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Retired River Forest Illinois Police Officers

Village of River Forest History

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Fighting Crime with Radio
Chronology of Police Radio
Village of River Forest History
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Some Historical Notes

Village Dates and data:


First industry in what was to become River Forest: steam saw-mill established in 1831 on the east bank of the Des Plaines River mile north of Lake Street. The mill was first owned by John B. Noble and George Bickerdike and later by Ashbel Steele and Theophilus W. Smith.


First (only?) hotel: Harlem House, built by John Henry Quick in 1856. On Railroad Ave. (Central) opposite the Harlem depot.


First drug store: (1850’s?)  established by William Archdeacon on Railroad Ave. two blocks west of Harlem Ave. Later the building was moved to Lake St. and used as a tavern.


Incorporated, October 24, 1880

(4 years before Forest Park and 22 years before Oak Park)


In 1881 The Chicago, Harlem & Batavia Co., built a dummy line into River Forest. It Ran into town on Washington to Park Drive (“Conway Park”) and then south to Waldheim and Forest Home Cemeteries. It ran until 1887. The Soo Line used to have a station at Madison Street and at Oak Street.


In 1889 an electric street car company was formed called the Cicero and Proviso Street Railway Co. The streetcars traveled Lake, Madison and Harlem Aves.


First Jail: 1891; Cost $30

1908- Oak Park Baking Co. est. at 7525 Lake, later becomes Hostess/Continental Bakery

The first Chief of Police appointed in 1910 received $80 a month ($5 more than “policeman”)

First police motorcycle: 1910 (until 1931, and again in 1935)

1904-Village purchases a one-horse ladder truck

1910-“New village hall” erected (the old town hall is moved one lot north and becomes the fire station)

1911-Train tracks elevated

1915 Village purchases a Packard Motor Fire Truck:

1916-Annexation of area north of Division Street. Until 1916 all the area north of Division was not River Forest.

1920-First squad car; until this time police only wore a uniform for a dress occasion

1921-First call boxes (total to be 16))

1928-Until 1928 the house numbering system was: #1 starting at Madison and going    north. The west only numbers started at Harlem with #1.Those streets that started further north and west like Clinton and Vine started at that particular place as #1 also. Every lot was continuously counted until the street totally ended, so each block had its very own numbers not necessarily like another which ran parallel to it.

1929-Some officials would like the Village Hall relocate to Harlem and Lake Sts.(2)

          First ambulance (police)

          Police motorcycles are purchased by Village and paid by officers in installments(2)         

          Police motorcycle officers are given official notice to not run with cut-outs open(2)

          Residents complain that merry-go-round in forest preserve is too noisy(2)

1930-All motorcycles are replaced with cars (“Flivvers”) Nov 8, 1930

 First radio receiver installed in RF squad Nov 10, 1930 to monitor Chicago Police transmitter.( “Just like OPPD already does) Until now police on the beat were summoned by blowing the siren or waiting until they made their call-in from a call box.(2)

1931-RFPD now has direct line to CPD switchboard and no longer needs to call OPPD for a relay on their direct line. (CPD broadcasts our requests to our squads)(2)

1933-34 First village-owned radio system experiments until Jan 2, 1934, (dispatch only)

1934-First village owned two-way police radio system in operation March 3, 1934

             (Bayonne N.J. was 1st in US in May 1933).


Police Department Phone Numbers:

1930’s = Forest 3100, 1940’s = Forest 3200,

1950’s = FOrest 9-7125  1960’s = 369-7125

1970’s = 366-7125 1980’s= 911


Streets that no longer exist: Harold and Maple (Forest Preserve)

Renamed streets: Lake was Pennsylvania (but first called Elgin Rd)

                            Franklin was Boutell

                            Park was Kimball (but first called Magnolia south of tracks)

                            Bonnie Brae was John

                            Clinton Pl. (and Monroe!) was/were Henry

                            Holly Court was Madison Ave.

                            Harlem was Washington

                            Central was Railroad Ave.

                            Thomas was Olive St,

                            Iowa was Myrtle St.

                            Augusta was Birchwood St.

                            Park Drive was Circle Av.

                            Thatcher was Forest (South of tracks)

                            Keystone was Grove (South of tracks)

                            Washington Blvd was Elm St.

                            Forest was Canandiago (north side)

                            Forest was Morgan (south side)

                            Gale was Riverside Dr.

                            Lathrop was Oak St.


Former names of the Des Plaines River: Rivers Aux Plaines, Aux Plaines River, O’Plain River,





Other Notable Residents  :


Oliver M. Barr, 7226 Quick, b. 1862, president of Arrow Petroleum Co., resident since 1888 (1)

Joseph Carolan, 554 Park, d.1927, county commissioner for 23 years; U.S. Appraiser for Chicago District (1)

Mrs. Nellie Dickerson, 1019 Forest, prepared food in her kitchen for Marshall Field Restaurant in Chicago about 1907-1922(1)

William Drummond, 547 Edgewood Place, architect-built RF Library, First Methodist Church, RF Bank Building(1)

Edward Fitzsimmons Dunne, d.1937, while RF resident was circuit court judge 1892-1905; later Mayor of Chicago 1906-08, then State Governor 1912-16 (1)

Paul Harvey d.2009, Park Ave., newscaster

William C. Hodgins, b. 1879, d. 1932, 827 Keystone, with Justice and Treasury depts. Gathered evidence against Chicago gangsters.(1)

Abram J. Hoffman,b. 1834, early settler(1869) and first resident of “Trailside Museum” which in 1881 he built and  opened as the “River Forest Young Ladies Seminary” (a high class finishing school for young women) (Trailside Museum started in 1929) (1)

Leonard Japp, owner-Jays Potato Chip Co.

Otto E. Kerner, 1031 Ashland, attorney general of Illinois(1)governor ( )

Henry A. Koehler, 937 Jackson, publisher Chicago Herald and Examiner(1)

John Lathrop a resident of Elmhurst (also owned land where Rosary College would be built) and a friend of the president of the Galena  & Chicago Railroad in the 1800’s. The Lathrop train station was named after him and so obviously was Lathrop Ave. (1)

(Mrs.) Ethel Mars, 930 Ashland, president of Mars Candy Co.(1)

Leo Montamat, b. 1878, Captain of the River Forest Company of the Illinois Reserve Militia 1917-1921 (1)

Theophilus Washington Smith,b.1784  d.1846 , state senator 1822-26; tried to legalize slavery in Illinois; early RF settler who owned 320 Acres along the DesPlaines River; Justice of Illinois Supreme Court (was almost impeached)and first president of Galena & Chicago Railroad (Chgo & Northwestern)(1)

Ashbel Steele,d.1861 first settler in River Forest 1836; Cook County Coroner(1834-8) and Sheriff(1840-?)first postmaster(Noyesville)(1849)(1)

Other early settlers: Thatchers, Quicks, Murphys, Yaldings, Griffens, Wallers, Broughtons and the Brooks(1)

Sidney J. Steele,(grandson of Ashbel) 1139 Lathrop, exec VP and Director-Continental Can(1)

William J. Tobin, 535 Ashland, President and GM Chicago Blackhawks(1)

Edward C. Waller d.1931 in 1918 he developed the area between Chicago and Division-and Lathrop and Park; he erected the first RF Bank Building (SW) Franklin and Lake, organized the bank and was one of the first directors; secured the site for the Presbyterian Church and RF Tennis Club; and was one of the promoters of the RF Masonic Temple, Past Commander of the Siloam Commandery, Knights Templar(1)(M)

Theron Wasson, 606 Thatcher, chief geologist, Pure Oil (1)

Lawrence Welk.

Adolph Westphal, d.1913 arrived 1873, operated a grocery store at Harlem & Lake (NE) then a Photo Gallery at Lake & Marion(NW), then a tavern and dance hall at Clinton & Lake until 1890, then a beer bottling company until 1894 when it was changed to soda water bottling.(1)








(1) History of River Forest, Hall, 1938, (Pub 1937)

(2) Oak Leaves Newspaper Clipping

(3) Letter to RF Village and Pension board from Ingle (7-24-57)