South Oak Park

At roughly the same time, still another community was developing on the north side of present day Berwyn, aided by “Honest John” Kelly.

Located more than 1-1/2 miles north of the growing communities to its south, this area extended from Roosevelt Road to 16th Street and from Ridgeland to Harlem and was first known as South Oak Park. In 1887, the Union Mutual Life Insurance Company first built homes for its employees in South Oak Park. Sold on the community’s potential, Kelly opened an office on Roosevelt Road, west of Oak Park Avenue. Realtor, builder, insurance man, and community servant, Kelly was a typical turn-of-the-century entrepreneur full of energy and drive.

Only two dirt roads, Oak Park and Ridgeland Avenues, connected this community with its neighbors to the south, extending across the many farms and fields that dotted the area. The street names from one side of town to the other didn’t match and 1-1/2 miles of fields separated the two sections. Each community had its own churches, stores, clubs, and public transportation.

At the turn of the century, when the Oak Park-River Forest School District set its boundaries at Roosevelt Road, it eliminated north Berwyn families and broke the tie between Berwyn and Oak Park. Residents of the north turned southward and joined together with the town of Berwyn in 1901.

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