An issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen from March – April 1981 was brought to my attention because of the wonderful write-up on what it was like to live in Hoffman Estates in the very early days. With permission from the Village of Hoffman Estates, I have reproduced it here in its entirety.
Pioneers Recall Days of No Streets, $750.00 Down Payments
If you think that the pioneers all died out after the West was won, guess again! It took a band of hearty, pioneering souls to settle the wilderness–and it was a wilderness–that we now know as Hoffman Estates. Forty-one of the couples who helped transform Hoffman Estates from a cluster of homes in the middle of a cornfield into a thriving, progressive suburb, spent the evening of January 24, 1981, at a Pioneer Party at the Navarone Restaurant, where they celebrated their 25th anniversary of homesteading in Hoffman Estates. All 41 of these couples are still living in the area. The party was organized by Bill and Irene Hanson, who found that 65 families are still living in the original homes they bought from developers Sam and Jack Hoffman 25 years ago.
A total of 260 families moved into the Hoffmans’ new subdivision starting in 1955. The homes were located east of Roselle Road, between Golf and Higgins. Newspaper ads called it “Hoffman City,” and promised spacious homes on a half acre of land for $14,950–$750.00 down and payments of $99.00 a month that included principal, interest and taxes.
They were nearly all young couples in their early 20’s with their first baby, and perhaps a second on the way, who moved to what seemed like the end of the earth to settle in Hoffman Estates. They were lured to the area by the same things that have always attracted pioneers–the promise of land and a home at a price they could afford, fresh air and plenty of open space for their children, and the chance to use their youthful energy and zest for life to build a new community that they could be proud to call home.
From the perspective of 25 years, these pioneers found it easy to laugh about the multitude of problems and inconveniences they endured a quarter of a century ago when they settled in Hoffman Estates. The picturesque street names–Apple, Apricot, Ash, Aspen, Aster, Azalea, Basswood, Bluebonnet, Carnation, Hawthorn–somehow promised an enchanting new life in a pastoral setting, but the harsh realities of the pioneer life quickly became apparent. [The map below shows Parcel A, B and C.]
When the first young couples drove up with their moving vans the week before Christmas in 1955, they found that there were no streets and no sidewalks leading to their homes. Some understood the real significance of the lack of streets only after their moving trucks’ tires sank and became hopelessly mired in a foot of mud. Others parked their trucks on the pavement on Higgins or Roselle and carried every box and every piece of furniture several blocks to their new home.
“It was an area without just about everything,” as Jane Berger recalled. The closest grocery store was in Roselle, the ladies bowling group had to drive to Franklin Park to bowl, church services were held in the local tavern, the kindergarten classes met in a barn, there were eight families sharing a telephone party line, the closest doctors were many miles away, and the women were virtually marooned at home all day when their husbands drove off to work every morning the family’s only car.
But in spite of it all, the people gathered at the Navarone Restaurant on the night of January 24 clearly remember the good times they had during those early, struggling years.
“We’d try to get one of the husbands to leave the car home one day a week,” Connie Gallo recalled. “We’d gather up the pre-schoolers, pile into the car, and take off for a day of shopping. We were lucky if we had a quarter among us, so we sure didn’t buy much, but we had a great time just getting out and being together. None of us had very much, but somehow we were all happy.”
Their happiness and their strong sense of community spirit is the foundation upon which the Village of Hoffman Estates was built.
The close friendships among the women blossomed into the Women’s Club, which in the late 1950’s was responsible for getting the first grocery store built in the community, and persuading a doctor and dentist to locate in the area. The men formed the local volunteer fire department, and in 1956 every family dug deeply into their pockets to donate $25.00 toward the purchase of a fire truck.
Lawn parties were a springtime ritual in the early years–not the formal, dress-up affairs popular with the well-to-do, but the kind where all the men got together and helped each other put in their lawns. The women fixed a hearty pot-luck breakfast for the group, and transformed the back-breaking work of putting in a lawn into a neighborhood social event.
These pioneers can still remember when Hoffman Estates had a population of 125 people with 74 who were old enough to vote in 1955; when there were a total of five teachers under contract in 1956 in what was destined to become School District 54, the largest elementary school district in the state; when there were 7,500 residents and $6,204 in the treasury when the Village was incorporated in 1959; when everyone in the community could be listed in a 15 page telephone directory in 1960.
Much has changed in Hoffman Estates in the last 25 years, but the heritage left by these pioneers is still shaping the destiny and future of Hoffman Estates.
“This community sprang up because of your strong volunteer spirit,” Village President Virginia Hayter said when she addressed the couples gathered at the 25th anniversary dinner. “You built this community, and many of you have stayed involved in one form or another over the years. You made Hoffman Estates what it is today, and we thank you for all of the years you have put into our Village. You are truly the salt of the earth.”
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
The photo of Virginia Hayter was used courtesy of the former Profile Publications of Crystal Lake.