|North Chicago was originally called Waukegan when it was incorporated in 1895. It was changed to North Chicago in 1901. Because of its close proximity to Lake Michigan and Chicago, the village was ideal for manufacturing. By 1912, North Chicago consisted of 15 industrial enterprises and 26 saloons. All of these establishments generated city revenue in the form of license fees. |
In the late nineteenth century the following industries located in North Chicago: Washburn & Moen Manufacturing Company, Lanyon Zinc Oxide Company and the Morrow Brothers Harness Company. In 1900 the Chicago Hardware Foundry Company opened and in 1905, the National Envelope Company. Because of the development of these industries and others, the population in the first decades of the twentieth century boomed. In 1890 there were approximately 20 residents and it grew to 5,839 in the year 1920.
The industrial base of the community continued to grow into the 1950’s which brought in many more residents. Some of the companies that also located to North Chicago were American Motors, Johnson Motors, Goodyear, Ocean Spray and Abbott Laboratories. The population grew even more with the expansion of the Veterans Hospital and the annexation of the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. By the year 1970 the population reached 47,275. But during the 1970’s many of the plants closed, jobs were lost and the population dropped. North Chicago lost 18% of its population from 1970-1980. By the year 2000 the population was 35,918.
The decline in population for North Chicago also had to do with changes in its racial makeup. By the end of the twentieth century African Americans accounted for 34% of the population. By the 1990’s the city had become poor. The majority of North Chicago is federal land and untaxable. This made the tax burden fall on the residents and it was among the highest in Illinois. Commercial development dropped and other industries closed which has made it difficult to bring back the once thriving community.