Did you know that Wilmette is…
- One of the ten “Best Places to Raise Your Kids” by Business Week
- Listed in the “25 Top-Earning Towns” in the country by Money Magazine
- Part of Forbes Magazine’s “America’s Most Educated Small Towns”
Over the years, the Village of Wilmette has been recognized for its achievement in the areas of budgeting, forestry, public safety, engineering, community development and air quality.
Link to October-January issue of The Communicator published by the Village of Wilmette. (including Village President Bob Bielinski’s letter regarding the issue of minimum wage and paid leave)
The History of Wilmette
The village of Wilmette is named for Archange Ouilmette, a woman of a half-French Canadian, half-Potawatomie heritage. With her husband, Antoine, she and her family moved north from the first settlement in Chicago to take up residence in a cabin by Lake Michigan on 1280 acres that were granted to her under the Treaty of Prairie du Chien of 1829.
Long after the Ouilmettes had left for Iowa to join her Pottawatomie kin in 1838, the area remained sparsely settled, save for a few hardy pioneers near the lake and the first families who had begun to farm the area west of the ridge along which Ridge Road runs today. From these early settlements sprang two very different communities: the Village of Wilmette, incorporated in 1872, and the Village of Gross Point, incorporated in 1874. The first was founded by mostly Anglo-Protestant settlers from the East who hoped to develop the village as a commuter suburb, while the second, to the west of Ridge Road, was comprised of mostly Roman Catholic, German-speaking farmers, craftsmen, and shop-owners. Their histories formally merged in the 1920s when Gross Point was annexed by Wilmette, but each of the two areas has long retained a distinctive character.
As you explore Wilmette, you will find many places whose colorful and intriguing histories are intertwined with the larger history of the village itself:
- the 1873 depot, rescued and moved in the early 1970s and now a restaurant;
- Roemer Park, the local Little League’s 1950s ballpark;
- the amazing Baha’i Temple, which took decades to build;
- Wilmette Harbor and Gillson Park, both by-products of a remarkable engineering project undertaken over 100 years ago;
- Plaza del Lago, in what was once the controversial area known as No Man’s Land;
- the brick streets of Wilmette, laid down around 1900 and restored during the Great Depression.
The details of all of these histories, and of a great many others, can be found and explored at the Wilmette Historical Museum, which is itself in a storied place, the imposing Gross Point Village Hall on Ridge Road.
The Wilmette Park District oversees 314.4 acres of parks and playground properties which include a nature center and a portion of Green Bay Bike Trail, along a spectacular lakefront, that combine to create the ambiance that is one of the primary reasons people want to live in, and continue to move to, Wilmette.