In the new biopic The Founder, there is a mention of Ray Kroc opening his first McDonald’s restaurants in the Chicago area.  One of the restaurants is the first one at 400 Lee Street in Des Plaines. This original location opened in April 1955 and the building has since been torn down and rebuilt.  But the movie also mentions other locations in Waukegan–and Schaumburg!

Curious about this connection, a patron emailed me about the beginnings of McDonald’s in Schaumburg Township, wondering if we were, in fact, one of the first locations in the Chicagoland area.

After doing a bit of research, I discovered that there were others in the area that opened earlier–Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village and Wheeling–to name a few.  The first one in Schaumburg Township was the location on Golf Road, just east of the intersection with Higgins.  This restaurant held its grand opening on Saturday, October 17, 1970 (15 years after the Des Plaines location) when they opened to the public at 10 a.m.

Ronald McDonald was there in person to greet kids from 10 to noon and handed out free gifts.  Their ad from the October 16, 1970 Daily Herald mentions their “piping-hot 100% pure-beef hamburgers, golden brown french fries… and triple-thick chocolate, vanilla and strawberry shakes.”  A photo from the October 22 paper says that the grand opening drew over 4000 people!

Facing Golf Road, the facade and interior of the building were in the latest style of the day which had been developed in 1968 by the corporate office.  Having moved from the outdoor restaurant trend with the golden arches, the Schaumburg location featured a brick building with big windows and a mansard roof.  As noted in the comments below, there was also an interior playground that was used as a space for countless birthday parties.  The McDonald’s sign on Golf Road maintained the golden arches–just as they do today.

As one of the commenters noted, the original building was torn down about around 2002 and the replacement building was not only smaller but was resituated on the lot to accomodate for the heavy drive thru traffic.  The location had a great 46-year run but, unfortunately, closed in 2016 after a new store opened in the Golf Rose Center in Hoffman Estates.



Many other locations exist in Schaumburg Township:

  • Barrington Square Mall on Higgins in Hoffman Estates
  • 2580 W. Golf Road near the intersection with Barrington Road in Hoffman Estates
  • 1070 Roselle Road in the Golf Rose Center in Hoffman Estates
  • 550 S. Roselle Road in the Farmgate Shopping Center in Schaumburg
  • 2545 Schaumburg Road in the Scharrington Square Shopping Center in Schaumburg
  • 720 E. Higgins Road at Plum Grove Road in Schaumburg
  • Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg
  • 775 E. Algonquin Road in Schaumburg between Harper College and Motorola (The oldest free-standing store in Schaumburg, it was 40 years old in 2018.)
  • 955 E. Golf Road in Schaumburg (This is another brand new store as of 2016.)
  • 633 Meacham Road at Biesterfield in Strawberry Hill Plaza in Elk Grove Village
  • 7455 Barrington Road at Irving Park in Hanover Park

mcdonalds-uniformSo many of us worked for McDonald’s in the 1970’s wearing those polyester uniforms with the perky hats, frying hamburgers for a Big Mac, frying eggs in a six-sectioned egg ring for Egg McMuffins and actually mixing and whipping the shakes in a triple-head milkshake maker.  And let’s not forget making change in our heads at the cash register!  What are your memories of the McDonald’s in Schaumburg Township?  Did you work there?  Do you know when they opened?  What were your uniforms like?  Please feel free to share your thoughts!

Also, enjoy this story by Dann Gire of the Daily Herald as he discusses the appearance of the Schaumburg and other Chicagoland McDonald’s in The Founder. 


Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

The article, “The Browning of McDonald’s,” was gratefully used in the description of the first McDonald’s in Schaumburg.



  1. Fred Luft Says:

    From what I remember, the original McDonalds on Golf Rd just East of Higgins was torn down and a new one was built in the same location. I want say maybe maybe 15 years ago.

  2. Dan Says:

    Fred is absolutely correct. The original building actually faced Golf Road and had an indoor playland. I remember specifically the older store since I had many birthday parties there.

    Jane, I also wonder if the McDonald’s that was on Irving Park Road just east of the current Just Tires was prior to the one on Golf. Seeing as Tradewinds was built in 1968, I would have to imagine the McDonald’s across the street went up the same year or so.

    Also, I also found it fascinating as a kid the original McDonald’s building in Farmgate. In that store, the kitchen was not connected to the drive-thru window and there was a conveyor system near the ceiling where the food was transported to a smaller area where the window was.

    • Fred Luft Says:

      I forgot about the conveyer system at the Farmgate location. The Golf Road location had a conveyer also but you could watch the food travel overhead on the conveyer as you ate your food inside. The food would go to the window where you would pay and pick up your food and drinks. The soda fountain would be by the person who gave you your food.

  3. jrozek Says:

    Fred and Dan,

    Thank you for your additional details! I have added them to the original blog posting.

    I did a bit of research and could not find a mention of the Tradewinds McDonald’s between the years 1967 and 1970. It must have come later. Maybe someone else will have an idea?

    I, too, remember that conveyor system at the Farmgate location. You have to wonder how many stores across the country installed something like that to accomodate both the drive thru and the building’s positioning on the property.

    Jane Rozek
    Local History Librarian
    Schaumburg Township District Library

    • Carol Says:

      I worked at the McDonald’s at Roselle Road and Weathersfield Way with the conveyor belt that carried food to the drive thru window. It was the summer of 1984. It was fun to be in the little booth, taking orders, filling drinks, and talking to customers. Watching The Founder brought back those memories. Thanks for clarifying the Golf Road location.

  4. Diana Dobrovolny Says:

    I started living in Schaumburg when I was 5 YOA, in 1959. I remember my dad driving our family to shop in Rolling Meadows. We would stop to have lunch at McDonald’s there as there wasn’t one in Schaumburg. We were excited to watch the “Number Sold” increase each time we went and celebrate when it hit 1 million. It was hard to believe anything could sell that much.
    McDonald’s also later provided free use of their orange juice machine for Scouts, 4 Henry, and other community events.

  5. Randy Schallau Says:

    Hanover Park Macdonalds opened in 1971, hung out there a lot.
    Meadowdale shopping center’s opened no later than 1961

  6. Dan Says:

    I just saw this movie last night and the brief scene of the Schaumburg McDonald’s isn’t accurate at all. In the background, you can see a 2 story apartment type complex and the McDonald’s itself was the original-type building with the soaring arches, which never was here.

    I wonder why they picked Schaumburg if it wasn’t even going to be accurate.

    • jrozek Says:

      This is exactly the point Dann Gire of the Daily Herald made in his article. I suppose it was budget constraints that kept them from recreating various scenes?

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

  7. Dan Says:

    For those who keep track of mistakes in movies… there is a scene where Kroc is driving in the Arizona desert and there is a real estate sign with a modern day area code. In 1955, all area codes would have had a “1” or “0” in the middle. I think the sign had a “3”

  8. David Craine Says:

    I just watched the movie this afternoon and did a double-take during the scenes that portrayed a Schaumburg McDonalds starting up soon after the Des Plaines Lee Street opening in 1955. I was fairly certain that this was fictional, as Schaumburg in 1955 was little more than a few buildings at the intersection of Roselle and Schaumburg Roads, surrounded by farm land. A quick visit to confirms that nowhere in the Schaumburg of 1955 would there have been a suitable spot for a fast-food restaurant.

    So the question becomes: Why did the writers choose to fictionalize the location of one of the first three McDonalds in the Chicago area by placing one in Schaumburg? Certainly, it is within the artistic license of a screenwriter to use fictional details, even in a film based on a true story. My guess—which I will pose to “The Founder” screenwriter Robert D. Siegel in an email—is that he may have had a friend or relative from Schaumburg, and wanted to give the place a nod in his script. Siegel grew up in Long Island, New York, attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and lived for a year in Chicago. So he would certainly have been aware of modern Schaumburg, one of the largest suburbs of Chicago. But what he may not have been aware of is Schaumburg’s young age as a mecca of business, industry, and retail. Those of us from the Chicago area, and old enough to know better, realize that Schaumburg went from a speck on the map to a major retail and residential area almost overnight with the completion of Woodfield Mall in 1971—the same year that Siegel was born.

    If I should hear back from Siegel, I will return here to update what I learn.

    David Craine

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