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Sycamore is a city in DeKalb Countymarker, Illinoismarker, United Statesmarker. The population was 12,020 at the 2000 census, and as of the 2005 estimate it was 14,866. It is the county seat of DeKalb Countymarker.


Early settlement

The first 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.

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

County seat controversies

Early in the city's history, it seemed, that Sycamore might not be the location of the DeKalb County Courthousemarker; 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 Rufus Colton would have preferred Coltonville, where he made his home.

Colton, the Clerk of the Court and preparer of the writs and process of the court, had set the first session of county court to be held at his home, in Coltonville. 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, after the DeKalb County court intervened. When court convened the sheriff served a court order declaring a courthouse be built in Sycamore. Afterward, Coltonville eventually suffered the same fate as Brush Point and disappeared from the map. These events seemingly settled the issue of where the courthouse and, in turn, the DeKalb County seat was going to be located.

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 DeKalbmarker 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 US$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.

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. 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.


Sycamore is located at (41.983850, -88.694091) . The city is located along Illinois Route 64 (State Street in Sycamore) about southeast of Rockfordmarker and west-northwest of Chicagomarker. It is along the south bank of the East Branch of the South Branch Kishwaukee River in DeKalb Countymarker.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.5 square miles (14.2 km²), of which, 5.5 square miles (14.2 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.36%) is water. The terrain in Sycamore, and the surrounding area, is gently rolling and contains rich soil which was originally heavily forested.




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 Courthousemarker is the center of the event and includes a display of decorated and carved pumpkins. The event attracts thousands to Sycamore from locations throughout northern Illinois, the Midwest, and the broader United States.

The city is also home to the Sycamore Historic Districtmarker, an architecturally interesting area containing over 200 individual properties. 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. During the summer, the Sycamore Historical Society offers guided walking tours with a local historian.

Sycamore is also home to the Midwest Museum of Natural History, featuring a varied taxidermy collection.

Sycamore has recently made a lot of changes in the downtown area. With the exit of Domino's Pizza, new fancier restaurants have been established downtown.

Very well-known to Sycamore and surrounding communities is the Sycamore Popcorn Stand. It has stood at the corner of State Street and Maple Street, and has been operated since the late-1890s. With one chair and a very noticeable crimson façade, the popcorn stand helps give quaint Sycamore a classic American charm.

There is also a car show every year that shuts down the entire Main Street in Sycamore. They have classic, new and old cars residing on the streets for tourists to peruse. There is also the Northern Illinois Steam Tractor show which takes place August 13-16 at the Taylor Marshall Farm.


Though the city of Sycamore has never been a manufacturing or industrial center of any great consequence it has always possessed an industrial base that could be termed "adequate". 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.


As of the census 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/sq mi (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.

Law and government

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 Ken Mundy.


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. The city's first school building was built in 1853. Current public education needs in Sycamore are provided by Sycamore Community Unit School District 427. The current Superintendent of Sycamore School District is Dr. Wayne Riesen. He is from Chicago,and has a wife and two children. The district operates Sycamore High School, Sycamore Middle School, and four elementary schools. The newest elementary school, North Grove, opened in 2009 was built for access by the nearby subdivision.

See also


  1. Daily Chronicle article Retrieved on March 20, 2007
  2. Wagner, Robert. " Sycamore Historic District," (PDF), National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form, December 13, 1978, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, accessed 21 May, 2008.
  3. Klein, Ron and McIntyre, Mac. " Looking Back at the DeKalb County Courthouse," DeKalb County Online. Retrieved 21 May, 2008.
  4. History of DeKalb County Courthouse, 16th Judicial Circuit, 2005. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  5. Frillman, Carrie. " Pumpkin enthusiasts pack streets", Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), October 28, 2007, accessed May 21, 2008.
  6. McMurray, Andy. " Families travel from near and far to see Pumpkin Parade", Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), October 30, 2006, accessed May 21, 2008.
  7. Johnson, David. " Pumpkins aplent -- thousands gather for fest", Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), October 26, 2002, accessed May 21, 2008.
  8. Bigolin, Steve. " Welcome to a bright new town - Sycamore: A wealth of sites will be covered in this tour", Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), August 14, 2006, accessed May 21, 2008.
  9. 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.
  10. " DeKalb County Courthouse", Taming the Wild Prairie Digitization Project, 2004, Northern Illinois University, accessed May 21, 2008.

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