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
- 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
So 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.
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.