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Evanston, Illinois is a suburban municipality in Cook Countymarker, Illinoismarker directly north of the City of Chicagomarker, east of Skokiemarker, and south of Wilmettemarker, with an estimated population of 74,360 as of 2003. It is one of the North Shore communities that adjoin Lake Michiganmarker. Evanston is concurrently a city and township, according to state and municipal charters. It is the home of Northwestern Universitymarker.


A part of downtown Evanston, as seen in October 2005.
What is now Evanston was once part of a larger area called "Grosse Pointe Territory" in the 1830s. The first non-native Americans settled in 1836, in an area that by 1850 was called Ridgeville. In 1851, a group of Methodists founded Northwestern Universitymarker and chose the area as its new home. In 1854, the founders of Northwestern submitted to the county judge their plans for a city to be named Evanston after John Evans, one of their leaders. In 1857, the request was granted.

Evanston was formally incorporated as a town on December 29, 1863, but declined in 1869 to become a city despite the Illinois legislature passing a bill for that purpose. Evanston expanded after the Civil War with the annexation of the village of North Evanston. Finally, in early 1892, following the annexation of the Village of South Evanston, voters elected to organize as a city.

The 1892 boundaries are largely those that exist today. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, No Man's Landmarker was the name of a disputed unincorporated area on the shore of Lake Michiganmarker between the suburbs of Evanston and Wilmettemarker. The dispute was eventually resolved in Wilmette's favor and the area incorporated into that city. Actor Charlton Heston was born in No Man's Land and elaborated on the locale in his autobiography In the Arena. However, Heston suggests that his birthplace in No Man's Land ended up as part of Evanston.

During the 1960s Northwestern University changed the city's shoreline by adding a 74-acre (300,000 m²) lake-fill.

In 1939, Evanston hosted the first NCAA basketball championship final at Northwestern Universitymarker's Patten Gymnasium.[15016]

In August, 1954, Evanston hosted the second assembly of the World Council of Churchesmarker, still the only WCC assembly to have been held in the United States. President Dwight Eisenhower welcomed the delegates and Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary-general of the United Nations, delivered an important address entitled "An instrument of faith."

Today, the city is home to Northwestern University and other educational institutions as well as headquarters of Alpha Phi International women's fraternity, Rotary Internationalmarker, the National Lekotek Center, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, the Sigma Chi Fraternity and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.

Evanston is also the birthplace of Tinkertoys and local theory claims that an Evanston pharmacist invented the ice cream sundae, a theory disputed by Ithaca, New Yorkmarker and Two Rivers, Wisconsinmarker, who also claim the heritage.

Evanston was "dry"--that is, the city prohibited the sale or commercial service of liquor—from 1858 until 1972, when the City Council voted to allow restaurants and hotels to serve liquor on their premises. In 1984, the Council voted to allow retail liquor outlets within the city limits.


Evanston is located at (42.046380, -87.694608) and is at an elevation of 600 ft.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.8 square miles (20.1 km²), of which, 7.8 square miles (20.0 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.26%) is water.

In August 2004 there was some confusion as to the size of Evanston. Evanston is often locally listed as being 8.4 sq mi, but this number appears to be incorrect. The 7.8 sq mi listed by the United States Census Bureau is more accurate.


As of the census of 2000, there were 74,239 people, 29,651 households, and 15,952 families residing in the city. The population density was 9,584.1 people per square mile (3,698.6/km²). There were 30,817 housing units at an average density of 3,978.4/sq mi (1,535.3/km²). The 2000 census showed that Evanston is ethnically mixed with the following breakdown in population: 62.56% White, 22.50% Black or African-American, 6.11% Hispanic or Latino, 6.09% Asian, and 2.85% from other races.

There were 29,651 households out of which 25.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.4% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.2% were non-families. 36.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 3.03.

In the city the population was spread out with 20.2% under the age of 18, 16.4% from 18 to 24, 32.0% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 10.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 89.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.4 males.

Evanston is economically diverse. According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $69,303, and the median income for a family was $102,258. Males had a median income of $51,726 versus $39,767 for females. The per capita income for the city was $33,645. About 5.1% of families and 11.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.3% of those under age 18 and 7.1% of those age 65 or over.

Populations of the past

  • 1900 - 19,259
  • 1910 - 24,978
  • 1920 - 37,215
  • 1930 - 63,338
  • 1940 - 65,389

Recent population trends

  • 1970 - 80,113
  • 1980 - 73,706
  • 1990 - 73,233
  • 2000 - 74,239

Government and politics

Evanston has a council-manager system of government and is divided into nine wards, each of which is represented by an Alderman, or member of the Evanston City Council. Its current mayor is Elizabeth Tisdahl, replacing longtime mayor Lorraine H. Morton.

In the April, 2009, municipal elections, Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl won a landslide victory in the race for mayor over three opponents in a low-turnout election.

Evanston has a history of supporting candidates affiliated with the Democratic party in elections on all levels of government. In the 2004 presidential election, Democratic candidate John Kerry won 82% of Evanston's vote. His Republican opponent, George W. Bush, only won 17% of the vote in Evanston.

In 2008, Barack Obama won approximately 87% of the vote in Evanston Township.


  • Early after its founding Evanston, because of its strong Methodist influence, and its attempt to impose moral rigor, was called "Heavenston."
  • In the early 20th century Evanston was called "The City of Churches."
  • The varied works of numerous prominent architects, and many prominent mansions, especially near the lakefront, gave the town by the 1920s the sobriquet "The City of Homes," a fact often touted by local real estate agents. Use of the phrase has been attributed to a 1924 speech at the local Kiwanis club.
  • Since the late 20th century, because of Evanston's usually-liberal politics, it is sometimes humorously (or sarcastically) referred to as "The People's Republic of Evanston."


Evanston Public Library

Public schools

High school

Most of Evanston (and part of the village of Skokiemarker) is within the boundaries of Evanston Township High School District 202. The district has a single high school, Evanston Township High Schoolmarker (ETHS) with an enrollment of just over 3000, covering grades 9 through 12. The school's mascot is the Wildkit (a diminutive of Northwestern's Wildcats) and the school's colors are orange and blue. Its biggest rival is New Trier High Schoolmarker in Winnetkamarker. Its superintendent is Dr. Eric Witherspoon.

Primary schools

Evanston-Skokie Community Consolidated School District 65marker, covering all of Evanston and part of Skokie, provides primary education from pre-kindergarten through grade 8. The district has ten elementary schools (through fifth grade), three middle schools (grades 6 through 8), two magnet schools (K through 8) and three special schools or centers. Total district enrollment in 2004 was 6,622 students.

The region of Skokie served by Evanston schools is referred to colloquially as Skevanston.

Elementary schools
  • Dawes Elementary School
  • Dewey Elementary School
  • Kingsley Elementary School
  • Lincoln Elementary School
  • Lincolnwood Elementary School
  • Oakton Elementary School
  • Orrington Elementary School
  • Walker Elementary School
  • Washington Elementary School
  • Willard Elementary School
Middle schools
*Chute Middle School
*Haven Middle School
*Nichols Middle School
Magnet schools
*King Labmarker Magnet School
*Bessie Rhodes Magnet School
Special schools and centers
  • Early Childhood Center
  • Park School
  • Daniel & Ada Rice Children's Center
In 2007, Willard Elementary School ranked 8th in the state overall on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT).

Private and parochial schools

In addition to the public schools, Evanston offers a variety of other educational choices. Roycemore Schoolmarker is an independent coeducational college preparatory day school providing a liberal arts education to students from junior kindergarten through grade 12. Since the closing of St. George High School in 1969, there is no Catholic high school in Evanston, but many Evanston residents attend co-educational Loyola Academy in Wilmettemarker, all-boys Notre Dame High School for Boysmarker in Nilesmarker, all-girls St. Scholastica Academymarker in Chicagomarker or Regina Dominican High Schoolmarker in Wilmettemarker, and other area Catholic high schools.

There are also a variety of non-public primary schools in or near Evanston:
  • The Barbereux School - independent; grades pre-k through 1
  • Chiaravalle Montessori School - Montessori; grades pre-k through 8
  • Midwest Montessori School - Montessori; grades pre-k through 3
  • Pope John XXIII - Catholic; grades pre-k through 8
  • St. Athanasius School - Catholic; grades pre-k through 8
  • St. Joan of Arc School - Catholic; grades pre-k through 8
  • Roycemore School - independent; grades pre-k through 12
  • North Shore School - independent; grades K through 8
  • Baker Demonstration School - independent; grades pre-k through 8


Evanston's growth occurred largely because of its accessibility from Chicago by rail. The Northwestern founders did not finalize their commitment to siting the university there until they were assured the Chicago & Milwaukee railroad line would run there. C&M trains began stopping in Evanston in 1855. Evanston later experienced rapid growth as one of the first streetcar suburbs. The North Shore Line which gave the area its nickname started at Church Street in Evanston and continued up to Waukegan.

Transit continues to make Evanston attractive today. The CTA's Purple Line, part of the Chicago 'L' system, runs through Evanston. From its terminal at Howardmarker in Chicago, the line heads north to the South Blvdmarker, Mainmarker, Dempstermarker, Davismarker, Fostermarker, Noyesmarker, and Centralmarker stations, before terminating at Lindenmarker in Wilmette. Metra's Union Pacific/North Line also serves Evanston, with stations at Main Streetmarker, Davis Streetmarker and Central Streetmarker, the first two being adjacent to Purple Line stations. The CTA's Yellow Line also runs through the city, though it only stops at Howard. Evanston also contains several I-GO cars.

Evanston is also served by six CTA bus routes as well as four Pace bus routes.

Commercial districts

Once the home of one of the first Marshall Field's and Sears stores in suburbia, Evanston remains an important shopping destination for the north suburbs and North Side of Chicago, with numerous commercial centers throughout the city. The principal ones are as follows:
  • Downtown - centered around the Davis St. Metra and "L" stops, Evanston's downtown adjoins Northwestern University. Over 300 businesses, several highrise office and residential buildings, three traditional low-rise shopping areas, an 18-screen movie theatre, and over 85 restaurants
  • Central Street - actually several shopping districts linked along the northernmost of the city's principal east-west arteries, with the most active clustered around the Central Street Metra station and characterized by specialty shops and restaurants in a walkable environment with an eclectic, vintage "small-town feel" strongly protected by the community
  • Dempster Street - just off the Dempster "L" stop; over 60 shops, many of them small and hip, including Bagel Art, the vegetarian Blind Faith Cafe, The Mexican Shop (affordable world women’s clothing and accessories), 2nd Hand Tunes, lollie (children’s boutique), and FolkWorks Gallery.
  • Main Street - approximately 3 blocks of small, interesting shops abutting both a CTA and Metra stopmarker, in a gentrifying neighborhood that also is home to the Evanston Arts Depot
  • Howard Street - many small shops line the city's border with Chicago; at the west end of the avenue, near the border with Skokie, Howard Center, a small thriving shopping mall, was built in the 1990s after some controversy.
  • Chicago Avenue - not a separate shopping district per se, this extension of what is called Clark Street in Chicago runs parallel to the rail lines and is the principal north-south artery in Evanston from Howard Street north to its terminus at Northwestern University. Chicago Avenue connects the Main Street, Dempster Street, and Downtown shopping districts. Once home to numerous auto dealerships, it has attracted numerous restaurants and a growing number of multi-unit residential structures and is lined with interesting businesses.

Health care

Two hospitals are located within Evanston's city limits:


A perennial debate in Evanston is the issue of Northwestern University's status as a tax-exempt institution. In the founding charter of Northwestern University, signed in 1851, the state granted the school an exemption from paying property taxes, and unlike other well-off private universities with statutory exemptions, it provides its own police services, but not firefighter/paramedic services. It pays water, sewer, communications, real property transfer taxes, substantial building permit fees, but not property taxes. Northwestern does not make Payments in Lieu of Taxes for the real estate it removes from property tax rolls.

Northwestern's critics allege that it consumes far more from the city than it contributes. However, its backers fire back that the benefits of having an elite research institution are worth it. This controversy was revived in 2003 when the university purchased an eight-story office building downtown, removing it from the tax rolls. An advisory referendum put on the April elections ballot, dubbed by supporters as a "Fair Share Initiative," received a majority, but was not passed into ordinance by the City Council.

Beginning in the late 1990s, there has been considerable controversy over an explosion in high-rise development, especially in the downtown district. Detractors contend that the development has taken away what they call a "unique Evanston identity." They cite a growing number of local businesses that have gone out of business to be replaced with chain stores as its worst offense. In contrast proponents claim that the high-rises have brought much-needed life to what was a dying suburban downtown, and much-needed revenues to chronically underfunded city coffers .

Recently (as of 2006) there was concern with Evanston's low-income population being able to find affordable housing. Evanston's west side, a formerly strong middle-class African American community, has been undergoing a redevelopment process, which has led to a steadily decreasing minority population in Evanston. The city's former mayor Lorraine H. Morton has tried to persuade builders to build less expensive medium sized homes under $350,000, but none of her attempts were successful.

In September 2009, Northwestern purchased a fire truck for the city of Evanston at a cost of $550,000. Northwestern President Morton Schapiro stated "We are pleased to fund the purchase of this new fire engine, which was the top priority of the City in our discussions with how we might assist the City financially."

Local media

  • - active website with blogging by community leaders and activists, based in the Central Street neighborhood
  • The Daily Northwestern - the student newspaper at Northwestern University.
  • Evanston Now - a locally-owned online newspaper.
  • Evanston Review - a weekly newspaper published by the Sun-Times News Group.
  • Evanston Roundtable - a locally-owned semi-weekly newspaper.
  • Evanston Sentinel - locally-owned monthly newspaper with focus on Evanston's African-American community
  • The Evanstonian - Evanston Township High School's student newspaper.

People from Evanston

The following list includes notable people who were born or have lived in Evanston.


Entertainment figures

Sports figures

Writers, thinkers, artists, scientists, and cultural figures

Politicians and statesmen

Historical figures


In popular culture


Film and television

Evanston's variety of housing and commercial districts, combined with easy access to Chicago, make it a popular filming locale. Evanston as of December, 2008 is listed as a filming location for 65 different films, notably those of John Hughes. Additionally, the city is referenced as a setting in numerous other works.
  • In the 2003 film Cheaper by the Dozen, the Baker family moves to Evanston, although the movie was filmed elsewhere with different schools.
  • 1993's Dennis the Menace was nearly entirely filmed in Evanston. Primary location for Mr. Wilson and Dennis' house was located on Ashland Ave, between Church and Davis Sts. Local houses on the block were also used in the film.
  • Mean Girls starring Lindsay Lohan references Evanston and ETHS as its setting, but the school shown in the movie is not ETHS, filming was done in Chicagomarker as well, and Old Orchard Shopping Centermarker is neither in Evanston nor an indoor mall.
  • Although never explicitly stated, the real-life scenes in The Princess Bride take place in Evanston, according to the screenplay.
  • The ABC series Once and Again was set in Evanston.
  • Kevin Costner's character in Dragonfly lives in Evanston.
  • Much of the 1984 movie Sixteen Candles was filmed in and around Evanston. The Baker house is located on the 3000 block of Payne St.
  • Home Alone 3 was filmed in Evanston.

Advances of sustainability

Evanston vows to be the "greenest city in America." An Evanston Strategic Plan was passed on March 27, 2006 to create the most livable city in America and to promote the highest quality of life for all residents. One goal is to create and maintain functionally appropriate, sustainable, accessible high quality infrastructure and facilities. This includes continual development of an environmentally sensitive lakefront and implementation of a comprehensive long-range infrastructure plan. Another goal is to protect the city’s natural resources and to build environment, not destroy it. The city also wants to improve its transportation resources to be more safe, integrated, accessible, responsive, and energy-efficient. Currently, alternative modes of transportation include CTA/PACE buses, CTA/Metra trains, and miles of sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

The Evanston Climate Action Plan passed in November 2008, which is a unified effort to make Evanston a more sustainable place. Its main goal is to reduce carbon emissions with respect to transportation, buildings, energy sources, waste, and food production through a variety of methods. These methods include supporting mixed-use, green, high-performing, transit-oriented development, and encouraging car-sharing and Eco-Pass programs.

Evanston is home to Northwestern University’s Ford Engineering Design Center and the Jewish Reconstruction Congregation, which are LEED silver and platinum certified buildings, respectively. In addition, Evanston’s green building ordinance adopts LEED certified achievements for new developments of certain building types. Evanston has an environmental board and an office of sustainability.

Points of interest


  1. "This is Evanston," League of Women Voters of Evanston, 2000, ISBN 0-9676994-0-1[1] pp 8–18
  2. Finding Out About Wilmette History
  3. Heston, Charlton: In The Arena, Simon & Schuster, 1995. ISBN 0-684-80394-1
  4. History Channel - Modern Marvels - "Ice Cream Tech" - (2008)
  5. Foerstner, Abigail. "Evanston liquor store to close door on era." Chicago Tribune. July 6, 1984. p. NS-1.
  7. E.g.,
  8. Downtown Evanston
  13. City of Evanston, Strategic Plan
  14. City of Evanston, Evanston Climate Action Plan
  15. Evanston Passes Commercial Green Building Ordinance - A Fresh Squeeze

External links

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