North Chicago

North Chicago

North Chicago, industrial city (1990 pop. 34,978), Lake co., NE Ill.; inc. 1909. Its economy is closely intertwined with the neighboring city of Waukegan, which has a harbor on Lake Michigan. Pharmaceuticals, medical diagnostic-testing equipment, chemicals, steel, and automobile parts are among the many manufactures. A sit-down strike at a steel plant there in 1937 led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision (1939) ruling such strikes illegal. Naval Station Great Lakes, the U.S. navy's main training center for naval recruits, is adjacent to the city.
North Chicago is an outer suburb/exurb of the Greater Chicago area, and is an incorporated city in Lake County, Illinois, United States. The population was 35,918 at the 2000 census.

North Chicago hosts the Great Lakes Naval Training Center and the manufacturing headquarters of Abbott Laboratories.

The city is also home to Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, which houses the Chicago Medical School and the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine.


North Chicago is located at (42.322272, -87.854470).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.8 square miles (20.3 km²), of which, 7.8 square miles (20.3 km²) of it is land and 0.13% is water.

The city is picturesquely situated on Lake Michigan. Most of its territory drains directly to the Lake, but the western region drains to the North Branch of the Chicago River, and ultimately, since the engineering projects of the 19th century, to the Illinois and thence to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

North Chicago includes a Lake County Forest Preserve unit, the Greenbelt.

North Chicago is served by the RTA Metra commuter rail system, with a stop on the Chicago - Kenosha Union Pacific line around the latitude of 17th Street, just east of Sheridan Road.


Land speculators moved into the area south of what is now the City of Waukegan in the 1890's. Industrial development began almost immediately with a railroad depot being set up in 1892; most notable was the arrival of the Washburn and Moen Manufacturing Company, a major barbed wire maker.

The settlement was incorporated as a village in 1895 and as a city in 1901. In 1911, a naval training area one thousand miles from salt water was created, the present Great Lakes Naval Training Center, currently the only "boot camp" for Navy enlisted personnel after the closure of facilities in Florida and California.

A Veteran's Administration hospital went into service in 1926. This facility was also threatened with closure in recent years, but has been retained on condition of merger with the Naval Hospital.

Historically, North Chicago was known for large populations of Eastern European immigrants. With the onset of the "Great Migration", large numbers of African Americans arrived in the city from states such as Arkansas and Alabama, and toward the end of the 20th Century, became the best known demographic group. Latterly, Latinos have arrived in significant numbers, particularly from Mexico, and now form a notable group in the city, just as they do in Waukegan to the north. It is possible that North Chicago has over time been the most diverse and multicultural municipality in Lake County.

At one time, Navy personnel were a major part of the scene in North Chicago, both the "swabbies" (enlisted men) and the officers. Now, with the degeneration of "the Strip", or entertainment district along several blocks of Sheridan Road, sailors are rarely seen north of the railroad trestle. In the fall of 2007, the city finished demolishing the buildings on Sheridan Road between Martin Luther King Drive and the railroad trestle to the north, within the framework of a new development project involving TIF financing.

Recent years have seen relentless de-industrialization and consequent loss of jobs. Though they live in what is one of the poorer towns on the North Shore, North Chicago citizens bear an unusually heavy residential tax burden, due to the gross reductions in industrial and other business activity, along with the nontaxable status of the Naval base and the VA hospital. Even the Jelly Belly factory, North Chicago's only tourist draw, has departed for Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Famous people

There were for years persistent rumors that jazz pianist and popular singer Nat King Cole lived in or at least performed in North Chicago. There is no evidence for either supposition. It is true that his father, Rev. Cole, was a respected minister and community leader in the city for years. Latterly, Bette Thomas has become the City's best known citizen, famed for her activities as social critic, activist, alderman, talk show host (on the cable program, "Tell it like it is") and notably, from 2001 to 2005, The first African American Female Mayor of North Chicago. Jerry Johnson was also a noted mayor of the city during the 1990s. Bobby Thompson, the predecessor of noted mayor Jerry Johnson, was the first African American mayor.

Noted for his ability to collaborate with officials from the state, county and other organizations, the current mayor, Leon Rockingham, Jr., has been noted by United States Congressman, Mark Kirk, as the "can do" Mayor. Rockingham's vision for the city include a 40 acre retail and hospitality development outside of Naval Station Great Lakes' Gate 4.


As of the census of 2000, there were 35,918 people, 7,661 households, and 5,577 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,586.3 people per square mile (1,771.1/km²). There were 8,377 housing units at an average density of 1,069.6/sq mi (413.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 47.72% White, 36.26% African American, 0.84% Native American, 3.59% Asian, 0.15% Pacific Islander, 7.66% from other races, and 3.79% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 18.24% of the population.

There were 7,661 households out of which 46.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% were married couples living together, 18.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.2% were non-families. 21.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.09 and the average family size was 3.64.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.1% under the age of 18, 34.7% from 18 to 24, 27.5% from 25 to 44, 9.2% from 45 to 64, and 4.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 156.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 176.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $38,180, and the median income for a family was $40,485. Males had a median income of $24,480 versus $23,736 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,564. About 12.0% of families and 15.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.3% of those under age 18 and 15.4% of those age 65 or over.

It should be borne in mind, when drawing conclusions from these numbers, that North Chicago census figures include the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, which is to some degree a separate sociological unit from the rest of the city.


  • North Chicago, by Charles M. Leeks and Mary L. Robinson, in: Local Community Fact Book : Chicago Metropolitan Area (1990). Chicago : The Chicago Fact Book Consortium, Dept of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago, c1995.
  • North Chicago, IL, by Wallace Best, in: The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, c2004.irac


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