History & Demographics
History (courtesy of the History Center)
Arts and Culture
Community Information OverviewWith an area of approximately 17 square miles, Lake Forest is home to 19,367 people according to the 2020 Census. The City of Lake Forest was incorporated as a city under a special charter granted by the Illinois State Legislature in 1861 that permits Lake Forest to be administered efficiently and economically with a minimum number of separate government bodies. The City Council is the legislative and policy-making body and includes the Mayor and two Aldermen from each of the City's four wards.
The City operates under the council-manager form of government with the day-to-day operations of the City in the hands of a full-time, professional City Manager who is appointed by the Mayor with the approval of the City Council.
Residents are provided excellent educational opportunities through the public and private elementary and high schools, as well as Lake Forest College and the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.
With its natural beauty every season, Lake Forest is a remarkable community because of the individuals who call it home.
Whether you are new to the community or have lived here all your life, we know you will agree that Lake Forest is an exceptional place. Its natural beauty, special characteristics and generous residents create a wonderful environment in which to live. It is a city that values its rich heritage, offers high quality educational opportunities, and preserves its historic structures and natural open spaces.
In addition to the many services it offers to the community, the City provides excellent facilities for seniors (Dickinson Hall) and youth (CROYA), offers a state-of-the-art fitness center and 18-hole golf course, and operates its own water plant and cemetery.
History and Preservation
The City of Lake Forest, incorporated as a City under a charter granted by the Illinois State Legislature in 1861, was primarily founded to support the establishment of church-related educational institutions. Lake Forest's claim to historic distinction however, rests on many factors that are both physical and social.
Present-day Lake Forest is physically distinctive not only because of its picturesque street plan, but because of the early date when it was platted. Of the suburban communities in America that were planned in the nineteenth century, according to the picturesque principles worked out for English gardens and American rural cemeteries and parks, Lake Forest is one of the very earliest, coming only five years after the first such town in America, Llewellyn Park, New Jersey, was founded in 1852. The Lake Forest plan, platted in 1857, is notable because its architect, the landscape gardener Almerin Hotchkiss, went on to create such other important picturesque places in the Midwest such as Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis. The general concept reflected in the Hotchkiss plan is of the city in a park, with its streets laid out in an organic manner that takes into account such natural features as the ravines and lake bluffs, instead of forcing the street plan into a formal gridiron plan.
Lake Forest is equally famous for the many notable persons who chose to make their permanent or summer homes there. By World War I, the list of property owners in Lake Forest read like a Who's Who of the rich and famous in Chicago. In addition, Lake Forest is also noted for the quality and character of its architecture whether erected for residential, religious, educational or public purposes. Although the names of some of the earliest architects working for Lake Forest clients are still unknown, it is probable they were among the foremost of their profession practicing in Chicago. One of the earliest architect who we know to have worked in Lake Forest was Henry Ives Cobb, who built his estate in Lake Forest in 1890. Other noted Lake Forest resident architects were Charles Frost and Howard Van Doren Shaw, both of whom also maintained estates. Even such well-known eastern architects as James Gamble Rogers and Charles Platt were called upon to design for Lake Forest clients. In short, the quality of the architecture in Lake Forest was very high, and the quality of its construction equally so.
It is these same factors that give Lake Forest its historical significance, that also make the estate areas of residential Lake Forest historically and visually distinctive. In addition, it was the concentration in Lake Forest, probably more so than in any other community west of the Hudson River, of a vast assemblage of impressive estates laid out by important architects for some of most influential families of Chicago that makes both Lake Forest and its estates especially significant. Coupled with its unusual location high on the bluffs overlooking an inland sea, and its equally rare early picturesque plan, Lake Forest is a unique place of special historical and physical distinction.