Spanning about 17 square miles, with a population of 76,422 in 2003, Arlington Heights is the largest of any village in Illinois. Situated just 25 miles from downtown Chicago, Arlington Heights is a vibrant community tucked within the city’s attractive northwest suburban corridor. Despite its large population and ever-expanding business associations, residents of Arlington Heights often say that “the village retains many small time charms—people remain in their homes for decades, stay loyal to local merchants and display a strong spirit of community participation.”
According to the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, apart from its “growing downtown skyline, expanding shopping areas, and new office parks,” Arlington Heights is perhaps best known for its Arlington Park Race Track, home of the world’s first million dollar horse race in 1981. The community is also home to the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, which has one of the largest collections in the state, as well as the Metropolis Performing Arts Theatre: an eclectic central business district project, including a “300-seat performing arts theater, a 7,000-square-foot restaurant, 22,000 square feet of retail space, and 35,000 square feet of office space. In addition, the Performing Arts Centre houses Second City Northwest—the suburban branch of the famous comedy troupe.”
Though today Arlington Heights boasts a population of over 76,000, a thriving economic climate, and a diverse array of businesses and residences, the history of the town dates back about a century and a half ago. The village of Arlington Heights originally bore the eponymous name Dunton, in honor of its founding father, “Asa Dunton, a Yankee stonecutter, who first staked claim of the area in 1836. By the mid 19th century, the single biggest force shaping the fledgling Midwest was the railroad. So, in 1850, Asa’s son, William Dunton, persuaded the railroad builders to route the train through his town by selling 16 acres of his own land for railroad right of way for only $350.” It turned out to be an auspicious move. The improved transportation to Chicago spurred the industrial and farming growth of the community, and, in 1874, “Dunton” was changed first to West Wheeling and then, in 1887—when the village was incorporated—to its present day name of Arlington Heights.
Arlington Heights has undergone substantial changes over the last couple of years—most notably, an upgrading of infrastructure and development of new recreation areas.
In conjunction with a 10-year project to upgrade its storm sewer system, the village of Arlington Heights together with the Arlington Heights Park District spearheaded two monumental undertakings: Lake Arlington and Nickol Knoll Park. Touted by the Village Chamber of Commerce as a “5-acre man-made lake with a boathouse, boat rentals and a walking path around the entire perimeter,” Lake Arlington was completed in 1992. And finished in 1995, what was formerly a “landfill site at the extreme northwest corner of town” has been transformed into Nickol Knoll Park, a beautiful recreational area, complete with a “9-hole golf course, ballparks and walking path.”