Calumet City

Calumet City

Calumet City, city (1990 pop. 37,840), Cook co., NE Ill., a suburb in the greater Chicago metropolitan area, near Ind.; settled 1868, inc. 1911. Once heavily industrial, the city is primarily residential with some light manufacturing. Formerly called West Hammond, it grew as a suburb of Hammond, Ind.
Calumet City is a city in Cook County, Illinois, United States. The population was 39,072 at the 2000 census. The ZIP code is 60409.

Calumet City (commonly referred to locally as "Cal City") was founded in 1892 when the villages of Schrumville and Sobieski Park merged under the name of West Hammond, since it lies on the west side of the Illinois-Indiana border from Hammond, Indiana. In 1924, West Hammond officially changed its name to Calumet City.

In addition to being bordered to the east by Hammond, it is also bordered by Burnham and Chicago to the north, Lansing to the south, and South Holland and Dolton to the west.

The First World War

When the United States entered the Great War in 1917, patriotic fervor led to many young men enlisting in the armed forces, and nowhere was that patriotism greater than in West Hammond, which saw a larger percentage of its population, per capita, enlist than any other community in the nation. Even many members of the town's sizable German population signed up for the military to fight the Central Powers. A bronze plaque bearing the names of every citizen who served in the war was dedicated at West Hammond's Memorial Park in 1922.

"Sin City"

However, with the onset of Prohibition in 1919, West Hammond/Calumet City quickly became known for something other than its patriotism. Bootleggers found local officials and police willing to turn a blind eye, and the town became a magnet for speakeasies, gambling, and prostitution. A multitude of illegal nightclubs sprang up throughout the town, and were particularly concentrated on a stretch of State Street that quickly became known regionally and, eventually, nationally as "The Strip," just as Calumet City was dubbed the original American "Sin City." With the repeal of the Volstead Act and the return of legal liquor in 1933, Calumet City's speakeasies converted into lawful nightclubs, many of them owned or influenced by organized crime elements from Chicago (including Al Capone, who owned a "getaway" home in Calumet City). Clubs, saloons and taverns continued to prosper in Calumet City, and a new record was set when it was determined that the town had more liquor licenses per capita than any other community in the nation. Many of the clubs featured Las Vegas-style showgirl revues, as well as such marquee talent as Frank Sinatra, Sophie Tucker, Keith Speaks, and Gypsy Rose Lee.

By the 1960s, shadier elements had moved in to control the town's bars, gambling, narcotics and prostitution rings when the federal government began cracking down on the large crime families, breaking up their illicit holdings and sending mob bosses to prison. In the following decades, Calumet City's Strip was no longer seen as a sort of "Northern Las Vegas," but instead was infamous as a place to acquire drugs and prostitutes, and as home to a string of seedy bars that were a shadow of the nightclubs that had once reigned there.

In the 1980s and after, reformist efforts succeeded in closing down many of Calumet City's bars, and the State Street Strip today is essentially an industrial park.

The Smiley Towers

A notable landmark and point of pride among Cal City residents is their two large water towers painted like the popular "Have a Nice Day" smiley faces: The Smiley Towers (external link) The following history of the Smiley Towers was found in the 1995 Calumet City Community Guide:

"The Story Behind the Smile"

Some huge smiles have been shedding a positive light on Calumet City since 1973.
The lemon-yellow Smiley Face water towers — one at River Oaks Center and the other at Paxton Avenue and Dolton Ave — were an idea suggested by Kim Fornero. Then a child, she could see one of the towers from her home and thought it would “look cute with a smiley face on it,” recalled Dennis Bonic, director of the Calumet City Water Department.
The 1970s were the era of the smiley face. These happy faces appeared on everything from buttons to lunch boxes.
Fornero appealed to then Mayor Robert Stefaniak, and he and the city council agreed to have the towers painted. The move made national headlines.
“There was a big to-do about it when they went up on 1973,” Bonic said. “It went national. It was on network TV before I even came to the Water Department.”
It was one of the first times anybody thought to use a water tower as a municipal billboard, he said. Other cities soon followed Calumet City's example and began putting symbols, slogans and insignias on their water towers.
The Smiley Face towers were heralded as a “progressive community project and a daily reminder to smile,” Bonic said.
The River Oaks tower, known as "Mr. Smiley Face”, sports a bow tie on its “neck”. The other tie-less tower is affectionately known as either “Mrs." or "Miss” Smiley Face”.
"I think everyone likes to see a smiley face and think about the city in a positive light,” he said "It's just a reminder to look on the bright side of things."


Calumet City is located at (41.614188, -87.546389).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.4 square miles (19.1 km²), of which, 7.3 square miles (18.8 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (1.63%) is water.


As of the 2000 census, there were 39,071 people, 15,139 households, and 10,006 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,378.0 people per square mile (2,077.9/km²). There were 15,947 housing units at an average density of 2,195.1/sq mi (848.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 38.74% White, 52.91% African American, 0.25% Native American, 0.53% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 5.37% from other races, and 2.15% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.86% of the population, including 9.4% of Mexican descent.

The top four non-African American, non-Hispanic ancentries reported in Calumet City as of the 2000 census were Polish (12.7%), German (6.5%), Irish (5.1%) and Italian (3.8%).

There were 15,139 households out of which 34.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.3% were married couples living together, 22.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.9% were non-families. 29.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.58 and the average family size was 3.21.

In the city, the age distribution of the population was 28.7% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 19.2% from 45 to 64, and 12.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 86.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $38,902, and the median income for a family was $45,998. Males had a median income of $37,231 versus $30,555 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,123. About 9.8% of families and 12.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.3% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.


Calumet City is in Illinois' 2nd congressional district.

Popular references

Calumet City is featured or mentioned in a number of major movies. John Belushi's "Joliet Jake" character from The Blues Brothers was born in Calumet City, and the orphanage that they save through donating the money from their concert is also located in Calumet City. In the book and film The Silence of the Lambs, Buffalo Bill is thought to be hiding in Calumet City, when he is actually in Belvedere, Ohio (However, the Calumet City scenes in the film were filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). Lily Tomlin's prim but assertive housewife/spokesperson "Mrs. Judith Beasley" is said to be a resident of Calumet City. ("Hi. I am not an actress, but real person like yourself.")

Calumet City is also referenced by a number of popular music acts. The Black Crowes included a video of the Smiley Towers in their 1990 video for "Hard to Handle". A photograph of the "Dolton" smiley water tower is featured on the back of the Dead Kennedys album Plastic Surgery Disasters. However, despite Kanye West's reference to Calumet in his 2005 song "Drive Slow", he does not refer to Calumet City, but rather Calumet High School, which is located on the South side of Chicago and not in Calumet City. Rapper Twista has also referenced to the city of Calumet City.

The Smiley Tower is also featured in the movie Natural Born Killers; it is seen out the window of Mallorys' family home (part of that movie was filmed in Hammond, Indiana). In the Nine Inch Nails music video on the director's cut of the same film, the Smiley Tower and Dolton Avenue/State Street is featured.


Calumet City is served by several elementary school districts :

The city is served by two high school districts:


External links

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