Lake Forest offers a perfect mix of history, luxury, and natural beauty. High on the bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan, residents love the City’s pristine beaches, top-rated education, and winding roads tracing natural ravines and cliffs. Residents enjoy a quaint downtown district, an exceptional parks system, and buildings and landscapes designed by some of the greatest architects of the 20th century. The North Shore community is located 30 miles north of The Loop, with the commute to Chicago made easy by a Metra station and the Skokie Highway.
Lake Forest was first settled as a farming community in 1836. Greater development came to the area in 1857 with the construction of the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad tracks (now used by Metra). Now with access to Chicago, the area was selected for a quiet, bucolic retreat by a number of the city’s rich and famous. Much thought went into the planning of the city, including roads platted to isolate the tranquil settlement. Rather than adhere to a grid system, streets were laid out naturally, incorporating the beauty of the ravines and bluffs into the city plan. In these early years, residents included titans of industry Cyrus McCormick, J. Ogden Armour, and Marshall Field, all of whom built estates in the area. Their manors and landscapes were designed by famous architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, David Adler, and Jens Jensen.
Through the 19th century until the present day, Lake Forest has slowly grown in population and area. Fueled by the construction of the Skokie Highway in 1931, this growth meant the increase of local services; new municipal construction included a city hall, fire station, post office, library, several elementary schools, and a high school. While the original eastern part of the community has experienced little change, many single-family homes and townhomes were built in the western portion of Lake Forest. In the 1970s, the far western area along the highway became host to a business district, turning Lake Forest into a major center of employment.
The heart of the tight-knit Lake Forest community is Market Square, its historic downtown district. Proposed in 1915 by famous Chicago architect (and Lake Forest resident) Howard Van Doren Shaw. Market Square was completed in 1916. The National Register of Historic Sites lists Market Square as the world’s first planned shopping center. Still thriving today, Market Square offers fantastic shops and restaurants. The center also hosts several of the community’s charity, arts, and cultural events. In addition to the downtown district, Waukegan Ave also offers a selection of businesses, completing the excellent local selection of boutiques, national retailers, bookstores, and eateries for all tastes.
Lake Forest has an exemplary parks system. The Parks and Recreation Department services 17 parks, nature preserves, and trails totaling over 200 acres. On the shores of Lake Michigan, Forest Park Beach is a community gem. Residents love the sandy beach, fishing pier, concession stand, outdoor grills, and walking paths. Exercise lovers will love the 11 miles of bike trails and over 20 miles of nature trails. Another great park is Deerpath Community Park, which features little league baseball fields with lights for night games, four tennis courts, and a playground. With several golf courses and clubs, including the public 18-hole Deerpath Golf Course, the area has great recreation options for all of its residents.
One of the community’s unique features is its huge quantity of nature preserves and virgin prairie. These areas are serviced by The Wildlife Discovery Center (WDC), a museum that teaches children and adults alike about the habitats and animals that thrive in the area.
In addition to the parks system, the City provides recreation facilities for all ages. The state-of-the-art fitness facility offers racquetball and squash, affordable child care, and a fully stocked gym complete with weights, machines, and trainers. All year long, the Park District offers classes, youth sports, and arts programming. In the summer, the district runs summer camps for children, ranging from traditional day camps to sports, nature, dance, art, and technology offerings. A beautiful public library, built in the early 1930s, has a media lab and a reading room with a lit fireplace. The area’s art center offers a facility for all ages, specializing in ceramics and pottery.
Bringing the community together are a number of festivals, from a spooky Halloween, an art festival, to an annual Oktoberfest featuring a Beer Garden and live music. On the Fourth of July, the whole community gets together at Deerpath Park for great food, family fun, and a spectacular fireworks show.
One of the most attractive features of the City is its world-class education system. Great elementary and middle schools feed into Lake Forest High School. One of the best public high schools in Illinois, the schools consistently produces excellent test scores and sends nearly all of its graduates to four-year colleges. Notable alumni include novelist Dave Eggers, acclaimed musician Andrew Bird, and movie star Vince Vaughn.
Lake Forest offers a variety of housing options. In addition to historic homes, there are new construction mansions, single family ranches, townhomes, and some condominiums. Lake Forest offers great schools, a quaint downtown district, excellent entertainment, and some of the best natural areas and parks in the North Shore.