Bartlett Town Focus
Though spread out over 16 square miles and parts of three counties, this growing village maintains its small town sense of community spirit and involvement
It’s more intriguing than ironic, but walking down memory lane inside a gleaming, contemporary building is an experience that reflects the character and spirit of Bartlett.That memory lane is a walkway in the Bartlett History Museum, part of this suburb’s expansive Village Center. The center is set to grow by the end of the year, with the opening of a new police station on the campus. There’s more on the Bartlett History Museum later. For now, there are other examples of ways in which this western suburb, which encompasses parts of Kane, DuPage and Cook counties and spans almost 16 square miles — making it the fourth largest in DuPage County behind only Naperville, Aurora and Bolingbrook — is simultaneously quaint and contemporary. From historic storefronts that carry a mix of retro and new merchandise, to residential neighborhoods that include both historic and just-built homes, to houses of worship built for a host of global religions, Bartlett continues to invest in its future while also keeping its past clearly in focus.
From Vintage Depot to Modern Metra
As with many area suburbs, Bartlett’s name is a nod to the history books, in this case, to early resident Luther Bartlett, who with his wife, Sophia, gave land and money for the first train depot in town. From that point going forward, the railroad has remained a key point of interest in Bartlett, with visitors checking out the original circa-1873 depot-turned-museum while, not far away, residents gather at the village’s new Metra station to commute to Chicago and other stops on the rail line.
In general, driving through Bartlett and walking its streets, one gets a sense of tidiness in this community, evident in clean, attractive streetscapes, manicured parks, homes and yards that look carefully tended to, and businesses that take pride in their respective facades.
That assessment is apt, according to Tony Fradin, economic development coordinator for the Village of Bartlett. “It’s one of the hallmarks of the community, how well maintained it is, and how it has one of the top infrastructures you’ll see around,” he says, adding, “The village planned diligently for its capital improvement program. Even through the recession, it was always taking the capital budget very seriously on infrastructure.”
Those who call Bartlett home rightly claim that this town is one that continues to evolve.
“In my opinion, Bartlett is a place for residents, business owners and village officials who work hard to facilitate a growing and evolving community,” says Dale Ann Kasuba, a longtime resident, local realtor and committee secretary for the Bartlett Heritage Days event. In the 20-plus years she has lived in the village, Kasuba says Bartlett has built a high school, a community center, a town center and a Metra train station. It has also made significant improvements to its police station, village hall and park district.
The hard work that went into making Bartlett aesthetically pleasing, well run and diverse can be attributed in large part to those who have made it their home. “It’s a community of 42,000-plus people, but it certainly maintains its small town charm,” says Fradin. “People know each other and there is a strong sense of community.” Adds Kasuba: “Even as the village has grown and evolved, it’s the caring residents who keep the town’s spirit alive by staying informed and getting involved to recommend and implement change.
Old Meets New in Downtown Bartlett
Downtown Bartlett, as in days past, continues to be a community hub, with opportunities for dining, shopping and entertainment throughout the year.
Mary Smith, vice president of the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce, notes that there are lot of things to do and see in downtown Bartlett, such as the Shoppes of Banbury Fair, housed in a vintage frame-sided home that brings to mind the general store of yesteryear, complete with flags hanging from the façade and wildflowers lining the front. “The location is home to several small shops within, including Bartlett’s Candy House, U Can Do Island, and New to U,” says Smith.
The Banbury Fair shopping experience offers women’s fashions and accessories, baby gifts and children’s clothing, along with furniture and accents. New to U is a consignment and boutique shop that also sells refurbished home décor. Bartlett’s Candy House, a family-owned shop that sells beloved throwback candies as well as new sweets and candy novelties, plus 30 flavors of soft serve ice cream.
For special occasions or just for a fun outing, U Can Do Island offers birthday parties, providing party entertainment rentals. The shop also hosts hands-on arts and crafts and dress-up/hair braiding.
Another 19th century home in downtown Bartlett, along Oak Street, is also home to multiple shops. Here, visitors can browse Little Shop on Oak for women’s clothing, the Bartlett Coin Shop or the Book Lady’s Book Attic. Also attracting people on-the-go are places like Spin Doctor Cyclewerks, which sells bicycles and accessories, provides repair services, and also hosts a cycle club.
While out and about, one can grab a bite to eat in historic downtown Bartlett at places like TL’s Four Seasons, which features Chinese and Japanese dishes; JC’s Mexican Restaurant, housed in a home built in 1877; D^Licious Crêpes and Rôti, an Indo-French café; O’Hare’s Pub and Restaurant, Pasta Mia, and V&V Paesano Pizza. And for those who appreciate the railroad history of Bartlett or who have kids who would enjoy having their meal delivered on a toy train, 2Toots Train Whistle Grill is another fun dining option.
Bartlett Depot Museum and Other Cultural Destinations
The Bartlett Depot Museum is housed inside the historic depot that has become an icon in downtown Bartlett as well as a draw for Chicago-area train enthusiasts. “This is where the entire village got its start in 1873,” says Gabrielle Infusino, community relations coordinator for the Village of Bartlett.
According to Infusino, the depot — which was open to commuters as the main Bartlett station until 2007 — encapsulates the community’s rail heritage. “The old train depot was renovated in 2010 and is used today as one of Bartlett’s two history museum sites,” she says.
Admission to the museum is free, as is parking. In addition to showcasing artifacts, the site offers hands-on activities and special events, such as free family crafts on the first Saturday of the month.
The other museum site in Bartlett is the aforementioned Bartlett History Museum, located on the first floor of the village hall. The expansive museum includes a variety of well-kept exhibits, spotlighting the history of the community and its people, including its rich history in dairy production and railroading. It’s a living museum, too, thanks to various educational programs that teach residents and visitors about local history and people.
Culturally speaking, Bartlett is like other established western suburbs that offer historical experiences as well as fine arts programs and events. For example, Arts in Bartlett is an arts council that brings the arts to life in many ways. In addition to a public gallery spotlighting the work of local artists, the council has dedicated studio space for a local arts academy and sponsors classes for visual arts, music and drama. The group also puts on the suburb’s juried fine arts fair during the last weekend in June.
Also offering arts-focused programs and events is the Bartlett Park District, which sponsors the Bartlett Park District Youth Theatre Troupe and a Family Theatre group that extends from ages eight through adults.
James “Pate” Philip State Park
Those who seek outdoor fun can find it in Bartlett at the James “Pate” Philip State Park, named for the longtime member of the Illinois General Assembly and former state senate president. The park is on a large parcel that encompasses a preserved tallgrass prairie. A stream winds though the park, along with trails, open land and space for activities like biking, hiking and fishing.
The 501-acre state park, adjacent to Pratt’s Wayne Woods Forest Preserve, has a nature center run by the Bartlett Park District with educational exhibits and interactive displays that emphasize the importance of natural resources.
Fradin says the park (formerly called the Tri-County State Park) is one of his favorite spots in Bartlett and in some ways is a hidden gem for people not familiar with the area. “It’s something people don’t really realize is in town,” he says. “It’s phenomenal and the park and nature center also have all kinds of programs for families and kids to attend.”
In addition to the state park, people can take advantage of the many other parks and green spaces in Bartlett, ranging from Ancient Oaks Park to a dog park at Riley’s Run Park, among several others.
The Bartlett Park District runs one of the most popular destinations in Bartlett — Villa Olivia. In the warmer months, people come and play on the 18-hole golf course and in the snowy season, they flock to the popular ski hill and snowboard and tubing areas. Classes are available for skiing, tubing and snowboarding in season.
“So many times, when I talk to people in the Chicago area, they tell me about how they learned to ski at Villa Olivia. It’s probably the closest ski area to Chicago,” says Fradin.
Villa Olivia is also open for Sunday brunch every week from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is a popular spot for weddings and receptions as well.
Bartlett Heritage Days and Other Community Festivities
One way that residents, businesses and leaders get involved and help make this western suburb unique is by pitching in with special events like Bartlett Heritage Days, this year running Sept. 8 and 9. Sponsored by the village, park
district and Hanover Township, the event features a variety of activities that are entertaining for residents and visitors. It brings people in the community together.
Like Bartlett itself, this event has a little something for everyone, says Kasuba. “Bartlett Heritage Days has evolved over the nine years since its inception. New events like Pet Adoption in the Park and a sound stage with beer garden in Town Center are the current ways residents like to spend time bonding in the community.”
Entertainment is a staple of Bartlett Heritage Days, as local groups perform on the Town Center stage on both days. Browsers can check out the Bartlett Bazaar and flea market, while children can have fun in a special kids’ area or take part in family art programs. Visitors can fuel up at various food vendor stands or enjoy libations in the beer garden.
Living up to the event’s title, people can also take part in activities that highlight the town’s heritage. The Bartlett Historical Society, for example, will host trolley rides departing from the Bartlett Depot Museum. A popular classic car show returns this year as well.
In addition to Heritage Days, downtown Bartlett is the site of other events during the year, such as the Labor Day Dash put on by the Bartlett Lions Club, the Festival of the Arts in June, and an annual Fourth of July parade.
Temple Offers a Glimpse into the Hindu Religion
“Not only is the BAPS community a wonderful part of the village, but the mandir is a breathtaking addition to Bartlett architecturally,” says Gabrielle Infusino, community relations coordinator for the Village of Bartlett.
The 27-acre site includes a cultural complex that welcomes visitors daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. That center, called the Haveli, is known for its intricately designed wooden décor created by Indian artisans. While there, visitors can also browse a souvenir shop and view an ongoing exhibit titled “Understanding Hinduism.”
Other Bartlett Highlights
• Beyond the downtown district, Bartlett is home to several businesses, including stores, eateries and services, along Route 59. Here, you’ll find hometown favorites like Bannerman’s Sports Grill, Bao Chinese Gourmet Restaurant and Dogfather Hot Dogs, among others.
• Bartlett is a hub of business and industry. Easily accessible to a wide part of the Chicago area, this western suburb includes three business parks: Brewster Creek Business Park, Bluff City Industrial Park and Blue Heron Business Park.
• Bartlett Hills Golf Club and the park district run 9-hole Apple Orchard Golf Course are both located in town. The park district also operates the outdoor Bartlett Aquatic Center and the indoor, year-round Splash Central, both of which offer classes and a variety of programs.
• The Bartlett Veterans Memorial Foundation is a group of volunteers seeking to build and maintain a memorial honoring American veterans.Edit Module