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Woodstock, Illinois

The Woodstock Opera House on the Square in historic downtown Woodstock
Motto: "True to Its Past; Confident of Its Future"
Country United States
State Illinois
County McHenry
Townships Dorr, Greenwood, Hartland, Seneca
Area 13.55 sq mi (35 km2)
 - land 13.55 sq mi (35 km2)
 - water 0.00 sq mi (0 km2)
Population 24,770 (2010)
Density 2,304.5 / sq mi (890 / km2)
Founded 1852
Mayor Dr. Brian Sager
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 60098
Area code 815/779
Location of Woodstock within Illinois and the Chicago area
Wikimedia Commons:

Woodstock is a city located 51 miles (82 km) northwest of Chicago in McHenry County, Illinois, and is the county seat of McHenry County.[1] The population was 20,151 at the 2000 census. The 2010 census shows 24,770 residents. The city is the home of the Woodstock Opera House and Old McHenry County Courthouse. The city was named in 2007 as one of the nation's Dozen Distinctive Destinations 2007 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[2]


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
  • Demographics 3
  • Culture 4
    • Theatre and film 4.1
    • Music 4.2
    • News 4.3
    • Annual traditions 4.4
  • Education 5
  • Economy 6
    • Top employers 6.1
  • Transportation 7
  • Notable people 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


Main Street about 1910

Centerville, as it was originally called, was chosen as the county seat on September 4, 1843 due to its proximity to the geographic center of McHenry County. Early area settler Alvin Judd developed a plat for the town, incorporating a two-acre public square, near which a 2-story frame courthouse and jail were constructed the following year by George C. Dean and Daniel Blair. In 1845, resident Joel Johnson's recommendation to give Centerville a more original name was met, and thereafter the town was known as Woodstock (after Johnson's hometown of [3]

In 1895, a Chicago federal court sentenced former president of the American Railway Union Eugene V. Debs for his participation in the 1894 Pullman labor strike. Fearing that he'd be surrounded with too many sympathetic people in a Chicago prison, officials decided to put him on a train for the Woodstock Jail (built 1887), then housed in the red courthouse on the Square. It is said that the Woodstock Jail is where he encountered the works of Karl Marx, which he read. By the time he was released (purportedly before 10,000+ onlookers in the Woodstock Square) in 1895, Debs had become a socialist. He later ran for the United States Presidency under the newly formed Social Democratic Party against William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan, and then again in 1904.[4]

Typewriters in a Woodstock business. Photographed in 2013. Note the name "Woodstock" on some of them.

During the early part of the 20th century, Woodstock had become "Typewriter City." Home to both the Emerson Typewriter Company and the [3] This industrial boom continued through World War II, but began to gradually decline.


According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 13.55 square miles (35.1 km2), all land.[5]


Road Sign Announcing Entry Into Woodstock

As of the census[8] of 2000, there were 20,151 people, 7,273 households, and 4,843 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,891.1 people per square mile (729.9/km²). There were 7,599 housing units at an average density of 713.1 per square mile (275.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 87.48% Caucasian American, 1.06% African American, 0.23% Native American, 2.01% Asian, 7.69% from other races, and 1.52% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 19.01% of the population.

There were 7,273 households out of which 37.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.7% were married couples living together, 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.4% were non-families. 27.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.30.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.9% under the age of 18, 10.2% from 18 to 24, 33.2% from 25 to 44, 18.9% from 45 to 64, and 9.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 100.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $47,871, and the median income for a family was $54,408. Males had a median income of $40,137 versus $27,264 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,210. About 5.3% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.0% of those under age 18 and 3.0% of those age 65 or over.


Old McHenry County Courthouse and jail in Woodstock

Woodstock is the home to Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple, Founded in 2002 by Bhante Sujatha, an internationally recognized Sri Lankan Buddhist. It offers several guided meditations weekly as well as various other events related to Buddhism and Eastern traditions. The Temple is becoming increasingly popular with people attending from all over the northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Along with Bhante Sujatha, the Blue Lotus is home to three other Buddhist Monastics.

Woodstock had an important role in the creative development of Orson Welles. Welles attended the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock.[9] At Todd, Welles came under the positive influence and guidance of Roger Hill, a teacher who later became the school's headmaster. Hill provided Welles with an ad hoc educational environment that proved invaluable to his creative experience, allowing Welles to concentrate on subjects that interested him. Welles performed and staged his first theatrical experiments and productions at Todd. He also performed at the Woodstock Opera House, where the Orson Welles Stage was dedicated February 10, 2013, honoring the site of Welles's American debut as a professional theatre director.[10][11] Welles occasionally returned to Woodstock, and in a 1960 interview he named it as the one place that, to him, was home. "I suppose it's Woodstock, Illinois, if it's anywhere," Welles replied. "I went to school there for four years. If I try to think of a home, it's that."[12]

Todd School for Boys closed in 1954, and the original buildings were subsequently purchased at auction and reused by Marian Central Catholic High School and Christian Life Services.[13] The dormitory (a.k.a. "Grace Hall" or "Harrison House") was demolished in 2010.[14]

Theatre and film

In July 1934, Orson Welles coordinated the Todd Theatre Festival, a six-week summer festival at the Woodstock Opera House that featured Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir of Dublin's Gate Theatre.[15]:165 His short film The Hearts of Age was shot on the Todd campus during the festival.[16]

Several scenes in the 1987 film Planes, Trains, and Automobiles were shot in Woodstock, including the scene in which the protagonists' rental car is towed in front of a building (the old Courthouse).[17]

Woodstock was the primary filming location for the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. Outdoor and streetfront scenes were filmed at Woodstock Square, and signs from stores and businesses are visible throughout the movie.[18]


Woodstock has become an important destination for live music in McHenry County and the region with venues featuring local, national, and international artists.

A number of organizations support and promote live music in Woodstock:

  • Liquid Blues
  • Jazz on the Square
  • Off Square Music
  • Opera Woodstock
  • RIFF Productions
  • Woodstock Folk Festival
  • Woodstock City Band
  • Woodstock Mozart Festival
  • Potts & Pans Steelband[19]


Shopping on Woodstock's Historic Square

Woodstock residents have access to several local and/or regional newspapers.

The Woodstock Independent is the town's local paper of record and is delivered weekly to subscribers.[20] Published on Wednesdays, The Independent covers local government meetings, all local schools' activities, local sporting events and other community news. The Independent also publishes The Torch, a feature-oriented tabloid publication that is delivered free to all Woodstock residents 8 or 9 times a year.[21]

The Northwest Herald is a larger, daily newspaper that covers many of the northwest Chicago suburbs, including McHenry County and Woodstock. The Herald also includes national news and sports coverage.

Annual traditions

the gazebo in town square
  • Diversity Day Festival
  • Fair Diddley
  • Farmers Market
    • Official website
  • Lighting of the Square
    • Held on the Friday after Thanksgiving, this celebration kicks the Holiday season downtown. After dark, crowds gather in the Square, sing carols and mingle around the local shops. At 7pm, a small presentation is made by the mayor, City council representative and even Santa Claus. After Miss Woodstock speaks, the crowd counts down in unison and she throws the big lightswitch. All at once, Christmas lights in all the park trees and atop every building's facade turn on in a dazzling and festive introduction to the season. History of the Lighting
  • Groundhog Day
    • The town celebrates "Groundhog Day" at the beginning of every February, including tours of famous filming sites from the 1993 movie. The town now even has its own groundhog named "Woodstock Willie", who essentially performs the same tasks as "Punxsutawney Phil" at the site of the original Groundhog Day festival. Every year on the weekend of Groundhog Day, the Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theater shows Groundhog Day for free. Woodstock's Groundhog day festival also includes a traditional groundhog lighting.
  • HarvestFest
  • McHenry County Fair
  • Woodstock City Band Concerts
    • One of Woodstock's longest standing summertime traditions (starting in 1885), these free Wednesday night summer concerts are held in the Park in the Square and are often accompanied by an ice cream social.
  • Woodstock Challenge Road Run
    • The annual 10K, 5K, 1 mile and 1/2-mile family run/walk races through Emricson Park, sponsored by the Woodstock Rec Department.
    • For more information, visit rec department's website.
  • Woodstock CABA Days
  • Woodstock Folk Festival
  • Woodstock Jazz on the Square Festival
  • Woodstock Mozart Festival
    • The WMF has a 25-year tradition. Concerts in late July and early August are held in the historic Woodstock Opera House and showcase internationally acclaimed guest artists and conductors.
    • For more information visit [4]


Woodstock's public schools are part of Woodstock Community Unit School District 200, which was formed in 1969.[22] The district currently operates 6 elementary schools (Dean Street, Greenwood, Mary Endres, Olson, Prariewood and Westwood), two middle schools (Northwood and Creekside) and two high schools (Woodstock High School and Woodstock North High School).[23] The three most recent buildings, Prariewood, Creekside and WNHS, were approved in a March 2006 referendum to address crowding in schools due to the area's recent growth.[22]

Woodstock is also currently served by private educational institutions: St. Mary Catholic grade school (K-8) is located in town and students often continue on to Marian Central Catholic High School, also located in Woodstock. Residents pursuing an associate's degree normally do so at McHenry County College in neighboring Crystal Lake. The Woodstock Center of Aurora University is also located in Woodstock.


Top employers

According to Woodstock's 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[24] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 McHenry County 1,400
2 Woodstock Community Unit School District 200 1,131
3 Centegra Health System 1,111
4 Brown Printing Company 650
5 Catalent 455
6 Claussen Pickle Company 325
7 Charter Manufacturing 323
8 Walmart 280
9 Silgan 250
10 D. B. Hess[25] 90


Woodstock Railroad Station

Woodstock's railroad station is on Metra's Union/Pacific Northwest Line, which originates in Chicago's Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago.

U.S. Route 14 curves around Woodstock's southwest border, intersecting with Illinois Route 47 at Woodstock's southeast edge. Illinois Route 120 meets Route 47 approximately 1/4 mile northeast of Woodstock's Public Square.

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^ [5] Archived June 25, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b Chicagoland Encyclopedia: Woodstock, Illinois
  4. ^ Eugene V. Debs biography
  5. ^ "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files for Places - Illinois". United States Census. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  6. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  8. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  9. ^ Orson Welles Biography
  10. ^ "Orson Welles 1934 Todd Theatre Festival 80th Anniversary". Woodstock Opera House. Retrieved 2014-09-26. 
  11. ^ "Orson Welles Stage dedicated at Woodstock Opera House". Wellesnet. February 10, 2013. Retrieved 2014-09-26. 
  12. ^ "Close Up: Orson Welles, part 1". Interview by Bernard Braden,  
  13. ^ Channick, Robert (5 September 2008). "In Woodstock, historic dorm for boys school attended by Orson Welles faces demolition". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "About Hearthstone Communities". Hearthstone Communities. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Tarbox, Todd, Orson Welles and Roger Hill: A Friendship in Three Acts. Albany, Georgia: BearManor Media, 2013, ISBN 1-59393-260-X.
  16. ^ "Todd School for Boys 1848–1954, Woodstock, Illinois" (PDF). Woodstock Public Library. Retrieved 2014-09-26. 
  17. ^ Internet Movie DataBase
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Potts & Pans, Inc. NFP". Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  20. ^ The Woodstock Independent Newspaper
  21. ^ The Torch - Published by The Woodstock Independent
  22. ^ a b Woodstock CUSD History
  23. ^ [6] Archived March 4, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ City of Woodstock CAFR
  25. ^ Shinneman, Shawn (2013-07-30). "D.B. Hess to close in Woodstock; 130 will lose jobs". Northwest Herald. Retrieved 2014-09-29. 
  26. ^ "Alexander Berkman : Biography". Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  27. ^ Illini Legends List; October 10, 2009 article; Illini Headquarters Sports on-line; retrieved February 1, 2013.

External links

  • Woodstock official website
  • History of Woodstock
  • Woodstock Public Library
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