What began as a band of onion farmers has grown throughout the past century into a village of more than 7,000 people. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of North Riverside, a town described as a close-knit community with a “big heart,” according to Historical Society President Bryant Rouleau.
“It is a great community, coming from nothing to having a great recreation, great fire, public works, municipality and an awesome library,” Rouleau said. “We have a lot of things for a small town.”
North Riverside has a rich history as one of Chicago’s western suburbs. Most notably, it was home to the Melody Mill Ballroom, one of the nation’s largest ballrooms built in the midst of the Great Depression.
According to Rouleau, many buildings in the village have been repurposed over the last century. The North Riverside Public Library was originally housed in local resident Byrd March’s house, and has relocated multiple times before settling into its current location, previously belonging to the fire department.
“A lot of places have been reconverted or redesignated,” Rouleau said. “I’m a firm believer of not rebuilding, but reusing. I think some of the old (buildings) have such good bones.”
In order to commemorate the 100th anniversary, the village has organized a committee of about 10 people, including members of the Board of Trustees and North Riverside residents.
For the 50th anniversary, community theater members performed a play titled “From Ponds to Plaza” that the committee is considering adapting and showcasing again this year, according to Rouleau and Director of Parks and Recreation Colleen Broderick.
In addition to the play, the committee is planning an Anniversary Gala at the Riverside Golf Club for the community to celebrate with dinner and dancing. It has also sent calls out to residents for logo contest submissions and recipes for a Centennial Cookbook, although the plans are not yet finalized.
“We’re also trying to add elements of the 100th anniversary to things that we already have in place, be it our Fourth of July celebration or our camp shirts,” Broderick said.
Broderick also said that the North Riverside community has a large role in planning and executing the anniversary celebrations.
“There’s a lot of community spirit, not only during the 100th anniversary, but every day here,” Broderick said. “This community is really rooted in its history, and they take great pride, as they should, in the history of North Riverside and what it means to be a community member.”