found in the Frank Lloyd Wright neighborhood.

Map of the Concentration of African-Americans in Oak Park, Illinois (Block by Block Basis)

Oak Park Census Percentage Black Households - thumbnail

In the late Sixties, Oak Park became the center of controversy when the city began a reverse steering program as realtors were trained to steer newly arriving African-Americans to Non-Hispanic White neighborhoods through the Oak Park Housing Center. In spite of the best efforts of the city, Blacks remain clustered in apartment buildings along the city’s Eastern border with Chicago, Austin Boulevard. Although the city as a whole was 22.4% Black in the 2000 Census, the Frank Lloyd Wright neighborhood had a mere 1.7% African-American households.

South Suburban Chicago

View Larger Map of Higley 1000 neighborhoods in South Suburban Chicago

There are only two Higley 1000 neighborhoods in the southern half of Chicagoland: the area around the Flossmoor Country Club and a subdivision adjacent to the Prestwick Country Club in exurban Frankfort. The households around the Flossmoor Country Club were 17.1% Black in the 2000 Census, the highest percentage in the Chicago area by quite a large degree. The second largest percentage of African-Americans (6.3%) is found in the small West Suburban Oak Brook subdivision of Ginger Creek.

I came across an interesting Chicago Sun-Times article from the archives (August 15, 1972) that listed the status of 200 Chicago suburbs by ranking them on four statistics: percentage college graduates; percentage of families with incomes over $25,000 (that’s not a typo!); median family income; and median years of school. What is striking about the listing is that Olympia Fields, a suburb just south of Flossmoor was ranked 4th and Flossmoor was ranked 7th.

By the 2000 Census, there were no neighborhoods in Olympia Fields in the Higley 1000. The Olympia Fields Country Club neighborhood is 51.9% Black, however with a mean household income of $133,210, it would not be in qualify for the second thousand wealthiest neighborhoods. Graymoor is a small subdivision to the east of the Olympia Fields Country Club and has a mean household income of $169,321. Graymoor’s 143 households were 35.6% Black in the 2000 Census. It is always important to remember that the margin of error in very small neighborhoods is wide. It is also important to remember that the reason I have chosen to make the data base 1,000 neighborhoods strong was to counteract this problem.

Posted in Metro Briefs, Racial Diversity, Uncategorized on Apr 21st, 2008, 2:22 pm by Stephen Higley   

2 Responses to “West Suburban Chicago: Hinsdale & Oak Brook”

  1. Edward H. Davis
    July 16th, 2008 | 3:58 pm

    Professor Higley-
    Your data on Oak Brook’s Asian population is fascinating. I wonder why we haven’t heard more about this new phenomenon. Surely there are geographers studying the Asian immigration into the US, so there ought to be a geographer investigating the clustering of wealthy Asians into neighborhoods. There are plenty of interesting questions that could be asked: What are the reasons migrants might give for choosing gated communities like The Midwest Club? How do the Indian, Chinese and Filipino groups interact – do they see some common ground as Asians?
    By the way, your site taken as a whole contains an astonishing wealth of information, and I love the maps. Thank you for your efforts to document these important places.
    -Edward H. Davis

  2. omarfidel
    November 24th, 2008 | 12:02 am

    This is really fun to look at and to extrapolate the explosion that occurred. I would love for a false color map that shows the diaspora of white flight and the introduction of black southerners into the north states done with a time progression.
    I remember my grandmother showing me 16 mm film of town meetings in the chicago suburbs that were forming in the late 50s and into the 60’s, how irate the whites got, how rabid they were against blacks encroaching on “their” white enclaves. People forget, or perhaps most of my generation is rather clueless to how racist, how xenophobic northern whites really were in that period of time. Gary indiana is another example. There is a mythology, an aura of mystique surrounding gary, its almost a right of passage for a group of white ignorant suburbanites to go on a road trip to gary and then brag about it the next day in school. Not like street cred, but more like survival cred. Call it xenophobia, racism, cultural chauvinism, cultural shock, but as a person of mix race and of dual class status I got to see the inside of both these worlds. One world of privledge, my mother and her husband moved to the exclusive white enclave, nearly a gated community in a sense where i grew up. Though my mother was from gary and her new husband was from blue collar portage indiana, they “made” it. Living in Shorewood became their badge, their pedigree/provenance, i was the tag along.
    My mothers mother and my paternal grandparents remained in gary indiana, I experience the plight of the faltering economies of north lake county, the result of white flight. Every weekend i was in two worlds, every summer i vacationed for weeks or months either in texas or in nwin, and chicago.
    Being a half-breed/ half cast, i always was in two worlds, being a product of divorce i always had two families, and coming from two different social classes i always had two different views. Integration is not something that many people want. Blacks are racist, they like their own people they have a different set of cultural norms, in gary they dont need gates, they have a myth protecting them from the whites. You will never see the gentrification of gary indiana like the neighborhoods of the watts area in los angeles. You will never see the virtually gated communities of Valparaiso a county seat, or crown point also a county seat ever openly accept a black diaspora. These people remember bitterly the overflow from chicago entering into their once all white christian city of gary. The whites who had the means like lemmings quickly escaped to the burbs, making new encroachments. They though did not intermingle with the “white trash/country people” even though in terms of education or earnings they were hardly much removed from those that they scoffed at. Nwin and the chicagoland region is always in a flux, ethnic whites enclaves morph, and every generation their are new ethnic mixes. Always self segregating though. My mothers gary local was once mostly jews and greeks, macedonians, serbs/croats.. then it started to become sub middle class white, and finally blacks from chicago started coming in. The south no longer had work because of mechanization and their were lots of semi skilled labor jobs to be had in the Steel and auto industries of nwin and chicago.It was a magnet for everyone. These neighborhoods these gated communities these islands of privileged and class distinction show you how city-statesque and Machiavellian we as americans really are. We only kid ourselves about not having class warfare, in london even the superrich sometimes take public transit, the english have a more common sense approach to class distinction. They have accepted the reality of their system, we are still in denial. Still falling for all that american propaganda how we are all equal and all valuable, will we ever have a social uprising. Probably not, your site illustrates exactly why, absence is greater than presence, by manipulating our socio econmoic enviornment by creating micro-climates through social and racial stratification we insure the status quo. Suburbs keep the people in cocoons self contained utopian city states. These insulate the truth, these keep us from encroaching into each segments own reality. This idea of the insular, of the gate moat and castle, of the city-state and every man for himself is the real america. Behind every Rebel iconoclast, behind every irreverent contrarian is some seething resentment that he or she didnt get his fair share.
    I see the world from another point of view outside of the norms of race and class but also of being a sexual minority. Outside the racially segregated city of gary, and the white mirror of poverty that portage,hessville, and black oak used to be. Their is a gay ghetto where Segregation is even more polarizing, it puts all of your census information on its head: You have your coal queens, in two flavors, chocolate and vanilla, you have your snow queens in 3 flavors, you have the white guy who is a sinophile, you have the asian guy who is wanting to be “white”. They ignore people in a crowded room, they do the same thing socially that these rich people do in their island building. Gay asians tend to act “sticky” like sticky rice. Sinocentrism. Ive seen much more than this even, because of my travels. Also many of my cousins are mixed with either mexican, Puerto rican, chinese, or mixed ethnic white plus white. Lets not even get into how confusing Blatino is to the whole mix. The problem with america is the racial distinction and the class distinction are confused, or merge, so that they are entangled and thus its hard to mobilize one group out of the many even though their plights are the same, they see each other through a stereotyped and xenophobic lens. If you think about this, sometimes i ponder that this is the culture that is best suited to keep people in their place. Divide and conquer. The french revolution comes to mind, phrases like let them eat cake seems like something that would be on the tounge of so many of these people with affluenza. Look at the radical change in the city plan of paris after the revolution the wide streets to separate people and to make it more difficult for mobs to block attack routes. Cities always breed the anarchists, the intellectual, the malcontents and the dissenters. Why would government want that. We live in a period of American empire which is ruled by division. The so called middle class is the bridge between the two worlds, if you kill the middle the rest will die. Many of the rich are so wealthy that they can in fact endure the absence of the middle and turn the lower class or working class blue collar into the new Deletes(as they say in india)or more commonly referred to as the untouchable. The old south is reborn again, the plantation effect. This time around though the slaves have no inherent worth or value, in turn fellow americans become 3rd world factory grunts, units of labor to compete with the other 3rd world provincials. Ah slaves of the empire, do you hear that, i think i hear a violin, nero must be ready for his swan song solo.

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