There were 19,702 households out of which 33.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.0% were married couples living together, 12.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.4% were non-families. 29.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.73 and the average family size was 3.45.
The age distribution was 26.2% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 31.7% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 95.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $43,833, and the median income for a family was $51,767. Males had a median income of $35,490 versus $26,668 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,113. About 6.2% of families and 7.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.8% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.
In 1846, the first land in "Berwyn" was deeded to Theodore Doty who built the eight-foot wide Plank Road from Chicago to Ottawa. This thoroughfare became what is now Ogden Avenue in South Berwyn. In 1856, Thomas F. Baldwin purchased of land, bordered by what is now Ogden Avenue, Ridgeland Avenue, 31st Street, and Harlem Avenue, in hopes of developing a rich and aristocratic community called "LaVergne." However, few people were interested in grassy marshland. Mud Lake extended nearly to the Southern border of today's Berwyn, and the land flooded regularly during heavy rains. Also the only mode of transportation to LaVergne was horse and buggy on the Plank Road.
To encourage people to move to LaVergne, Baldwin sold an wide strip of property to the Burlington and Quincy Railroad in 1862. The rail line opened in 1864, but the train did not stop regularly in the area. The railroad refused to build a station, so the residents of the area constructed LaVergne Station on Ridgeland Avenue in 1874.
However, the financial panic of 1873 and Baldwin's death in 1876 stunted the growth of LaVergne. Baldwin's daughter, Emma, inherited her father's estate, and in 1879 she sold most of the land to a group of realtors controlled by Marshall Field. The new development enacted building codes and stipulated the minimum building cost of each home. By the end of 1880, 12 new homes were built. By 1888, the settlement had grown so much that the Baldwin family donated the triangular piece of land bounded by Ogden Avenue, 34th Street, and Gunderson Avenue so that a school could be built. LaVergne School became the first public building in Berwyn.
In 1890 Charles E. Piper and Wilbur J. Andrews, two Chicago attorneys, purchased a plot of land from the Field syndicate to develop. The land was bounded by Wesley, Kenilworth, 31st Street, and Ogden Avenues. By the following year, the two received approval from the Cicero Township to double their land holdings.
Piper and Andrews wanted the railroad to a build a station in their development, but the railroad already had stations at La Vergne and at Harlem Avenue. Piper and Andrews decided to build a station with the understanding that trains would stop regularly. They didn't know what to name their station so they consulted a Pennsylvania train timetable to a find a name. The name they chose was "Berwyn," a beautiful subdivision outside of Philadelphia. After 1901, all settlements in the area were known as Berwyn.
While Piper and Andrews were developing the Southern portion of present-day Berwyn, John Kelly was helping to develop the North part from 12th Street to 16th Street. This area was really a part of an Oak Park subdivision, and it even appeared on some maps as "South Oak Park." In fact, children who lived in this area went to school in Oak Park. John Kelly was known as "Mr. Everything" because he was a realtor, builder, insurance seller, and community servant.
In between the two settlements there was little except for a few farms. The area between 16th and 31st Streets was not settled. There were only two paths by which to travel between the two settlements, and today these paths are known as Oak Park Avenue and Ridgeland Avenue. Although Berwyn was chartered as a city in 1908, it was not until the 1920s that this middle portion of land was developed.
During this time Berwyn was known as being the area's fastest growing suburb. The city's stringent building codes resulted in block upon block of well-built brick two story bungalows. Many also contained elaborate design elements typically not seen, such as stained glass windows, clay tile roofs, terra cotta, and intricate brick patterns. Today, Berwyn is noted as having the most significant collection of Chicago-style bungalows in the nation.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago operates two PK-8 schools in Berwyn:
The third one, St. Mary of Celle, closed after the 2004-2005 school year. The building and premises are still used though.
Parochial education students who wish to move onto Parochial secondary education can attend schools such as Fenwick High School in neighboring Oak Park, St. Joseph High School in Westchester, or Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park all of which are co-educational. Trinity High School located in River Forest is a Girls high school.
Berwyn was notable for the sculpture Spindle, created by artist Dustin Shuler, and located in the Cermak Plaza shopping center along with other works of art. This spindle was shown in the movie Wayne's World. Spindle was demolished and scrapped on the night of May 2 2008 to make way for a new Walgreens, after an eBay auction with a shipping cost estimate of $100,000 failed to attract a buyer.
Berwyn has the world's largest laundromat, in size, with 161 washers and 140 dryers, a kids' play area, big screen TVs, a bird sanctuary, and free pizza on Wednesday nights. It incurred extensive damage from an electrical fire in 2004 but was rebuilt in early 2006. This laundromat received considerable recognition for using a solar thermal system (the largest such installation in Illinois) to meet its hot water needs.
Berwyn now has a growing arts community with a professional equity theater, an Arts Council and top notch music and entertainment venues. The area has become haven for artists who enjoy a vibrant and affordable alternative to Chicago.
For a period Cermak Road earned the nickname "The Bohemian Wall Street" due to the large number of savings and loans located there. In 1991 the Chicago Sun Times reported that "Berwyn has the highest concentration of financial institutions in the world - a tribute to the frugality of its forebears." The savings and loan crisis of the 1980s hit the area especially hard.
Just off the street East Avenue is a large park called Janura Park. It has three baseball/softball diamonds and a hockey/basketball arena.
Proksa Park comprises approximately 15 acres and is located between 29th and 31st streets. It contains numerous flower beds, 64 species of trees, 85 species of shrubs, as well as a small pond and stream. Recreational facilities include 3 tennis courts, 2 softball fields, and a large playground.
The 60's/70's saw several Italian families moving into Berwyn. The Maria SS Lauretana Italian-Sicilian Religious Festival is still held near the Morton West H.S grounds during Labor Day weekend.
Ogden Avenue is part of the Historic Route 66 in Berwyn, and an annual Vintage Car Show that's been taking place in early September since 1990. Ogden Ave. is shut "shut down" from Ridgeland to Oak Park Ave. and hundreds of gearheads and car enthusiasts come out to celebrate the spirit of Route 66. More recently, Berwyn has begun to host its annual art car parade called Cartopia. Art car artists from all over the country meet under the giant car spindle to show off their latest creations, and then a parade through the neighborhood.