Yesterday was 1959
Residents of Palos Heights who were there when the city was incorporated will say it seems like only yesterday. Compared with the long histories of some neighboring communities, it was only yesterday.
In the city’s brief 40-plus years, Palos Heights has grown to be one of the most desirable places to live in all of Chicagoland, full of quiet, tree-shaded neighborhoods of well-kept, homes and lush parklands.
Indian burial grounds and the lingering remains of an old fort in neighboring Palos Park Forest Preserve trace a history of the area that dates back many centuries.
What is now Palos Heights was open farmland bordering Harlem Avenue until 1935 when Robert Bartlett Building Corporation purchased it for housing. The nation was still struggling through the Great Depression and the long-stagnant housing market needed a shot in the arm.
Bartlett saw what the firm called "Harlem Heights" as an opportunity to move real estate sales out of the doldrums. The company places a lengthy list of restrictions on each property as it was purchased. The convenants, though now judged unconstitutional, were designed to sustain the value of the new homes built, thus creating an incentive to buy. Lots, called "farmettes," were quarter-acre in size and sold for $99. Each lot came with a dozen trees and six grape vines. Of course, buyers had to plant the trees and be watchful when mowing the grass until the trees grew in size. Early buyers also received several incubated chicken eggs, in case they wanted to try chicken farming.
As Bartlett’s development grew, so too did talk of incorporating as a community. Three times, the matter was put to referendum and lost every time. The fourth try on April 16, 1959 was successful. Harlem Heights became the City of Palos Heights, named for the "Palos" in Palos Township. Its first officials were elected on June 6, 1959 and the first annexation of new land came 19-days later. Palos Heights had begun to grow.
Residential lots in Palos Heights are a quarter-acre in size or larger. Mature trees shade broad lawns that blend into roadways without city-like sidewalks, curbs, and gutters. Thus, the roadways take on the character of quiet country lanes.
The city’s earliest homes line linear streets east and west of Harlem Avenue. This area set the pattern of large, quarter-acre lots that has continued as Palos Heights has grown. Homes are well-maintained and frequently show evidence of expansion from the original designs.
To the south of this area, homes are newer and increased in size. Streets become curvilinear, gracefully bending to enhance attractiveness of streets and the homes lining them. Here, subdivisions bear such appealing names as Navajo Hills, Ishnala, and Palos Pines. At the far southern tip of the city is Oak Hills, a gated subdivision of posh townhomes and condominiums built around a private nine-hole gold course of the same name.
There is housing that overlooks the Lake Katherine Nature Preserve. Located at the northern edge of the city, off of College Drive, elegant townhomes are clustered into three separate communities: The Moorings, Lake Katherine Harbor, and Lake Katherine View Estates. Tax increment financing aided development of Lake Katherine, a community center, the homes, and office buildings that line College Drive.
The newest development in Palos heights is Westgate Valley. Westgate Valley will have 868 single-family homes, townhouses and condominiums when completed. About 115 homes are occupied.
Commerce & Business
Diverse Shopping Pleasures
Palos Heights is one of the few communities that have a downtown business district. It is on Harlem Avenue and is called Olde Palos Shopping Center.
Olde Palos Shopping Center offers everything from bridal gowns and accessories to fine dining, from hardware to portrait photography, from sundries to major food stores, and from a coffee shop to auto service centers and fast food outlets.
As the community grows, shopping and services expanded beyond the Olde Palos section, extending from College Drive on the north to 127th Street on the south. Harlem Avenue is lined with banks, cozy shops, boutiques, and a variety of restaurants.
Occasionally, major intersections in the community have a convenience market or small shopping center, adding to shopping accessibility. Near Harlem on College Drive, Tiffany Square Shopping Center offers ample parking and more than a dozen stores and restaurants, including fast food. Another small shopping center in the community has the quaint name of Southwich Commons.
Palos Heights regards itself as a bedroom community, not a business and industrial center. Still, several low-rise office buildings in the vicinity of the Lake Katherine Nature Preserve are home to corporate branch offices and various professional and service offices.
Arts & Entertainment
A High Level of Culture
Palos Heights residents can join in a variety of different cultural events. Moraine Valley Community College in nearby Palos Hills serves as a cultural core for the Palos area. The Fine and Performing Arts Center houses instructional classrooms and labs, rehearsal rooms, two theatres, and an art gallery comprised mostly of student work. It is also the home of the Prairie Dog Theater, a non-equity community theater company. The Fine and Performing Arts Center brings many well-known artists and speakers to the campus. You can also enjoy the Southwest Symphony Orchestra at the Dorothy Menker Theater.
The First Midwest Bank Amphitheater is located in nearby Tinley Park, to hear the top stars of popular music. The theater is the world’s largest outdoor music theater, seating 27,000 people in the pavilion and 20,000 more on the lawn. It’s a great place to enjoy music under the stars.
For local art lovers, the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park holds special appeal. Located on the campus of Governors State University, its collection of twenty-two outdoor sculptures is widely regarded as among the finest in the world. It also has the regional Center for Technology and the Performing Arts. Its 1,200-seat auditorium brings national and internationally famed arts to its stage.
The Palos Heights Public Library, located one block east of Harlem proves its popularity with an annual circulation of more than 177,000 items. On average, nearly 3,500 people visit the library each week.
The library is located at 12501 S. 71st Avenue and is open Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. only from Labor Day through Memorial Day (Not open on Sunday during the summer months). Your local library card can be used at other area libraries through the Library's membership in the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS). For more information please call (708) 448-1473.
Please click here to visit the Palos Heights Public Library website.
Dining in Palos Heights can be a genuine pleasure. Many family-style restaurants offer tasty dishes at reasonable prices. There is wide selection of different restaurants offering delicious menu choices.
In the summertime, you can enjoy various evening concerts at the gazebo in Memorial Park. The concerts offer a large array of music from the 30’s to today.