Glencoe History

From Glencoe Public Library | Centennial Celebration

  • A timeline of Glencoe and area history is available here.
  • Information about Glencoe's Historical and Architectural Survey is available here.
  • View a copy of a brief history of Glencoe written in 1909 here.
  • Around 1945, the Glencoe Historical Society published a history entitled Seventy-Five Years of Glencoe History (PDF).
  • The League of Women Voters published This is Glencoe (PDF)in 1950 as an informational booklet for residents.
  • The publication Welcome to Glencoe (PDF) was written in 1968 for new residents. It is a good look at Glencoe at a specific point in time.
  • A history entitled Glencoe - A Special Suburb (PDF) was published in 1985.
  • A Memorial Guide to Glencoe's War Dead (PDF) was published by Elizabeth Warren and includes biographical information of the Glencoe residents killed in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

An Early History of Glencoe, Illinois

In 1867, Dr. Alexander Hammond, a retired physician from Rockford, Illinois, scouted the North Shore along Lake Michigan with the hope of building an ideal town. Hearing that the farm of an early settler in the area, Matthew Coe, was for sale, Hammond was eager to buy it. The stock farm of 520 acres was now owned by Walter Gurnee, once mayor of Chicago and previously influential in the early days of the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad. Indeed, Glencoe may have gotten its name as an acknowledgement of Walter Gurnee’s place of birth—Glencoe, Scotland. Glencoe’s first seal was modeled after the seal of Glencoe, Scotland. But it may also have been named after Mr. Coe, “Coe’s Glen.”

Hammond enlisted the help of an Evanston real estate developer, set up a Glencoe Company, and subdivided the land between ten prominent Evanston residents. The price was $42,000. Each man contributed $500 each for church and school, and paid $100 a year for a pastor and $50 annually for a teacher. Some men merely saw the purchase as an investment; others shared Hammond’s vision and hoped to create an ideal hamlet. Dr. John Nutt, who actively shared Hammond’s vision, built two homes on Hazel at Sheridan. Philo Judson, one of the ten investors, built his home on the site where the Glencoe Public library is today.

A new collaborator, an independent landowner outside the Glencoe Company, was instrumental in helping to build the new town. Franklin Newhall, sometimes referred to as “Grandpa,” owned a large tract of land east of the railroad tracks from Park Avenue to Lake/Cook County Line Road. He voluntarily contributed money to build the church, gave a share of land for the park, and helped the others to plot out the space.

With Grandpa Newhall and his brother, plus the original settlers and Glencoe entrepreneurs, there were 26 homes in the village when it was incorporated on March 28, 1869. The census indicated 150 residents. The first election was held in 1870. Philo Judson was elected the first president, but moved away by 1872.

As a fiscal adventure, the Glencoe Company suffered as a result of the national Panic of 1873. Parcels of land were sold off to meet individual investors’ debts. Land values did not recover until the 1890s. One of the largest losses was suffered by Dr. Hammond himself. According to a memoir written by Granville Hall in 1924, “the Glencoe adventure was some 20 to 30 years ahead of its time.” (From “A Short History of Glencoe, Illinois, www.goglencoe.com/about/history/short_history.aspx)

Yet, some of these founders made a lasting contribution to the Glencoe of today. One such person was Professor S.C. Barlett of the Theological seminary in Chicago. In 1870, he moved into the S.R. Hurford home, and on Sundays, conducted his services at the Judson home, on the site of the new library. These services soon evolved into intellectual discussions. Meeting one a week, the group met once a week to read worthwhile books. The group bought books and kept them as a nucleus of a library.

The Women’s Library Club officially began on April 3, 1874 at a meeting at the home of Mrs. H.B. Wilmarth. Club meetings followed a program of reading a literary classic or history, discussion, and light refreshments. The last hour of reading was of a lighter work. The first Library Club president was Mrs. John Nutt. Mrs. Frederick Newhall was the treasurer, Mrs. J.S. Barlett was an active member. These were the wives of the prominent founding men of the town.


Michael Ebner Presentation on Glencoe's History

Here is an abridged version of Michael Ebner's history of Glencoe.  The full presentation took place at the library on December 6, 2009.  The video was originally posted on the Ageless North Shore site.


Further Resources