It’s been described in a glossy village booklet as a "unique combination of New England charm and wholesome Midwestern sensibility." After spending time in Hinsdale, one can see how such a metaphorical mash-up applies to this western suburb of about 17,500 residents, 20 miles due west of Chicago. Hinsdale’s quaint downtown is lined with red brick storefronts and 19th century structures that really do look like something out of small-town Massachusetts, complete with a quaint shop named Yankee Peddler. At the same time, Hinsdale includes heartland kind of places like a neighborhood hardware store, a breakfast diner and a dog park where regulars are greeted by name and visitors are received with hearty, sincere offers of advice or assistance.
As for the wholesome part, you can see that on a warm summer afternoon, with kids romping around picnic tables outside a mom-and-pop stand that sells hot dogs and ice cream cones, or perhaps at a Little League ball game at one of many parks. It’s also on display at the village’s annual Fourth of July parade, which is about as Americana as can be.
"Many people refer to Hinsdale as being very much like a Norman Rockwell painting," says Heather Bereckis, superintendent of the parks and recreation department of the Village of Hinsdale.
While there are venerable businesses in downtown Hinsdale, "for rent" or "for sale" signs on storefronts don’t last long. "Marcus Lemonis, an entrepreneur and star of CNBC’s hit reality series, "The Profit,"will be opening a new retail store in downtown Hinsdale this summer," reports Anna Martch, economic development and communications specialist for the Village of Hinsdale.
Still, there is something distinct about a town that has the motto Distinctly Hinsdale. Given its aesthetic appeal and the fact that its residents have some of the state’s highest median incomes and home values, it’s no surprise that this is a popular community in which to live and visit.
A number of high-profile Chicago movers and shakers live largely under the radar here, from Chicago professional athletes and coaches, to television and radio news and entertainment professionals, to presidents and CEOs of major companies and organizations. You might spot a local celebrity eating a down-home breakfast at an in-town restaurant or lending their fame to local fundraisers at places like The Community House, Wellness House, Hinsdale Racquet Club or maybe one of the local schools.
Located on the eastern edge of DuPage County, Hinsdale offers a lot of things to do and see for visitors as well as residents. You’re not getting away to New England, exactly, but you are in for some charm and fun.
Where Charm and History Intersect: Downtown Hinsdale
If downtown Hinsdale looks like a throwback, or at least like a small town rich in history, it really is. Much of the downtown — mostly the portion on the south side of the railroad tracks along Metra’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe line — is listed as a National Register Historic District.
Little things, like old-fashioned streetlights and awnings, underscore the historic feel of this part of the village. So, too, does a charming courtyard area between two blocks, where you can find a family-owned pizza spot (Giuliano’s Pizza), a consignment store, (The Courtyard, benefiting Wellness House of Hinsdale), and some amazing coffee drinks from baristas who know their way around an espresso machine (Café La Fortuna).
There are stores and restaurants with a bit of history to them as well. Fuller’s Home & Hardware, with a name that traces back to early settler Benjamin Fuller, has served the community for several years and is housed in a building that was home to another longtime hardware store, Soukup’s Hardware. Page’s Restaurant has been serving up tasty breakfast and lunch since 1981, and is known for its reliable traditional menu items as well as its crave-worthy house-made doughnuts. The red, white and blue pole in front of Nick’s Silver Shears Barber Shop is a village staple and, sure enough, the owner and barbers can listen as well as they can spin tales about goings-on in this western suburb.
Another hub — and spoke, for that matter — of the community is Hartley’s Cycle Shoppe, which opened in 1958 and serves customers ranging from competitive bikers to kids getting their first two-wheelers to those who are looking for a tune-up. While there may be a lot of digital communication these days, you can’t beat paper for some things, which is why Sass-N-Class is still going strong after 30 years of purveying invitations and stationery. Another local retail institution is King Keyser Sporting Goods, which has long specialized in gear for skiing, though shoppers can find goods here for a variety of sports or even leisurely pursuits.
With Hinsdale’s reputation as an upscale community, one expects and finds boutique shopping and places for pampering. Boutiques include Alixandra Blue, J. McLaughlin, Hinsdale Furriers, Sweet William, My Sister Kate, and Stockholm Objects, to name a few.
Those looking for distinctive gifts can find them at spots like the aforementioned Yankee Pedder, as well as ArtQuest Gallery, Phillips Flowers & Gifts, Jane’s Blue Iris, Hinsdale Flower Shop, and, for those who like a little or a lot of bling, Razny Jewelers. Consignment shops, including Kelsey Resale Boutique, carry good deals on higher end items.
You don’t have to walk far to find places that offer personal improvement of one kind or another. Check out Reflexion Spa, Ten Friends Blow Dry & Style House, the Salon by David and William, and Zazu Salon & Day Spa. For makeup and skincare products, try Blue Mercury or Merle Norman Cosmetics & Day Spa.
If it isn’t always easy to find parking in downtown Hinsdale, it’s a cinch to find some good food. "Hinsdale’s restaurant scene has grown in popularity for lunch and dinner, with a variety of choices," says Eva Field, interim executive director of the Hinsdale Chamber of Commerce.
For traditional American fare, try Fuller House (see page 72), a family-friendly eatery and pub located in an old hardware store, or Harry and Eddie’s, newly opened in a former historic movie theater.
Il Poggiolo Ristorante, located in a former stationery and school/office supply store serves up authentic, white-tablecloth Italian fare, while sushi lovers nosh on their favorite dishes at Nabuki, and fans of Chinese food flock to Jade Dragon and Wild Ginger. Chef Paul Virant, who owns Vie in Western Springs, runs Vistro in downtown Hinsdale, which also uses Midwestern and locally sourced ingredients in a family-friendly setting.
Those who want quicker fare or food to go can find it at pizza spot Altamura, hot dog and burger joint Franks on 1st, or bakery/café Einstein Bros. Bagels. Save room for the tasty (and beautiful) sweets at Toni Patisserie and Café.
Be Square: Gateway Square and Grant Square
Hinsdale isn’t the biggest suburb — at about 4.6 square miles — so there aren’t malls or shopping strips like there are in other towns. That said, downtown Hinsdale isn’t where all the action is — you can also shop and dine at places in Gateway Square, near the north edge of town, and Grant Square.
"Grant Square and Gateway Square shopping districts are or are almost at full capacity," says Field, "and both have a great selection of retail and service businesses that also offer a wide variety."
The anchor of Grant Square is Kramer Foods, a Hinsdale supermarket since 1953. It’s one of those neighborhood grocery stores where you can find pantry staples as well as unique items from entrepreneurial food brands (including Door County apple and cherry desserts) and a deli stocked with homemade foods, from made-to-order sandwiches to hearty potato casseroles and baked barbecue ribs.
Grant Square includes independent stores like Char Crews, Inc. for china, crystal, silver and gifts, Caffray Jewellers for jewelry and gifts, and J.C. Licht for paint, window treatments, wallpaper and home décor, as well as a convenient in-town Walgreens. YiaYia’s Pancake House & Restaurant serves up comfort food for breakfast, while Burhop’s Seafood, a longtime fixture, is known for its fresh seafood and prepared seafood items, like lobster rolls, seafood salads and soups.
Gateway Square also has a mix of retail and food service, both new and longtime spots. Egg Harbor Café has been in this spot for nearly three decades, as has Calico Corners for fabric and home décor and Prime ‘N Tender Meats. Other dining choices include Hua Ting Restaurant for Asian food and Fox’s Pub for pizza.
Out and About: 4th of July Parade and Other Events
Fitting for a town that’s been likened to a colonial-era village, Hinsdale is known for its 4th of July festivities, including an iconic parade that draws spectators from Hinsdale and nearby suburbs. "Our July 4 Parade and Festival is definitely the most popular and traditional event," says Bereckis, adding that it’s a homecoming for many people as well. "Generations of families have been raised here and they enjoy participating in these long standing, traditional events together."
A highlight of the 4th of July parade is the arrival of the village fire truck carrying the parade grand marshal. Past marshals have included Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who hoisted the Stanley Cup from the truck in front of a roaring crowd.
Summer is high season for outdoor events, and Hinsdale has a lot of them. "We also have a long-running tradition of holding Lunch on the Lawn once a month. We do this in conjunction with the library and offer entertainment in Burlington Park during the lunch hour," says Bereckis.
Uniquely Thursday events featuring live music, food vendors and sponsor giveaways are held in Burlington Park from June through August, as is the annual Fine Arts Festival over the weekend of June 9 – 10.
Hinsdale events are sponsored and hosted by various organizations, including the village, the Chamber of Commerce and AMITA Health, which presents Unique Thursdays. "The Chamber hosts eight different events throughout the year that are coordinated to bring visitors to town," says Field, citing happenings like the weekly Farmers Market on Mondays and sidewalk sales in July.
Other anticipated events focus on food, including a beer and wine food pairing event on June 22 put on by the village with Blue Nose Brewery and Uncle Bub’s Catering. A Taco Tuesday event will be held on June 12 from 5 – 7 p.m., with free tacos provided by Azteca Catering Co., a guacamole demonstration and margaritas for the over-21 crowd.
The Green Scene: Katherine Legge Memorial Park
As a near western suburb, Hinsdale doesn’t have swaths of open farmland or interconnecting networks of trails as some farther-out communities do, but at least 132 acres here are devoted to park space and the lawns and parkways are decidedly well manicured.
Katherine Legge Memorial Park (KLM Park for short) is a crown jewel of green space. It is popular for weddings and special events, both on the grounds and in the grand circa-1927 Lodge.
In fact, there’s a lot more than meets the eye at this space, says Bereckis. "There is a beautiful art sculpture bench near the north pavilion, the historic Legge family gravesites sit behind the KLM Lodge, there’s an 18-hole disc golf course, and a nature-based playground sits on the south side near the traditional playground."
The park also has lacrosse fields, a sledding hill and platform tennis courts that stay open much of the year, even in freezing temperatures. Visitors bring their pets to the on-site dog park for canine socializing and exercise.
Meanwhile, it might look like a charming cottage to passersby not familiar with the work of the designer, but the R. Harold Zook home and studio, relocated to the grounds of KLM Park from its original site on Oak Street, honors the famous architect who worked and lived in Hinsdale.
Katherine Legge Memorial Park is the biggest, but not the only, park in town. Hinsdale has 19 parks under its purview that include open space as well as areas for sports like baseball, soccer and tennis. "Pickleball is actually the fastest growing sport in America, and we will soon have dedicated courts at Brook Park," says Bereckis.
For those who want to connect with nature, she suggests Ehret Park, which has a butterfly garden with a gazebo and trail connecting to Stough Park. Brush Hill is another green space, spanning four acres.
Heart, Hub and Helping Hand: The Community House
There is a house, set in a Hinsdale neighborhood, that is not like others in the area. Not because it isn’t grand or stunning, but because of its mission.
For more than 70 years, The Community House in Hinsdale has provided social and recreation programs for people in Hinsdale and other nearby towns. It’s a gathering spot for private events as well as a host of fundraisers for organizations near and dear to local residents and community leaders.
The Community House, as its name suggests, is at the heart of this town in other ways. Local theater companies like the in-house Community House Players and Stage Door Fine Arts put on plays and musicals in the facility’s theater. The center offers all kinds of programs for adults and children.
It is also home base for social services including The Counseling Center and Charlie’s Gift Center for Autism and Related Disorders, which offers support services and therapy for young people with autism and related disorders. As part of its effort to raise awareness, the organization runs events like an annual Walk the Walk for Autism in the spring.
Past, Present: Hinsdale Historical Society
Sure, you can walk around downtown Hinsdale, an area on the National Register of Historic Places, but you can get a few more intriguing history lessons with a walking tour of its historic homes.
There’s an app for that, too. The Hinsdale Historical Society, with the Village of Hinsdale’s Historic Preservation Commission, recently launched an app (see page 12) that serves as a virtual guide to local architecture. To roll out the app with a splash, or at least with a scoop, the Historical Society is throwing a launch party/ice cream social on June 3 at Dips and Dogs in downtown Hinsdale — which at first looks like a cute hot dog stand but is actually historically significant, in that it is located in a Zook-designed structure.
If you’d like a real brick and mortar tour, you can visit the Hinsdale History Museum, open to the public on weekends and by appointment. In addition, you can learn more about local architecture, from masters like Zook and others, at the Anderson Architecture Center in Immanuel Hall, which is also home to the Historical Society’s architectural archives.
Get Well: Health Systems in Hinsdale
Hinsdale has one of the area’s oldest hospitals, founded as Hinsdale Sanitarium more than a century ago by a married couple who were Seventh Day Adventists and physicians and who wanted to open a facility in the then-outskirts of Chicago. Today, that site is known as AMITA Health Hinsdale, offering a spectrum of health care services and programs.
AMITA also runs a Cancer Institute and Outpatient Center near Ogden Avenue. That part of town is home to the Edward-Elmhurst Health Center and Immediate Care, along with several private health care providers across many specialties.
While they provide health care, such organizations are also active locally, through sponsorships and a presence at various activities. "Healthcare facilities have been an asset for the community on many levels. They are engaged and involved with chamber opportunities by sponsoring events and getting to know the Hinsdale community," says Field.
Pet Cause: Hinsdale Humane Society
To be sure, there are a lot of good causes and not-for-profit organizations in Hinsdale. One of the most beloved is the Hinsdale Humane Society, a 65-year institution. "Our reach is far and wide and we pride ourselves on being a regional humane society, which maximizes the help we can provide by being an important part of many different communities," says executive director Tom Van Winkle.
This fall, the Hinsdale Humane Society — and its animal guests — will move into a new 16,000-sq-ft facility, nearly triple the size of its current location. "Besides the physical growth, this move allows us to grow our outreach and programming, thus saving even more pets’ lives," says Van Winkle. "We will have the space to provide medical treatment right on site. We will be expanding our humane education programs, we can offer many more obedience classes, our Pet Therapy program will grow and, of course, we will vastly increase our number of adoptions."
Other Distinctly Hinsdale Highlights
• The Hinsdale Community Pool is a public facility run by the Parks and Recreation Department, with a swimming pool, wading pool, diving pool with drop slides and diving boards, and a bathhouse.
• It may look landlocked, but there is actually a 34-acre lake in Hinsdale, complete with its own Yacht Club. The Golfview Hills community of some 300 homes is built around Johnson’s Slough, a fish-stocked lake that is dotted with sailboats, kayaks and pontoon boats.
• Hinsdale Central High School ranks as one of the top high schools in the state. The Red Devil sports teams are highly competitive, and the football team’s games under the lights are a fall tradition.
• A new Hinsdale Middle School is currently under construction, set to open in 2019. "The new middle school will also include a two tier parking deck to add additional parking to customers in downtown Hinsdale," says Martch.
• If you grew up in the western suburbs, chances are you went to the Robert Crowne Center for health education programs. While the field trip tradition is going away with the recent sale of the building, the Center continues its outreach program with experts visiting local schools to share information and education.
• The Hinsdale Public Library first opened in 1983. Set on a hill in the stately Hinsdale Memorial Building, the library offers a full slate of programs and events in addition to print and digital resources for all ages.