Monday, August 29, 2022

Lost Towns of Illinois - Orchard Place, Illinois.

Orchard Place, Illinois, was a small farming community in Cook County, Illinois, just west of Chicago. 

First known as Farwell, it was settled by German immigrants in 1833. The Farwell Post Office opened in 1881, and then the Post Office's name was changed to Orchard Place in 1887. The Post Office seems to have closed in 1935. 

It became a stop on the Wisconsin Central Railroad in 1887 and received the name Orchard Place at that time. In 1942, Orchard Place was selected as the site of a new air base and aircraft manufacturing facility, Orchard Place Airport/Douglas Field. After the Second World War, the city of Chicago bought the airport from the United States government and converted it into a commercial airport; Chicago Orchard Field opened in 1946.

Before 1950, much of the land in the adjacent community was subdivided into residential lots, and a network of initially unpaved streets was developed. This development covered most of the area bounded by Touhy Avenue on the North, (Des Plaines) River Road on the East, Devon Avenue and Higgins Road on the South, and Mannheim Road. On the West side. The airport lies to the Southwest of the Mannheim/Devon intersection, more-or-less diagonally across that intersection from the Orchard Place community.

These de facto boundaries were altered slightly by the construction of the Northwest Tollway in the mid-1950s, forming a barrier separating it from the largely undeveloped southwestern corner of the area and the airport area in general. Orchard Place evolved into an unincorporated residential suburban area, with housing development proceeding piecemeal as individual lots were purchased by prospective homeowners and speculative builders. The community was annexed by referendum to the City of Des Plaines in 1956. 

The airport was renamed in 1949 to O'Hare International Airport and has grown into the Chicago metropolitan area's primary airport and a central North American transportation hub. Today, the former Orchard Place is the southernmost neighborhood of Des Plaines. 

Most early town settlers were buried in Wilmer's Old Settlers Cemetery, which closed in the early 1950s to make room for O'Hare International Airport's access roads. The remains from this cemetery were moved to the 2 remaining cemeteries.

The legacy of its original name persists in O'Hare's airport code (FAA LID: ORD), as well as in the name of Orchard Place Elementary School.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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