Walking into a local breakfast spot in Hinsdale, watching diners tap a bottle of ketchup onto a plate of hash browns, munch on a just-made apple cider doughnut, or sip coffee from retro mugs, you might spot a local celebrity dining as unobtrusively as other folks. It could be the coach of professional Chicago sports team, a CEO of a major consumer products company, or a news anchor at a Chicago TV station.
The likelihood of this happening in Hinsdale is relatively high, or at least higher than in most other area towns. It’s also an example of how this western suburb with a population close to 17,000 has a reputation for being both well-heeled and quietly quaint.
The owner of the aforementioned restaurant — a local institution called Page’s — agrees that while Hinsdale is known for being among the top one percent of the wealthiest towns in Illinois, there are plenty of things that make it charming and welcoming to residents and visitors alike.
"You’ll see politicians, lawyers and athletes here — you name it," says Cissy Rallo, who bought Page’s with her mom three years ago from the original owners who opened the place in 1981. "There
are some old-school places in Hinsdale, like us and some others, that people love and gravitate to."
Rallo emphasizes the importance of tradition to many Hinsdale residents, or "Hinsdaleans," as residents are often referred to.
That point is perhaps best underscored by the many people who have "Fuller" somewhere in their name. Several dozen descendants of Benjamin Fuller — who settled in this area in 1835 and founded the hamlet of Fullersburg that was later incorporated into Hinsdale — still call Hinsdale home. The Fuller name can be seen in many places around town, from Fuller’s Car Wash and Fuller’s Service Center to the hardware store that bears its name, to the new Fuller House restaurant slated to open this month (see page 63 for related article).
"We’ve been here from the beginning," says Doug Fuller, a lifelong resident who now helps run the family business, Fuller’s Car Wash, a fixture in Hinsdale since 1946. While things come and go and change, as they do over time, Fuller says that the inherent character of Hinsdale remains. "It’s a homegrown town — like Mayberry," he declares.
That hometown feel is what drew Scott Banke to Hinsdale in 1990 — that and the fact that his wife is a Hinsdale native. "We’ve raised two kids here and my wife literally grew up across the street from where we live today. Even though this may sound corny, before I was a Hinsdale resident, I always pictured it as an idyllic place to raise a family. Now having raised our kids here, it lived up to every expectation I had. It’s like something you’d see in the Saturday Evening Post," he maintains.
Village leaders recognize the impact of legacy and history, even during times of expansion. "Hinsdale is a village in the truest sense. There’s a strong, rich-in-tradition identity that’s palpable," maintains Timothy Scott, director of economic development and urban design for the village.
"There’s nothing more telling about the sense of pride and connection people have to their hometown than the fact that so many families have resided here for multiple generations," continues Scott. "It’s an environment laden with beauty, charm and history, and everything revolves around family."
Hip and Historic: Downtown Hinsdale
You don’t have to go far in downtown Hinsdale to see the balance of legacy, family and improvement. In addition to businesses with the Fuller name, you’ll find longtime — and often family-owned and operated — merchants like the Hinsdale News Agency, Yankee Peddler, King-Keyser Sporting Goods, Sass ‘N Class, Hartley’s Cycle Shoppe and Hinsdale Furriers alongside newer stores like Green Goddess Boutique, My Sister Kate and J. McLaughlin, among others.
The same is true with restaurants in downtown Hinsdale, where you can find stalwarts like Page’s in addition to recently-opened hotspots such as Vistro, opened by chef Paul Virant, a Hinsdale-area
resident and James Beard Foundation nominee. You can hang outside at the classic Dips & Dogs, choose between Asian dishes at Jade Dragon or Wild Ginger, or check out the sumptuous pastries at Toni Patisserie & Café.
In keeping with the fact that Hinsdale’s central business district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many vintage spaces there have been restored or renewed rather than razed. The old Hinsdale Theater, for example, is now home of CiNe, an upscale taqueria. Part of the old Fuller’s hardware store is being turned into Fuller House. And a few years ago, a longtime office and arts supply store was converted into the now-hopping Il Poggilio Ristorante.
That said, newer developments are also going up in Hinsdale, including a two-story mixed-use property called Garfield Crossing, which was specifically designed to fit into the current streetscape. "Over time it will seem as if these five new buildings were always intended to be there, and their quality will likely have future generations wanting to preserve them," predicts Scott.
Such developments speak to the fact that decisions about improvements in downtown Hinsdale are often made with the past in mind. "Downtown is evolving. Where dining was once quite limited and the day ended by 6 p.m., a myriad of fine restaurants and casual eateries exist today, and their presence has bolstered the unique collection of predominantly independent, owner-operated boutiques and premium personal service providers," notes Scott, adding, "While all of these investments have produced a downtown that’s open for business and welcoming into the evening, importantly, the village’s traditional character has remained intact."
In addition to vintage buildings, a slightly hilly landscape and the occasional cobblestone street, downtown Hinsdale owes its charm to other structures and scenery. "You can get off the train in downtown Hinsdale and right away, you see Burlington Park, Village Hall, the library and the beautiful trees in town," points out Fuller.
Beyond downtown, the village includes other shopping, dining and entertainment districts including Grant Square shopping center, home to longtime businesses like Kramer’s grocery store and Burhop’s Seafood, among others. On the north side of town, Gateway Square includes places like Calico Corners, Campus Colors, Egg Harbor Café and Fox’s Pizza, to name a few.
Everybody Loves a Parade: 4th of July and other Events
Nowhere is Hinsdale’s image as an all-American town on better display than at its annual 4th of July parade, which starts in a residential neighborhood and moves through downtown. "The morning of the Fourth, there is so much patriotic pride," says Gina Hassett, director of parks and recreation for the village of Hinsdale.
The parade features marching bands and a variety of community and patriotic groups. Following the parade is a festival at Burlington Park, which includes music, children’s activities and an arts and crafts fair. "The park really comes alive," says Hassett, "and it feels like you have stepped into a Norman Rockwell photo."
The village hosts a number of other special events, especially during the summer months. For more than 40 years, the Hinsdale Fine Arts Festival has featured the works of fine artisans from throughout the region. This year’s art fair will be held June 13 and 14.
The popular farmer’s market, held on Monday mornings in Burlington Park, has been a summer tradition since 1977. The market features a bounty of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, eggs, cheeses, jams, cut flowers, honey and meats.
Uniquely Thursdays is a weekly summer outdoor concert series hosted in Burlington Park that attracts people from within and well beyond Hinsdale. The series kicks off June 11 and runs through August 13.
This year brings yet another type of outdoor entertainment to Hinsdale — "Lunch on the Lawn," a series of family-oriented performances to be held one Wednesday afternoon each month from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Burlington Park, across from the railroad station. The series will kick off on June 17 with a show featuring the Traveling World of Reptiles.
Fuller, for his part, says that one of his favorite events takes place later in the year. "The Christmas Walk is unique and is a neat tradition," he says.
Out & About: Katherine Legge and Other Outdoor Spaces
This time of year, much of the fun shifts to the great outdoors in Hinsdale, as it does all over the Chicagoland area.
One of the biggest outdoor attractions in Hinsdale is Katherine Legge Memorial (KLM) Park. The sprawling 52-acre park was originally part of the estate of the president of International Harvester, Alexander Legge, who named it for his wife. After she died in 1924, he opened the grounds to the women at his company as a place for them to relax and de-stress. The space was ultimately donated to the village of Hinsdale in the 1970s.
Today, KLM Park includes gently rolling hills, walking paths, a picnic area, playground, six platform tennis courts, a football/soccer field, dog park and a stately-yet-cozy lodge designed by famed local architect Harold Zook. Another home from Zook was moved to the park a few years ago as part of an effort to preserve that historically-significant structure.
Other popular parks include Burns Field, the longtime training ground for generations of top tennis players, and home to an ice rink in the winter; Robbins Park, with its wide open soccer and playing fields; and Veeck Park, named for the late Chicago White Sox owner and native Hinsdalean Bill Veeck, which boasts both baseball (of course) and soccer fields, as well as a dedicated skate park.
Outdoor recreation takes other forms in Hinsdale as well. "The Hinsdale Community Pool is always a happening place," says Hassett, who notes that families can stop in for a day visit or purchase
a season pass to the pool.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors: The Community House
In addition to things to do in Hinsdale, there is an undercurrent here of wanting to do things for others. Many residents and business owners sponsor and support a number of charities, including local, regional and national organizations.
For instance, the fact that The Community House of Hinsdale is located in a residential neighborhood is fitting, and a reflection of the importance of family, friends and community support in this western suburb. The nonprofit organization provides recreation and social services to residents of Hinsdale and neighboring communities, including athletic, arts and cultural programming, and counseling and educational services.
Pieces of the Past: Preserving History
In addition to helping protect and restore many landmark buildings and sites over the years, the Hinsdale Historical Society continues to play a key role in celebrating the past and preserving the legacy of the community. The Society operates the Hinsdale History Museum, which is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays.
Just driving around town you’ll see plenty of history on display in the form of beautiful old homes that evoke a bygone era. Indeed, two Hinsdale neighborhoods are part of the National Register of Historic Districts, and the village is home to more than a dozen official historic landmarks.