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Sycamore
Downtown Sycamore - Looking west from State Street and Main Street.
Downtown Sycamore - Looking west from State Street and Main Street.
Location of Sycamore in DeKalb County, Illinois.
Location of Sycamore in DeKalb County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Country United States
State Illinois
County DeKalb
Area
 • Total 10.18 sq mi (26.36 km2)
 • Land 10.12 sq mi (26.21 km2)
 • Water 0.06 sq mi (0.15 km2)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 18,577
 • Density 1,835.67/sq mi (708.73/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
60178
Area code(s) 815
FIPS code 17-74223
Wikimedia Commons Sycamore, Illinois
Website Official Website

Sycamore is a city in DeKalb County, Illinois, United States. It has a commercial district based and centered on Illinois Route 64. The population was 17,519 at the 2010 census, up from 12,020 in 2000. As of 2019, the population has grown to an estimated 18,322. Sycamore is the county seat of DeKalb County and was named after the sycamore tree.

History

Early settlement

Prior to settlement the county of DeKalb that Sycamore is contained within was populated by the Pottawatomie. The first European settlers to the Sycamore-area arrived in 1835 and concentrated themselves mostly north of the Kishwaukee River and the present site of Sycamore. The original town was platted by a New Yorker named Christian Sharer. A mill was constructed and the Kishwaukee dammed but the town failed. By 1837, after some controversy, the location of county seat was settled in favor of Orange, Sycamore's original name, and the settlement moved to the present-day site of the city.

The present-day town site was platted by James Waterman and Evans Wharry in 1837. The first settler at the new site was Carlos Lattin, who preceded the town, having arrived in 1835. Lattin staked a claim that included most of the present west side of the city and erected his first cabin just north of downtown.

Later settlement

Following the end of the second county seat controversy, in 1839, the first DeKalb County Courthouse was built in the city, as well as Sycamore's first hotel. A year later the settlement consisted of 12 houses, which increased to 18 by 1844. Sycamore then began an era of steady growth marked by population increases in 1848 to 262, 1849 to 320, 1850 to 390, 1851 to 435. The Sycamore and Cortland Railroad arrived in the late 1850s and a station was erected in Sycamore. Sycamore was home to 41 commercial and industrial business by 1855. In 1858, Sycamore was incorporated as a village. Following the American Civil War the railroad began to assist Sycamore's growth and the settlement was incorporated as a city in 1869.

Geography

Sycamore is located at 41°59′2″N 88°41′39″W / 41.98389°N 88.69417°W / 41.98389; -88.69417 (41.983850, -88.694091). The city is located along Illinois Route 64 (State Street in Sycamore) about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Rockford and 55 miles (89 km) west-northwest of Chicago. It is along the south bank of the East Branch of the South Branch Kishwaukee River in DeKalb County.

According to the 2010 census, Sycamore has a total area of 9.768 square miles (25.30 km2), of which 9.73 square miles (25.20 km2) (or 99.61%) is land and 0.038 square miles (0.10 km2) (or 0.39%) is water. The terrain in Sycamore and the surrounding area is gently rolling and contains rich soil which was originally heavily forested.

Cityscape

The commercial district of Sycamore is based on Illinois Route 64, and stretches about a mile down starting from the intersection of route 64 with Illinois Route 23 and ending at Center Cross Road. The district is composed of two-story shops, a bank, small movie theater, and The Midwest Museum of Natural History. The town also has the county courthouse, built in 1904, of limestone.

Culture

Tourism

Sycamore IL Courthouse lawn Pumpkin Fest 2007
The DeKalb County Courthouse lawn becomes a colorful display of pumpkins during the annual Sycamore Pumpkin Festival.

Sycamore is home to the annual Sycamore Pumpkin Festival, a pumpkin festival established in 1962 when local resident Wally Thurow began displaying pumpkins on his front lawn. The festival features many activities, a carnival, and a parade. The lawn of the DeKalb County Courthouse is the center of the event and includes a display of decorated and carved pumpkins. The event attracts thousands to Sycamore from locations throughout northern Illinois, the Midwest, and the broader United States.

The city is also home to the Sycamore Historic District, an architecturally interesting area containing over 200 individual properties. The district was established in 1978 when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The area is bounded in an irregular pattern along Main and Somonauk Streets but contains portions of several other streets and includes much of the downtown commercial district and residential areas north and south of downtown. During the summer, the Sycamore Historical Society offers guided walking tours with a local historian.

Sycamore is also home to the Midwest Museum of Natural History, featuring a varied taxidermy collection.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 338
1860 1,271 276.0%
1870 1,967 54.8%
1880 3,028 53.9%
1890 2,987 −1.4%
1900 3,653 22.3%
1910 3,926 7.5%
1920 3,602 −8.3%
1930 4,021 11.6%
1940 4,702 16.9%
1950 5,912 25.7%
1960 6,961 17.7%
1970 7,843 12.7%
1980 9,219 17.5%
1990 9,708 5.3%
2000 12,020 23.8%
2010 17,519 45.7%
2020 18,577 6.0%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 12,020 people, 4,692 households, and 3,148 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,191.6 people per square mile (846.9/km2). There were 4,925 housing units at an average density of 898.0 per square mile (347.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.39% White, 2.74% African American, 0.22% Native American, 0.83% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.56% from other races, and 1.24% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.27% of the population.

There were 4,692 households, out of which 36.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.9% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.9% were non-families. 27,4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.13.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 28.0% under the age of 18, 8.3% from 18 to 24, 31.3% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 10.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $51,921, and the median income for a family was $62,083. Males had a median income of $42,676 versus $27,520 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,112. About 2.3% of families and 3.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.3% of those under age 18 and 4.6% of those age 65 or over.

2010 earthquake

On February 10, 2010, Sycamore and the surrounding areas experienced an earthquake. The shock had a moment magnitude of 3.8 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of IV (Light). It was felt 214 km (134 miles) away in Madison, Wisconsin. When the quake was first reported, it was thought Sycamore was the epicenter. However, revised data from the USGS determined the epicenter to be closer to Virgil. This was the first earthquake in Northern Illinois since a M4.2 (intensity V (Moderate)) event in 2004.

Economy

Sycamore has never had a large manufacturing or industrial sector. Among Sycamore's early industries were Marsh Harvester Manufacturing, R. Ellwood Manufacturing, and Sycamore Preserve Works. Marsh Harvester was established in 1859, Ellwood in 1875 and the preserve works in 1891. R. Ellwood Manufacturing relocated to DeKalb in 1891.

Today, Ideal Industries a privately owned manufacturer is based in Sycamore.

Education

Public schooling began in Sycamore as early as 1839, with classes held in the first DeKalb County Courthouse, a log building across the street from the courthouse's current location. The city's first school building was built in 1853. Current public education needs in Sycamore are provided by Sycamore Community Unit School District 427. The current Superintendent of Sycamore School District is Kathy Countryman. The district operates Sycamore High School, Sycamore Middle School, and five elementary schools. The newest elementary school, North Grove, opened in 2009 was built for access by the nearby subdivision.

Notable people

  • David Boies, attorney, born in Sycamore
  • Adam C. Cliffe, United States court judge
  • Reuben Ellwood Republican U.S. Representative from Illinois. (d.1885). Buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
  • William J. Fulton, Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, lived in Sycamore
  • Mark Johnston, former cornerback for Houston Oilers, born in Sycamore
  • Ben Niemann (b.1995) - linebacker for NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. Won the Super Bowl 2020.
  • Alvah Sabin, politician, congressman, lived in Sycamore
  • Frederick B. Townsend, judge, mayor of Sycamore
  • Floyd K. Whittlemore, Illinois state treasurer
  • David A. Wirsling, Illinois representative and farmer, born in Sycamore

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