Blue Island, Illinois

Blue Island, Illinois

Chicagoland municipality
muni-name = Blue Island
village = 1836
muni = City
date = 1901
state = Illinois
county = Cook
tcounty = Cook
tcounty2 = Cook
tcounty3 = Cook
township = Worth
township2 = Calumet
township3 = Bremen
township4 = Thornton
gov = Council-manager
head_label = Mayor
gov_head = Donald Peloquin
pop = 23,463
density-km = 2,247.9
density-mi = 5,822.4
status = up
percent = 10.66
prevyear = 1990
white = 53.68
black = 24.10
hispanic = 37.93
asian = 0.37
islander = 0.03
native = 34.85
other = 17.68
zips = 60406, 60827
acode = 708
area-km = 10.4
area-mi = 4.0
coords = coor dms|41|39|30|N|87|40|46|W|city
pci = 16,156
geocode = 06704
mhi = 36,236
mnhv = 102,200
mhv = 107,931 (2000)
website =

Blue Island is a city in Cook County, Illinois. The population was 23,463 at the 2000 census.

Origin of the name

Blue Island is so named because it is situated on the south end of a glacial moraine that was once an island when Lake Chicago covered the surrounding area thousands of years ago at the end of the last ice age. Early pioneers gave the ridge the name because at a distance it looked like an island set in a trackless prairie sea. The blue color was attributed to atmospheric scattering or to blue flowers growing on the ridge. From the Chicago "Democrat", February, 1834:

"Nearly south of this town and twelve miles [19 km] distant is Blue Island. This name is particularly appropriate. It is a table of land about six miles [10 km] long and an average of two miles [3 km] wide, of an oval form and rising some forty feet out of an immense plain which surrounds it on every side. The sides and slopes of this table, as well as the table itself, are covered with a handsome growth of timber, forming a belt surrounding about four or five thousand acres of beautiful table land. In summer, the plain is covered with luxurious herbage. It is uninhabited, and when we visited it, from its stillness, loneliness, and quiet, we pronounced it a vast vegetable solitude. The ridge, when viewed from a distance, appears standing in a azure mist of vapor, hence the appellation 'Blue Island'."

Blue Island bills itself as "The City on the Hill". The city has been designated by the White House as a [ Preserve America] community.


The city is a hub for Metra trains, with six stations, four of them along the Rock Island District Line: 119th Street, 123rd Street, Prairie Street, and Vermont Street. The Rock Island District Line splits at Gresham, north-east of Blue Island, and the branch (known alternately as the 'Beverly', 'Blue Island', or 'Suburban' branch) serves the communities of Beverly Hills, Morgan Park, and the stations in Blue Island between 119th Street and Vermont Street, where the tracks re-join the main line. The Vermont Street station, which is one of the oldest in the Metra network (having been built in 1868 [] ) is across the street from the fifth station, which serves as the terminus of a Metra Electric spur line. The sixth station, also on the electric line, is a half mile north on Burr Oak Ave. (127th St.) and Lincoln Ave. Blue Island is also served by [ Pace Suburban Bus Service] .
Blue Island is located a half mile west of Interstate 57 and one and a half miles east of the Tri-State Tollway. It is bi-sected by the historic Dixie Highway, which in its heyday connected Chicago, IL with Miami, Florida.


From 1836, when Norman Rexford established the Blue Island House Hotel at what is now the south-east corner of Western Avenue and Vermont Street [ [ / ] Goodspeed, Weston Arthur and Daniel David Healy "History of Cook County, Illinois: Being a General Survey of Cook County History, Including a Condensed History of Chicago and Special Account of Districts Outside the City Limits; from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time" Published by The Goodspeed historical association, 1909Item notes: v. 2Original from Harvard University] through the 1970s, Blue Island's central business district ('uptown' to the locals) was regarded as an important regional commercial center, with stores such as Woolworth's, Kline's, Sears, Montgomery Ward, Spiegel and Steak 'n Shake. Today, downtown Blue Island is better known for its antique stores, art galleries, ethnic delicatessens and fine dining.
Much of this shift in business activity has been brought on by "big box" development outside of town. To this day Blue Island maintains a healthy business climate, as is evidenced by the fact that several local businesses have been serving the area for generations. Krueger Funeral Home, for example, was founded in 1858, and Jebens Hardware was established in 1876.
As a nod to the 21st Century, however, the city and a dedicated group of volunteers, working with [ The Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago] and the Center for Neighborhood Technology have devised the " [ Blue Island Plan for Economic Development] " which addresses not only the commercial expansion of the historic uptown business district, but the continued improvement of the housing stock and industrial base as well.
[ Moraine Valley Community College] operates a satellite facility uptown.

The public library

in 1903. This building was demolished in 1969 when the current library, which opened housing the library's collection of over 70,000 volumes, was built.
Today [ The Blue Island Public Library] provides a host of services, including multi-language reading materials, computers with internet access, public meeting rooms and a wide variety of educational programs. It is a member of the [ Metropolitan Library System] and is host to the [| Blue Island Historical Society's] award-winning Museum Room.


Chicago State University was founded in Blue Island in 1867 as the Cook County Normal (or Teacher's) School in the classrooms of the old Whittier School building on Vermont Street.


of 1871. The 9 acre property, which was bounded by Gregory Street, High Street, Irving Avenue and York Street, came with Sanders' home, which was remodeled into a field house and provided living quarters for the park's superintendant. Central Park eventually offered tennis courts, playground equipment, and the community's first swimming pool. It was vacated by the park district in 1965 when St. Francis Hospital acquired the property for $325,000. [Citation
last = Gorman
first = Harry G.
author-link =
title = Council Acts on Stadium Sale - City to Receive $75,000
newspaper = The Citizen
pages = Page1
year = 1965
date= Friday, April 16, 1965
url =
] (about $2.15 million in 2008) to build its east campus there.
Memorial Park, the city's next public park, was dedicated on Decoration Day (now Memorial Day), 1922 in ceremonies that were presided over by Brigadier General Abel Davis - Commander of the 132nd Infantry during World War I. The section of Memorial Park running adjacent to Burr Oak Ave. with 330 feet of frontage on Highland Ave. had originally been laid out as a cemetery in the early 1850s, when this section of Blue Island was a healthy walk from the settled section of the town. Although the cemetery was added to and improved in subsequent years, it was closed by village ordinance in 1898, and almost all of the bodies that were interred there were moved to Mt. Greenwood Cemetery in Chicago, which had been developed by citizens from Blue Island. The acquisition of the entire parcel bounded by Burr Oak Ave., Highland Ave., Walnut St. and the B & O tracks was completed by the park district in 1935. The park at that point had reached its present size of eleven acres, and eventually, with the help of FDRs Alphabet agencies, it was provided with landscaping and acquired an outdoor swimming pool, playground equipment, and a handome Art Deco stadium that seats a thousand persons. With the closing of Central Park, Memorial Park has become the flagship of the Blue Island park system. []
The eight and one half acre site of Centennial Park on the east side was aquired from the East Side Development Association in 1935 for $11,500 (about $176,300 in 2008). This park provides convenient athletic fields and playground equipment for the East Side community.

The Blue Island Area Sports Hall of Fame

As part of its focus, the park district serves the needs of the community by sponsoring little league, football and other sports activies. It is also host to the Blue Island Area Sports Hall of Fame, [Citation
last =
first =
author-link =
title = Hall of Fame Sports Banquet set for Apr. 3
newspaper = Suburbanite Economist
pages = Section IV Page1
year = 1974
date= March 14, 1974
url =
] which was sponsored by the Blue Island "Sun Standard" and founded by its sports editor, Don Rizzs. As a community that is heavily involved in sports on many levels, the Hall of Fame is a repository of photos and biographies of many individuals who have distinguished themselves on the playing field, both on the local level and in the international spotlight.Blue Island athlete Don Kolloway became a Major League Baseball player when he became an infielder for the Chicago White Sox in 1940. Except while he was in the service during WWII, Kolloway played most of the '40s with the White Sox. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 1949, and to the Philadelphia Athletics in 1953, where he ended his baseball career. September 15, 1946 was "Don Kolloway Day" at Comiskey Park, where he was presented with a new automobile. Topps honored him with a baseball card (#97) while he was a member of the Athletics. For many years after his retirement, [ Kolloway] operated a tavern in Blue Island called 'Kolloway's'. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Joe Moeller was born in Blue Island and spent the early years of his life here. Moeller pitched for the Dodgers between 1962 and 1971 [ [] entry for Joe Moeller ] and at age 19 years and 2 months became the youngest starting pitcher in the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Topps released a baseball card (#444) for Moeller in 1969.
Don Rizzs had a very personal connection to the Hall of Fame. His son Rick, voice of the Seattle Mariners since 1983, grew up in Blue Island and graduated from Eisenhower High School. [ [] Wolf, Rich and George Castle (1999) "I Remember Harry Caray". Champaign: Sports Publishing LLC, ISBN-10: 1582610401, ISBN-13: 978-1582610405, p. 164 ]

Health care

Blue Island is home to [ MetroSouth Medical Center] . Founded in 1905 as [ Saint Francis Hospital] in the former mansion of Ernst Ulich when this section of Gregory Street was lined with churches and the homes of some of Blue Island's more prosperous citizens, the hospital has long been nationally recognized as one of the nation's premier cardiovascular primary care centers. The founders of the hospital, the Sisters of St. Mary (currently the Franciscan Sisters of Mary), [,0,6798618.story relinquished ownership] of the facility to MetroSouth Medical Center on July 30, 2008.

Buildings and architecture

[] , twenty-seven are included as part of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's [ Historic Architectural and Archaeology Resources Geographic Information System,] [] and [ forty-one] individual buildings and one district have been designated as local landmarks by the Blue Island Historic Preservation Commission.

The oldest building

roots are clearly discernible, the building is much remodeled and serves today as a private residence. (Greek Revival was the architectural style of choice in the early years of Blue Island's history. Many of the buildings that remain from those days have been similarly remodeled - perhaps the best 'pure' examples of the style, albeit in a vernacular form, can be seen either in the [ Walter P. Roche] house on York Street or the [ Henry Schuemann] house on Western Avenue.)
The newest development is Fay's Point, a gated community built at the confluence of the Calumet River and the Calumet Sag Channel on the site of the historic farm of Jerome Fay.

The Joshua P. Young House

and is included in the State of Illinois' Historic Architectural and Archaeology Resources Geographic Information System.

Blue Island goes to war

The USS Blue Island Victory

to transport troops and supplies wherever in the world their services were required. Of the 550 or so built [] , 218 were named after American cities. The "U.S.S. Blue Island Victory" was a type VC 2-S-AP2, which was convert|455|ft|m long, convert|62|ft|m wide, and had a convert|25|ft|m|sing=on draft. It was equipped with a convert|5|in|mm|sing=on gun on the stern for enemy submarines, a three inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft gun, and a 20 mm cannon. The "U.S.S. Blue Island Victory" served variously as a troop ship [] and as a cattle transport ship [] , and saw service in the Korean War. It was scrapped in 1972. The picture shown above is the "U.S.S. Lane Victory", which is a twin to the "U.S.S. Blue Island Victory" that today serves as a museum in Los Angeles, California. It is a [ National Historic Landmark] and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Writers and literature

and was released on October 14, 2008. [ [] Citation
last = Minzesheimer
first = Bob
author-link =
title = Richard Belzer is 'not a cop,' but he is an author
newspaper = USA Today
pages =
year = 2008
date= October 8, 2008
url =
] A sequel, "I Am Not a Cop or a Psychic", also with Belzer, is in the works.
Another graduate of Eisenhower High School is the internationally renowned financial author and editor [ Andrew Leckey] . [] . He is best known in Chicagoland as having been a reporter for the local NBC news affiliate before going to New York to be a financial anchor for CNBC. He has either authored or edited ten books on finance, and for the past 20 years has written a nationally syndicated investment column for the Chicago Tribune Co..
Blue Island was the hometown of well-known Chicago author and sportswriter for the Chicago "Sun-Times" Taylor Bell, [Citation
last = Rizzs
first = Don
author-link =
title = BI Area Sports Hall of Fame to Induct Sports writer Taylor Bell
newspaper = Blue Island Sun Standard
pages = Section III Page1
year = 1984
date=August 9, 1984
url =
] and of Dave Nightingale, who wrote for the Chicago "Daily-News" and the Chicago "Tribune."


Because of the wide popularity of performers such as W. C. Handy, the blues became a popular musical genre during the roaring twenties. It is not surprising, then, that when Wendall Hall, Harry Geise and Emory O'Hara were looking for a title for their 1923 composition, they hit upon the name "Blue Island Blues". The sheet music for it was published that year by Waterson, Berlin & Snyder Co. Described by the New York Times art critic John S. Wilson as a "striking and colorful original composition" [] , it is a plaintive love song about a man who is missing his girl and "...has a ticket to Chicago..." that will be used to help him "... lose - those Yesterday's - Blue Island Blues". It was performed by Tiny Parham in 1929, and an instrumental version is currently available on the CD by George Shearing and Brian Torff entitled "Lullaby of Birdland: Blues Alley Jazz/On a Clear Day" which was released by Concord Records in 2000.
A closer connection between Blue Island the music world has been made by several individuals. In 1937 resident LaJulia Elizabeth Rhea broke the color barrier by being the first black woman to sing the title role in Giuseppe Verdi's Aida with the Chicago Civic Opera. During her career she appeared with the jazz and blues vocalist and actress Ethel Waters in a 1931 production of "Rhapsody in Black", and toured in 1935 with a group of winners from the Major Bowes Amateur Hour. [ [,M1] Nettles, Darryl Glenn (2002) "African American Concert Singers Before 1950". Jefferson: McFarland & Company, p.140, ISBN-10: 0786414677 ISBN-13: 978-0786414673 ] [Citation
last = Spencer
first = Margaret
author-link =
title = Focus On: A lady with a dream
newspaper = Blue Island Sun Standard
pages = Section III Page1
year = 1981
date=February 26, 1981
url =
The rock band Enuff Z'Nuff, also has members who lived there. One of their songs on the album "Strength" is named "Blue Island", and a later album is titled "Welcome to Blue Island". The group has appeared on MTV, Howard Stern and David Letterman. Their music has been released on Atco Records and Arista Records.
The singer, songwriter and music producer Peter Brown was born in Blue Island. Brown [] was a popular performer in the late 1970s and early '80s with hits that included "Do Ya Wanna Get Funky With Me" (the original version of which was recorded in his bedroom) and "Dance With Me". He was introduced to a somewhat younger group of fans as the writer, with Robert Rans, of Madonna's smash hit signature song "Material Girl," which was later sung by Nicole Kidman as part of the "Sparkling Diamonds" medley in the 2001 Golden Globe-nominated and Academy Award winning 20th Century Fox motion picture Moulin Rouge!.
Another musical group that called Blue Island home is the pop punk band Mest. Former Mest frontman Tony Lovato grew up there. Their performance of "I Melt With You" was part of the soundtrack from the 2001 Columbia Pictures film "Not Another Teen Movie". The CD for it was released by Maverick Records the same year.

Television and Hollywood

Because of its picturesque nature, Blue Island has been used for location shots in several movies and television series. For example, scenes from the 2006 Paramount Pictures film "Flags of Our Fathers", directed by Clint Eastwood, were filmed in Blue Island. The movie was based on the book of the same name by James Bradley with Ron Powers about the Battle of Iwo Jima, the six men who became famous for raising the American flag there, and the sensation it caused after the photograph that was taken of it by Joe Rosenthal was published by the Associated Press. Scenes from the 1987 film "Light of Day", starring Michael J. Fox, were also filmed there, including the scenes at the arcade "The Video Zone" (now a Big Boy submarine sandwich shop), as were scenes from the 2008 Universal Studios film "The Express". "The Express" is the story of Ernie Davis, who was the first black football player to win the Heisman Trophy.
Blue Island also appeared regularly in the television show "Cupid" and two episodes of the TV series "Early Edition" were filmed there.
Several actors have ties to Blue Island as well. Acclaimed actor Gary Sinise was born in Blue Island, as was the actor and writer John Franklin [] who is perhaps best known for his highly regarded work in two of the films based on Stephen King's short story "Children of the Corn." Franklin has appeared in other films, including two Paramount Pictures: "The Addams Family" and the Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated "Addams Family Values". His work on television includes appearances in the series "Highway to Heaven," "Chicago Hope" and "."


Blue Island is located at coor dms|41|39|30|N|87|40|46|W|city (41.658412, -87.679424).GR|1

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.1 square miles (10.7 km²), of which, 4.0 square miles (10.4 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.2 km²) of it (2.18%) is water.


As of the 2000 census,GR|2 there were 23,463 people, 8,247 households, and 5,467 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,822.4 people per square mile (2,247.9/km²). There were 8,750 housing units at an average density of 2,171.3/sq mi (838.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 53.68% White, 24.10% African American, 0.60% Native American, 0.37% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 17.68% from other races, and 3.55% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 37.93% of the population, including 34.0% of Mexican descent.

The top four non-Hispanic, non-African American ancentries reported in Blue Island as of the 2000 census were German (11.7%), Irish (10.4%), Polish (6.7%) and Italian (6.6%). [PDFlink| [ Profile of General Demographic Characteristics, Blue Island, Illinois] |38.8 KiB . U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed 2007-07-11.]

living together, 19.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.7% were non-families. 28.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.84 and the average family size was 3.54.

In the city the population was spread out with 30.1% under the age of 18, 10.7% from 18 to 24, 32.1% from 25 to 44, 17.4% from 45 to 64, and 9.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 95.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $36,520, and the median income for a family was $42,277. Males had a median income of $31,599 versus $26,425 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,156. About 12.3% of families and 13.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.4% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those age 65 or over.


Nearly all of Blue Island is in Illinois' 1st congressional district; the portion east of the Dan Ryan Expressway is in the 2nd district.

Claims to fame

Henry Seyfarth was born and raised in Blue Island and began his legal career in an office above the First National Bank of Blue Island (now [ Great Lakes Bank of Choice)] , a business with family associations that was founded in 1896 as Zacharias, Bourke & Co. In 1945, Seyfarth left the now defunct Chicago Law firm of Pope and Ballard with Lee Shaw and Owen Fairweather to found what is now known as [ Seyfarth Shaw] , recognized today as of the world's largest and most respected law firms, which specializes in business and employee relations. Lawyers from the firm helped draft the Taft-Hartley Act [] in 1947. Seyfarth Shaw now has 750 attorneys operating from ten offices around the world.

The popular televangelist Robert A. Schuller was born in Blue Island. He is a minister of the Christian denomination theReformed Church in America, and since 2006 has been the spiritual leader of the megachurch Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA. The church was designed by the distinguished architect Phillip Johnson and built from 1977-1980 during the tenure of his father Robert H. Schuller. The church has over 10,000 members and is the home of the television ministry "Hour of Power", [] which has an audience of over 25 million viewers a week.

The noted early 20th century architect Robert E. Seyfarth was born and raised in Blue Island. []



External links

* [ Blue Island Matters: A blog about Blue Island, Illinois]

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