The year 1996 marks the 100th anniversary of the community’s adoption of the name West Chicago. It was originally settled as “Junction” in the mid-1800s, later referred to as “Turner Junction” (for John B. Turner, president of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad, which platted the original town), then incorporated as the Village of Turner in 1873. In 1896, residents and village officials chose the name “West Chicago” to give the village a more “metropolitan” flavor and convey a stronger impression of proximity to Chicago. The village was reincorporated as the City of West Chicago in 1906.
The original name of Junction was a logical choice for the people and families who first settled the area, as the community sprang up around the intersection of three major railroads: the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad (now the Union Pacific), the St. Charles Branch Railroad (which later merged into the C&NW), and the Aurora Branch Railroad (now the Burlington Northern). The railroads were instrumental in the community’s growth. The population – and subsequent construction of new homes and schools – increased tremendously from the mid 1870s to the turn of the century; the 1900 census indicated that 40 percent of the workers employed in nonagricultural jobs worked for the C&NW.
In 1884, governmental offices moved to the newly built Turner Town Hall where they remained for 92 years. In 1976, the building became the City of West Chicago Historical Museum and in 1991 was listed the National Register of Historic Places. The city’s government is now headquartered in a small office/park complex developed in observance of the community’s early railroad history.
The railroad industry continued to exert influence on the community’s growth in the late 1800s when a feeder railroad named the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern laid tracks to junction with the C&NW. The success of the new railroad’s venture was dependent on attracting industry along its right-of-way so the railroad offered factory sites at no charge to companies willing to relocate to the area. The EJ&E promoted the Village of Turner extensively; one advertisement proclaimed the community had “electric lights, asphalt sidewalks, two wide-awake newspapers, fine schools, prosperous churches, good society and numerous flourishing factories that are bringing it to the front ranks as a manufacturing point.”
By the turn of the century, the village – now named West Chicago – had attracted an impressive roster of diverse manufacturing enterprises. Today, with 2,200 acres of improved office and industrial land, the city continues to grow and prosper. It is now home to over 1,000 businesses, 15 of them Fortune 500 companies who have chosen West Chicago because of its dynamic business climate.