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Lake Forest, Illinois
Lake Forest City Hall
Lake Forest City Hall
Location of Lake Forest in Lake County, Illinois.
Location of Lake Forest in Lake County, Illinois.
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Coordinates: 42°14′5″N 87°51′3″W / 42.23472°N 87.85083°W / 42.23472; -87.85083Coordinates: 42°14′5″N 87°51′3″W / 42.23472°N 87.85083°W / 42.23472; -87.85083
Country United States
State Illinois
County Lake
Township Moraine, Shields, Vernon, West Deerfield
Founded 1900
 • Total 17.27 sq mi (44.72 km2)
 • Land 17.20 sq mi (44.55 km2)
 • Water 0.07 sq mi (0.17 km2)
 • Total 19,375
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,130.52/sq mi (436.49/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 847, 224
FIPS code 17-41105
Wikimedia Commons Lake Forest, Illinois

Lake Forest is a city located in Lake County, Illinois, United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 19,375. The city is along the shore of Lake Michigan, and is a part of the Chicago metropolitan area and the North Shore. Lake Forest was founded with Lake Forest College and was laid out as a town in 1857, a stop for travelers making their way south to Chicago. The Lake Forest City Hall, designed by Charles Sumner Frost, was completed in 1898. It originally housed the fire department, the Lake Forest Library, and city offices.


Lake Forest is located in the North Shore area of Chicago, at 42°14′5″N 87°51′3″W / 42.23472°N 87.85083°W / 42.23472; -87.85083 (42.234788, -87.851042).

According to the 2010 census, Lake Forest has a total area of 17.246 square miles (44.67 km2), of which 17.18 square miles (44.50 km2) (or 99.62%) is land and 0.066 square miles (0.17 km2) (or 0.38%) is water.


The Potawatomi inhabited Lake County before money and violence pushed them away in 1836.

As Lake Forest was first developed in 1857, the planners laid roads that would provide very limited access to the city in an effort to prevent outside traffic and further isolate the tranquil settlement from neighboring areas. Though considerably more accessible today, due in part to the extensive new construction taking place further west, the much smaller neighborhood of eastern Lake Forest, near the coast of Lake Michigan, remains relatively secluded and is one of the most scenic, historical, and architecturally significant suburbs of Chicago. These neighborhoods include estates and homes designed by distinguished architects like Howard Van Doren Shaw, David Adler, Frank Lloyd Wright, Arthur Heun, Jerome Cerny, Henry Ives Cobb, and modernist George Fred Keck among others. Landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Jens Jensen also designed projects in Lake Forest. Market Square, designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw, was completed in 1916 as a commercial center for Lake Forest.

The secluded style of Lake Forest was no accident; indeed, it was a form of protection. According to the president of the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society, the captains of industry and WASP elite who first settled in Lake Forest sought a refuge from a Chicago teeming with, in their view, immigrants with their dangerous socialist ideas and sinful alcoholic libations.

Country clubs became important centers of social activity in Lake Forest's early years, and the Onwentsia Club was, in the words of one writer, "the premiere social and sporting club in the Midwest." One example of the activities that occurred there was an 1898 plantation-themed party, at which members dined on fried chicken, corn on the cob, and watermelon served by—in keeping with the party's theme -- "little colored girls." After-dinner entertainment included a minstrel show.

One of Lake Forest's most notable features is its virgin prairies and other nature preserves. In 1967, a group of 12 long-time residents of Lake Forest formed a land conservation organization, Lake Forest Open Lands Association. Its express purpose was to purchase or otherwise set aside the rapidly disappearing open spaces in the city, in the interests of preserving animal habitat, restoring ecosystems, and providing environmental education for the city's children. In the next 38 years, the group managed to acquire over 700 acres (2.8 km2) within the city limits, which now form six nature preserves with 12 miles (19 km) of walking trails open to the public. Preserved in perpetuity are wetlands, original pre-1830 prairie, woodland, and savanna, all within the community.

The Ragdale Foundation, an artists' community and residence, is located in Lake Forest. Formerly Howard Van Doren Shaw's summer retreat and built in 1897, the estate has accommodated notable artist Sylvia Shaw Judson.

In 1992, Lake Forest gained national attention when it attempted to ban the sale of offensive music to anyone under the age of 18.

Lake Forest has been named a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation in recognition of its commitment to community forest. As of 2006, Lake Forest had received this national honor for 26 years. The actor Mr. T notably angered the town by cutting down more than 100 oak trees on his estate, in what is now referred to as the "Lake Forest Chain Saw Massacre."


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 877
1890 1,203 37.2%
1900 2,215 84.1%
1910 3,349 51.2%
1920 3,657 9.2%
1930 6,554 79.2%
1940 6,885 5.1%
1950 7,819 13.6%
1960 10,687 36.7%
1970 15,642 46.4%
1980 15,245 −2.5%
1990 17,836 17.0%
2000 20,059 12.5%
2010 19,375 −3.4%
2019 (est.) 19,446 0.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 19,375 people living in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 92.11% White, 4.67% Asian, 2.80% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 1.30% of two or more races, 1.10% Black or African American, 0.14% Native American, 0.01% Pacific Islander, and 0.68% of some other race.

As of the census of 2000, there were 20,059 people, 6,687 households, and 5,329 families living in the city. The population density was 1,189.4 people per square mile (459.1/km2). There were 7,001 housing units at an average density of 415.1 per square mile (160.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.80% White, 1.35% African American, 0.06% Native American, 2.45% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 0.44% from other races, and 0.77% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.87% of the population.

There were 6,687 households, out of which 39.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 73.6% were married couples living together, 4.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 20.3% were non-families. Of all households 18.3% Of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.78 and the average family size was 3.17.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 27.5% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 19.7% from 25 to 44, 28.6% from 45 to 64, and 14.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.5 males.

According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $150,670, and the median income for a family was more than $200,000. Males had a median income of $100,000+ versus $44,083 for females. The per capita income for the city was $77,092. About 0.15% of families and 0.2% of the population were below the poverty line.


Lake Forest has Interstate Highway access through the Tri-State Tollway (I-94). In addition, the Skokie Highway (U.S. Highway 41) runs through Lake Forest, roughly bisecting the city. Lake Forest is connected with suburbs west of it through Illinois Route 60. Additionally, Lake Forest has two Metra commuter railroad stations, both of which share the same name. The Union Pacific/North Line has a station in East Lake Forest, while the Milwaukee District/North Line has a station in West Lake Forest.

Arts and entertainment

Lake Forest is home to Citadel Theatre, the Gorton Community Center which includes the John and Nancy theatre, the Music Institute of Chicago Lake Forest Campus and the Deer Path Art League.


Lake Forest is noted in the Chicago area for its history of polo, once being the westernmost establishment of the sport in the United States. It was home to the "East-West clash of 1933" in which a team of "Westerners", today Midwesterners, challenged the best of the Eastern US polo teams, winning two of three matches. Box seats sold for $5.50, and the general public was admitted for $1.10. The Chicago press covered the match extensively, right down to the arrival of every horse and player, the color of the horseflesh and the color of the goalposts. The match was described as a "gleaming moment in American polo, if not the very zenith of the game in this country." Today, Lake Forest continues the tradition, and polo is played yearly throughout August. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan's polo ponies are said to have been bred in Lake Forest. Furthermore, the character of Daisy Buchanan was based on Fitzgerald's ex-girlfriend Lake Forest resident Ginevra King, whose family brought polo ponies to Lake Forest.

In popular culture


  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers; Dave ( the main character ) and his family are from Lake Forest and the beginning of the story takes place there.
  • "Ordinary People" by Judith Guest; the central characters live in the community and much of the story takes place there.
  • It, novel by Stephen King; Lake Forest is mentioned early in the book.
  • The Lay of the Land, novel by Richard Ford; Frank Bascombe's in-laws are from Lake Forest.
  • The Group has a character named Lakey from Lake Forest.
  • Tender Is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald; the character of Nicole Warren and her family have an estate in Lake Forest.
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald; the character of Tom Buchanan imports his "string of polo ponies" from Lake Forest to Long Island, New York.


  • Ordinary People, the story of a Lake Forest family, directed by Robert Redford was filmed on location in Lake Forest in 1980, and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • Cheaper by the Dozen 2; Lake Forest is where Jimmy Murtaugh's children go to a private school.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off; parts of the film were filmed in uptown Lake Forest.
  • Girls Just Want to Have Fun; Sarah Jessica Parker's snobby rival Natalie is from Lake Forest.
  • Public Enemies; parts of the 2009 film were shot at Barat College.
  • The Vow; Rachel McAdams's character and her family is from Lake Forest.
  • My Reputation; Barbara Stanwyck plays a Lake Forest widow in this wartime love story from 1946.
  • Ocean's Twelve; during the opening sequence of the film, a jewelry store in downtown Lake Forest is featured.
  • The Razor's Edge (1984 film); Bill Murray's character and his friends are from Lake Forest.


Most Lake Forest residents attend Lake Forest School District 67 and Lake Forest High School. Lake Forest High School serves Lake Forest as well as parts of neighboring Lake Bluff.

Lake Forest also has another school district, Rondout School District 72, which serves far-eastern parts of Libertyville, and all parts of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff that lie within Libertyville Township. It has one school, Rondout Elementary School, which serves grades K-8. Students attend Libertyville High School after graduating.

Elementary schools and middle schools

  • Rondout Elementary School-public
  • Deer Path Middle School—public
  • Cherokee Elementary School—public
  • Everett Elementary School—public
  • Sheridan Elementary School—public
  • Lake Forest Country Day School—private
  • School of St. Mary—private
  • East Lake Academy—private
  • Montessori School of Lake Forest—private; Montessori
  • Forest Bluff School—private; Montessori; in neighboring Lake Bluff; majority of students live in Lake Forest

High schools

  • 2019 Lake Michigan Freezes
    During the early 2019 cold wave Lake Michigan froze as temperatures plunged below 0 °F (−18 °C) for nearly 48 hours.
    Lake Forest High School—public
  • Lake Forest Academy—private
  • Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart—private


  • Barat College—closed on June 30, 2005 after 100 years in Lake Forest
  • Lake Forest College
  • Lake Forest Graduate School of Management

Notable people

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