Lisle Town Focus
A village with deep roots winds a natural path toward continued growth
Walking through downtown Lisle, one comes across a curved path of quaint pavers, lined with perennial plants, bushes and trees. Set between retail and restaurant buildings and across the street from a new development under the din of construction, the garden path leads from a charming fountain to the scenic Dragonfly Landing and PrairieWalk Pond. The path links commerce and nature, and on another level, it reflects Lisle’s connection to the land, the history and future of which attracts residents and visitors from throughout the Chicago area.
Another symbol that embodies the spirit of Lisle is the tree. Home to the 1,700-acre Morton Arboretum, which draws upwards of a million visitors a year, Lisle is known as The Arboretum Village. This community has strong roots, a steady, sturdy trunk of neighborhoods, businesses and services, and branches and leaves that provide a sheltering canopy to those who venture here.
“People can grow up, work, go to college, marry, buy a home, downsize, retire and never have to leave Lisle. We cater to all seasons of life, and people here are friendly, down-to-earth and just want to be ‘Lisle’,” says Catherine Schuster, director of marketing and communications for the Village of Lisle. This community is true toits green roots, too. “Lisle supports sustainability, and that is in line with our brand.”
Analogies aside, Lisle is both old (the first permanent settlement in DuPage County, dating to 1832) and new (officially incorporated in 1956). It bridges larger suburbs like Naperville and Downers Grove, but boasts its own attractions and character. In addition to the arboretum, there’s a university, several faith-based institutions and schools, a popular annual hot air balloon festival, various corporate headquarters, an expanding downtown and plenty of green spaces.
“Lisle is a unique village — we have so much here, and it’s relatively small, with a population of around 23,400,” says Diane Homolka, executive director of the Lisle Convention and Visitors Bureau.
It is also a convenient place to live, work and visit. “We are equal distance from both Chicago airports and we are at the crossroads of I-88, I-55 and I-294,” Homolka says, adding that the Metra tracks conveniently cut through downtown Lisle.
Main Street USA: Downtown Lisle
From a development and commercial standpoint, Lisle’s downtown district, which begins at Ogden Avenue and Main Street and runs through the area around the railroad tracks, may be smaller than, say, Naperville, but it’s growing and includes new businesses created by those most vested in the community.
One example is a recently opened store The Collective + Makery, billed as a retail store and a creative workshop experience. Its Peony Lounge is a relaxing meeting space for private parties, craft-making or quiet retreat. The store is run by longtime Lisle residents Jennifer Rizzo and Autumn Geist.
“We love Lisle. We believe it is a hidden gem and that it needed a shop that is curated locally,” says Rizzo.
Indeed, Lisle’s homespun spirit is evident in the non-cookie-cutter nature of its stores, restaurants and entertainment options. Crème de la Crème is a gift and accessories shop that features clothing and jewelry for babies through adults. Pixel Blast Arcade and 4A Song Vinyl and Jukeboxes are distinctive businesses, as is Tu Bella, which provides solutions for hair loss.
The many independent stores in downtown Lisle are reminiscent of main street communities across America, such as Flowers of Lisle, Past Presence Custom Framing, Leo’s Cleaners, Tony the Tailor and, in an It’s a Wonderful Life kind of way, the Lisle Savings Bank, which has been in town for 100 years.
While downtown Lisle doesn’t stretch as far or wide as some other suburban downtown districts, there are eateries for a range of palates. Looking for a sweet treat? Stop into The Nook for candy, ice cream, coffee or other snacks, and be welcomed with a friendly smile from the proprietor. Have a hankering for authentic Mexican fare? Yerbabuena Mexican Cuisine serves up authentic dishes, and when it’s nice enough to sit outside, opens a second-level deck. For those who like good hometown grub, The Fox Restaurant on Main Street is known for its food and for the decorative foxes placed here and there throughout the diner-style interior. A newer spot, NWB (Next Whiskey Bar) touts whiskey on both the food and drinks menus and features a host of American comfort-food classics.
Another distinct eatery is Euro-Crêpes and Pizzeria for sweet and savory crêpes, plus pizza with fresh toppings.
As 2017 wanes, ongoing growth is projected for downtown Lisle. Marq on Main, a premier apartment development, is slated to open in the fall of 2018. For the longer term, in 2016 the village facilitated a Downtown Lisle Master Plan to serve as a blueprint for growth over the next decade.
Beyond the downtown area, there are more dining and shopping choices. Along Ogden Ave, for instance, spots like The Bavarian Lodge (see related article on page 68) attract crowds, as do places like Country House, Apolis Greek Street Food and John’s Rib House. Rayme’s Steak and Fish House on Lincoln evokes a Wisconsin supper club with its American-style menu, while Evviva! Bar & Eatery on Front Street is known for Salerno’s pizza.
For those that like to dine with a view, Wheatstack, located inside the clubhouse at River Bend Golf Club, sports a deck overlooking the greens. And Allgauer’s, inside the Hilton Lisle/Naperville hotel, has been a popular fine dining and Sunday brunch destination for many years.
Downtown Lisle reflects the community’s link to the natural world in its layout and features. The natural fountain near the garden path is based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed Falling Water development. “Downtown Lisle is refreshingly different — it is filled with grasses and flowers, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired designs and open areas. The sidewalks are in the soft colors of the prairie and resemble a Wright window,” says Schuster, citing the district’s natural grasses and leaf imprints in the crosswalks.
Nature’s Wonderland: The Morton Arboretum
If the businesses in Lisle represent one side of this village, The Morton Arboretum represents the other. This majestic wilderness is dotted with woodlands, wetlands, prairies, lakes and meadows. The arbors are the proverbial star of the show here, and accordingly, there are numerous species of trees.
Such a treescape, of course, makes this an especially popular place in autumn. “There’s really nothing like fall at The Morton Arboretum. Walking through the woods on a sunny day immersed in a sea of vivid yellows, oranges and reds is truly a spectacular experience,” says Anna Cosner, director of retail and events.
In addition to blazing fall foliage, The Morton Arboretum is a source for education and enrichment. “Because we know how stunning the grounds are at this time of year, we’ve designed a full slate of programs for people to take part in,” says Cosner. “Whether it’s shopping the amazing glass pieces on display at the annual Glass Pumpkin Patch, trying some local brews at the Cider and Ale Festival, or visiting the Children’s Garden for autumn-themed drop-in activities as part of our Trick or Trees program, there are many fun and festive ways to explore the changing seasons.”
For the upcoming holidays, The Morton Arboretum lights it up with events like the annual holiday lights experience, “Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum,” a holiday wine tasting, and a classical concert series. There’s also Breakfast with Santa, Supper with St. Nick and a gingerbread tea party.
Throughout the year, visitors can take any number of classes and workshops. There’s something for all ages, as young as 18 months through adults and seniors. Popular among first-time visitors are the guided hikes and tours, including a tram tour of the grounds.
As an outdoor museum, the “Arb” as it’s affectionately called, has a gift shop and eatery. The Arboretum Store carries an array of home décor pieces, books and other merchandise. The Ginkgo Restaurant & Café has a breakfast and lunch menu. “You can even purchase an Arboretum beer to enjoy during your visit,” adds Cosner.
Lisle’s moniker as The Arboretum Village extends into village life. “The Arboretum is committed to reaching out to Lisle and the entire Chicago region to share resources and tools that enable communities to improve the health of their trees. It’s all part of our mission to create a greener, healthier, more beautiful world,” says Cosner, citing resources like the Northern Illinois Tree Selector, which shares tips and programs to care and advocate for trees in communities and schools.
Like the newly planted trees in its care, the Arboretum continues to grow. October marks the completion of a new curatorial and operation center, designed to expand the ability of horticulturists to maintain the grounds. “The Morton Arboretum’s attendance is ever-growing, having welcomed one million annual guests in 2015 and in 2016,” says Cosner.
The Green Scene: Dragonfly Landing and PrairieWalk Pond
The influence and legacy of The Morton Arboretum has spurred natural growth of the village of Lisle. For example, on the other side of the pathway from Main Street is Dragonfly Landing and PrairieWalk Pond, a 4.5-recreational area with a pond, preserve and native plants and grasses.
As well as being a place of respite, this natural area is a model of sustainability. Created with assistance from a grant by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the pond is a storm water retention basin that also serves as a wetland.
There is a recreational aspect to this space, too. A children’s splash pad and play area make it a family hot spot in the summer months. Runners and walkers take advantage of the walking trails.
Rec and Respite: Lisle Park District
Other open natural spaces abound in Lisle, situated as it is on the watershed of the east branch of the DuPage River. The Lisle Park District, for its part, maintains 500 acres within the community, more than 100 acres of which is in the aptly named Community Park, both a hub of activity and a gathering spot.
Community Park offers pond fishing, sledding hills and trails, as well as an indoor fitness center and the Sea Lion Aquatic Park. Like the Arboretum, the park is especially lovely this time of year.
“It’s pretty well known in town as a great place to just walk or visit, and it’s really pretty in the fall,” says Tiffany Kosartes, marketing and communications specialist for the Lisle Park District.
The Lisle Park District also oversees the River Bend Golf Club on Route 53, one of the top-rated nine-hole courses in the area. The golf course is scenic, too, with greens complemented by wetlands and water features.
History Meets Education: Museums at Lisle Station Park
The Lisle Park District operates another village attraction -— the Museums at Lisle Station Park. While there is green space here, this park is known for its historic structures where guests can learn about early agricultural life in the area. People can even take classes on blacksmithing at the on-site blacksmith shop.
Other buildings here include the Netzley-Yender Farmhouse built in 1855, the Beaubien Tavern/Inn that was located on Old Plank Road (now Ogden Avenue), a train caboose car and a station depot first constructed in 1874 and moved in the 1970s.
Various special events take place at the Museums at Lisle Station Park throughout the year, including Depot Days held in September, where visitors can check out a blacksmithing demo and take classes, in addition to enjoying food and drink. During the holidays, the Park District presents Once Upon a Christmas here.
What’s Up? Eyes to the Skies and Other Events
While The Morton Arboretum draws a million visitors a year, Lisle also attracts crowds for its special events. The biggest of these is the annual Eyes to the Skies Festival around the 4th of July, featuring hot air balloons floating over the festival grounds. In addition to balloon launches, the multi-day event includes a large craft show, carnival and fireworks show. Last year, more than 70,000 people attended the festival, which is run with help from a large corps of local volunteers.
In the fall, there are a variety of special events hosted by various community groups. The Chamber of Commerce, for example, offers the Lisle Ale Fest at the end of September, trick or treating in October and an “Uncorked” wine-tasting event at the Hilton of Lisle/Naperville on Oct. 27. The Lisle Park District has planned a Creature Double Feature Movie night, an author series at the Museums at Station Park, and a Monster Madness event at the Recreation Center. The district’s River Bend Golf Club has its own seasonal events, including a turkey shoot in November.
The holidays are bustling in this ‘burb. A shining example is the Lights of Lisle event in December, where people can enjoy the sight of lit-up Christmas trees and luminaries and the sounds of carolers as they amble through village streets. According to Schuster, that event, too, has had some It’s a Wonderful Life moments. “A man proposed to his girlfriend during the beautiful Lights of Lisle Festival in front of the Main Street fountain, surrounded by thousands of twinkling lights and sidewalks lined with glowing luminarias. It was like something out of a movie — it was so pretty.”
The Park District, for its part, hosts a Candy Cane Hunt and Cookies with Mrs. Claus, among other programs.
Like many suburbs, Lisle offers a plethora of things to do in summer, such as a concert series by the community band in Community Park, a French Market — open through the end of October — and weekly cruise nights and block parties in the downtown district.
People come to Lisle for privately organized events as well. One example is Veggie Fest Chicago, said to be the area’s largest vegetarian food and lifestyle festival. It’s held on the grounds of Benedictine University, and is sponsored by the Science of Spirituality Meditation Center based in Lisle.
Education and Entertainment: Benedictine University
Founded in 1887 as St. Procopius College by the Benedictine monks of St. Procopius in Chicago, Benedictine University offers a wide range of degree programs for its more than 3,300 undergraduate and nearly 3,000 graduate students spread across multiple campuses.
The university hosts numerous events that are open to the public and its facilities include several noteworthy attractions. Visitors can browse the Fr. Michael E. Komechak OSB Art Gallery. Fr. Komechak collected more than 4,000 pieces over 40 years, and donated them to the university upon his passing, to engage the school and the community in the arts.
The Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum is another unique spot that is free and open to the public. The museum’s collection encompasses more than 10,000 items, highlighted by a coal exhibit and several animal exhibits, including a whale skeleton.
“The museum has an intimate atmosphere and unique flair with its ‘cabinet of curiosities-style’ exhibits,” says spokesperson Elizabeth Brown. “We offer guided group tours, hands-on workshops and a variety of other free programs. From a tiny gnat to a baleen whale, there is something for everyone to learn more about the diversity of life and the beauty of nature.”
In 2004, the university built a sports complex in partnership with the Village of Lisle, where the school’s football, men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, softball, and track and field teams compete. At one point, the complex was the home field of the Chicago Red Stars women’s soccer club. Today, it’s also used by local high schools for football and soccer games.
The Sporting Life: Attractions for Athletes
As snow season approaches, Lisle will become a destination for skiing and snowboarding at Four Lakes Ski Area. Lessons are available and guests can rent skis, snowboards, boots and poles. Also in Lisle is The Bulls/Sox Youth Academy offering year-round training and coaching for youngsters in basketball, baseball and fast-pitch softball. Walker Athletics is another sports complex with courts and facilities — along with training and camps — for basketball, baseball, volleyball and badminton, among other athletic endeavors.
Other Notes from the Lisle File
• Lisle Cemetery is one of the state’s oldest registered cemeteries.
• Lisle is corporate home to SunCoke Energy, Molex and Navistar. It’s also the headquarters of the Region III Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
• The Lisle Library District, in addition to offering a wide array of materials and resources, hosts local art exhibits at its Gallery 777.
• Lisle is served by Lisle Community Unit School District 202, and part of the area falls within the Naperville District 203. In addition to Lisle High School and Naperville North High School, in Lisle there are elementary schools, two middle schools and the parochial St. Joan of Arc elementary school (pre-K to 8th grade).
• Benet Academy, founded by monks of the Benedictine order, is a private high school serving students throughout the western suburbs. For higher education, in addition to Benedictine University, there is a Lisle campus of National-Louis University.
• Villa St. Benedict, a senior living community with ties to the Benedictine order, is on lush grounds that include gardens, walking trails and a stone grotto.
• Three major hotels are located in Lisle, including facilities run by Hilton, Hyatt and Sheraton.Edit Module