In 1994 a number of citizens and local historians teamed up to publish a remarkable 388 page hardbound book with hundreds of photographs named “Brookfield Illinois, A History.” Most of the information below was excerpted from this valuable resource. The book is available in the Public Library, and may be purchased from the Brookfield Historical Society housed in the original Grossdale train station on Brookfield Avenue just east of Prairie Avenue. The book can occasionally be found new and used on Amazon.com.
Before 1803. The area now called Brookfield is mostly covered by prairie grasses, forests, and farms. Large portions of the area are inhabited by the native Americans who long ago developed agriculture and corn cultivation, built villages and burial mounds, invented the bow and arrow, and made beautiful pottery.
1803-1816. The US Government captures and purchases most of northern Illinois from Chippewa, Ottawa, Pottawatomi, Kickapoo, and Kaskaskia tribes.
December 1818. The Illinois Territory becomes the 21st state.
May 20, 1864. The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad begins running freight along its recently completed Chicago-to-Aurora Line.
December 1, 1888. Samuel Eberly Gross, a lawyer turned real estate investor from Chicago, begins buying large parcels of farm, prairie, and woods along both sides of the track about 13 miles west of the city. He immediately begins planning to divide the area into streets and lots, and drafts a complex plan for a village with affordable housing for working class families.
June 15, 1889. Gross opens “Grossdale” and begins offering lots for sale. The first two buildings are a train station south of the tracks at what is now Prairie Avenue, and a Pavilion across the tracks. The original train station was moved across the tracks and a few hundred feet east in 1981, and is now the home of the Village’s Historical Society and museum. The Pavilion housed the first post office, general store, Gross’ real estate office, meeting rooms, and eventually a dance Hall. Gross begins offering free train outings from Chicago to Grossdale where the prospects are met at the station by a band and treated to a picnic lunch complete with a sales pitch from Gross. In addition to parcels of land, he has a number of house designs to offer at “cheap” prices.
November 7, 1893. Early residents vote to incorporate Grossdale, the official date of the founding of what is now Brookfield.
January 2, 1894. The first Village Board meets.
1905. Grossdale’s name is changed to Brookfield.
1918. Riverside Brookfield High School opens. RB beats Oak Park in basketball to win the Suburban League Championship.
1920. The Plank Toll Road, now called Ogden Avenue, is paved in cement providing easy automobile access.
July 1, 1934. The Chicago Zoological Park opens. It is commonly called the Brookfield Zoo, and quickly grows to gain international fame as a zoo, educational institution, and research facility.
1947. The Village’s finances are so bad that bankruptcy is discussed, but Illinois law prohibits it. Backs to the wall, hundreds of residents volunteer to make sure all lots listed as empty are really empty and that all buildings are properly assessed and on the tax rolls. Hundreds of water leaks are stanched to drastically reduce the Village’s water bill from Chicago. To further combat the Village’s financial problems, Brookfield pioneers the concept of using a full-time Village Manager to oversee the Village’s affairs. It is so successful that the state begins recommending it to other villages.
1952. Citing Brookfield’s remarkable recovery from the brink of insolvency, The National Municipal League and Look Magazine give Brookfield and 10 other municipalities the title “All American City.”
1958. The Village’s Public Works Department installs a traffic circle at the treacherous intersection known as “eight corners” transforming it from harrowing to merely hair raising. Miss America, Mary Ann Mobley, and three bands are on hand for the dedication.
1976. Brookfield is named a “Bicentennial Community” and gets one of 111 replicas of the Liberty Bell cast from the same mold as the original in Philadelphia.
1981. Brookfield is named a “Tree City USA.” The new water tower sporting the now famous logo of two porpoises from the Brookfield Zoo is erected.
December 23, 1987. The Village of Brookfield and the City of Moe, Australia become sister cities. Moe is similar in size and economic structure, and it is located 135 km east of Melbourne.
1991. The Irish Times opens for business, and becomes an “anchor” for the downtown business district. Owner Martin Lynch (native of County Galway, Ireland) takes over the family business in 2008, subsequently expands the restaurant space and menu offerings. It is now recognized as one of the preeminent Irish pubs in greater Chicago.
2010. The Galloping Ghost Arcade opens. The video arcade (notable for its amazing collection of retro and futuristic video games), is estimated to be the largest video arcade in the United States with over 400 video and pinball games.
2014. The Village of Brookfield celebrates the 125th anniversary of the original “Grossdale” train station. The train station is now on the National Register of Historic Places, one block from current Brookfield train station and the downtown.