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Woodstock, Illinois

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- land
13.55 sq mi (35 km)

- summer (DST)

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Wednesday 10:16 AM

- water
0.00 sq mi (0 km)

25,146 (2013)

Woodstock, Illinois httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

3°C, Wind NE at 21 km/h, 100% Humidity

Woodstock is a city in and the county seat of McHenry County, Illinois, United States, located 51 miles (82 km) northwest of Chicago. The population was 25,528 at the start of 2017. The city's downtown includes a historic, turn-of-the-century town square, which is anchored by the landmark Woodstock Opera House and the Old McHenry County Courthouse. The city was named one of the nation's Dozen Distinctive Destinations in 2007 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Map of Woodstock, IL 60098, USA

Early days, Centerville

Centerville, as Woodstock was originally called, was chosen as the county seat on September 4, 1843, due to its location at 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 proposed that Centerville be given a more original name, and so the town was renamed Woodstock after Johnson's hometown of Woodstock, Vermont. (The town was listed as "Center" on the 1850 Federal Census, however.) In 1852, Woodstock was incorporated as a village with Judd as president. In response to a burgeoning population following the Civil War, Woodstock was incorporated as a city in 1873. John S. Wheat was elected as Woodstock's first mayor. A vital artery for the growing town was the train line to and from Chicago, which allowed for a substantial industrial presence early in the town's history.

Eugene V. Debs' prison stay

In 1895, Eugene V. Debs served out a short federal prison sentence in the Woodstock Jail following the 1894 Pullman labor strike in Chicago. Debs, the former president of the American Railway Union, was held in Woodstock instead of Chicago because federal officials feared that he would be surrounded with too many sympathizers in a Chicago prison and therefore could have still incited further violence. Debs was instead assigned to a cell in the newly constructed Woodstock Jail, which occupied the lowest floor of the Woodstock Courthouse on the town square. During his time in jail, Debs received several influential socialist visitors and encountered the works of Karl Marx. He is said to have considered the Woodstock Jail one of the "greatest school[s]," and passed his time reading and writing many letters from his cell. By the time he was released in November 1895 (to great fanfare and before crowds of onlookers assembled in the Woodstock Square), Debs had become a socialist and a national celebrity. He later ran for the United States Presidency five times between 1900 and 1920 as the candidate for the newly formed Social Democratic Party.

"Typewriter City"

During the early part of the 20th century, Woodstock had become "Typewriter City." Home to the factories of both the Emerson Typewriter Company and the Oliver Typewriter Company, Woodstock workers had built more than half the world's typewriters by 1922. The companies were very much a part of life in the city during this time. Both factories had active social clubs, baseball teams that competed against one another, and Emerson even had a well-regarded band that played at public events. In 1919, Emerson Typewriter became the Woodstock Typewriter Company. The city grew and flourished with increasing demand for Woodstock typewriters up through and after World War II. Initially the company sold typewriters for use in the war effort domestically and abroad, but even after the war's end returning servicemen, now familiar with the Woodstock brand, chose these models for their households. The factory was in use until 1970, and has since been converted into lofts.

Orson Welles and the Todd School for Boys

Woodstock had an important role in the creative development of Orson Welles. In 1926 at age 10, in the midst of a chaotic upbringing, he enrolled at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock. His five-year stay there was his only education, but the town and school made an impression on the young Welles. Years later, in 1960, when asked where he thought of as his hometown, he replied "I suppose it's Woodstock, Illinois, if it's anywhere. I went to school there for four years. If I try to think of a home, it's that."

At Todd School, the young 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 educational environment that supported his creativity, 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 downtown Woodstock Opera House, where the stage — the site of his American debut as a professional theatre director — is now dedicated to him. Welles returned to Woodstock periodically after leaving school. In July 1934 at the age of 19, he 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. His short film The Hearts of Age was shot on the Todd School campus during the festival.

Todd School for Boys closed in 1954, and several original buildings were purchased at auction and reused by Marian Central Catholic High School and Christian Life Services. Welles' former dormitory was demolished in 2010.

Groundhog Day, 1993

Woodstock is perhaps most famous for its role as the location for the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. Although the story is set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the movie's producers preferred the quintessentially American backdrop of the Woodstock Square and its surroundings. Outdoor and street scenes were filmed around the downtown and various side streets, and signs from stores and businesses are visible throughout the movie. Many notable scenes' locations are commemorated with plaques as part of a walking tour for visitors and enthusiasts. Additionally, the bed and breakfast in which Bill Murray's character stays is a few blocks from the Square and was formerly a private residence, but in recent years it has been opened as a functioning bed and breakfast where visitors can stay.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1987

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). The movie brought Woodstock to the attention of location manager Bob Hudgins, who later recommended the town to Harold Ramis for the filming of Groundhog Day.

Annual traditions

  • Farmers Market (year-round, hours vary by season)
  • This award-winning producers-only market on the Square is consistently ranked one of the top farmers markets in the state.
  • Groundhog Day (February)
  • As the filming location for the 1993 movie, Woodstock celebrates Groundhog Day every February 2. The town uses its own groundhog named "Woodstock Willie," whose prognostication is the center of the annual ceremony (just like Punxsutawney Phil in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania). During the weekend of Groundhog Day, tours of famous filming locations are offered, and the Classic Cinemas' Woodstock Theater shows Groundhog Day for free.
  • Woodstock City Band Concerts (summer)
  • 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.
  • Fair Diddley Craft Show (May)
  • Woodstock Challenge Road Run (June)
  • An annual family run/walk race (10K, 5K, 1 mile and 1/2-mile) through Emricson Park, sponsored by the Woodstock Recreation Department.
  • Woodstock Folk Festival (July)
  • Jazz on the Square Festival (August)
  • McHenry County Fair (August)
  • HarvestFest (August)
  • Lighting of the Square (November)
  • Held the Friday after Thanksgiving, this celebration formally marks the beginning of the holiday season downtown. Crowds gather after dark in the Square, sing carols and visit local shops. After a small presentation from the mayor, City council representative and Santa Claus, Miss Woodstock moves to her oversized light switch and starts the crowd's countdown. When the switch is flipped the whole downtown explodes with light as Christmas lights on every tree and building are turned on all at once.
  • Local newspaper

    The Woodstock Independent is the award-winning local paper of record and is delivered weekly to subscribers. Published on Wednesdays, The Independent covers community news, events as well as local government and schools. The Independent also publishes The Torch, a feature-oriented magazine delivered free to all Woodstock residents 8 or 9 times a year.


    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
  • Potts & Pans Steelband
  • Religion

    Woodstock is home to many Protestant and Catholic churches, a Jewish congregation and a Buddhist temple. The Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple, founded in 2002 by Bhante Sujatha, is an internationally recognized Sri Lankan Buddhist Temple and draws people from much of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.


    Woodstock's public schools are part of Woodstock Community Unit School District 200, which was formed in 1969. 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). The three newest buildings, Prariewood, Creekside and WNHS, were approved in a March 2006 referendum to address crowding in schools due to the area's growth between the mid-90s and 2008.

    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 degree normally do so at McHenry County College in neighboring Crystal Lake. Loyola University Chicago owns and operates a large property on Woodstock's eastern edge as its Retreat and Ecology Campus. Aurora University also operates its Woodstock Center downtown.

    Top employers

    According to Woodstock's 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:

    Public transit

    Woodstock's railroad station is the penultimate passenger stop on Metra's Union Pacific Northwest Line, which originates from Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago and ends in Harvard, Illinois. At Woodstock, Metra offers passengers 9 daily trains to Chicago on weekdays (11 returning outbound), and between 400 and 500 daily passengers use the train for travel to Chicago or other suburban communities along the line. This direct link to the city was historically instrumental in Woodstock's growth as a city, and remains an attractive option for local commuters and residents to reach Chicago. As a result, Woodstock's use of the system is greater than that of nearly half of the Metra system's other outlying stations, many of which serve larger or geographically nearer communities.

    Other public ground transportation is limited to Pace bus route 807, which connects downtown Woodstock with downtown McHenry. Rideshare service Uber also offers coverage in Woodstock and all of McHenry County.

    Major roads

    U.S. Route 14 once took drivers through the heart of downtown Woodstock, but a modern bypass now curves around the city's southwest border. Illinois Route 47 runs through the city in the north-south direction. Illinois Route 120's western terminus is in northwest Woodstock, and continues east past Woodstock's downtown and into rural McHenry County.

    Notable people

  • Jack Allen, professional baseball infielder for the Syracuse Stars and the Cleveland Blues
  • Alexander Berkman, anarchist and political activist
  • Jessica Biel, actress and model
  • Bob Bird, Alaskan pro-life and political activist, first Distinguished Alumnus of Marian Central, graduated in 1969.
  • Bryan Bulaga, football player, University of Iowa and Green Bay Packers
  • Rick Fletcher, illustrator and cartoonist with Chicago Tribune; best known for The Old Glory Story and Dick Tracy
  • Emma Goldman, anarchist and political activist
  • Chester Gould, cartoonist and the creator of the Dick Tracy comic strip
  • Nikol Hasler, author, sexual educator, internet personality
  • Dana Nafziger, football player
  • Doug Oberhelman, CEO, Caterpillar Inc.
  • Scott Sobkowiak, pitcher for the Atlanta Braves
  • Barbara Stcherbatcheff, best-selling author and economic commentator
  • Lynn D. Stewart, Illini star player from the 1960s and co-founder of the Hooters Restaurant chain
  • Johnny Stompanato, mob associate of Mickey Cohen, boyfriend of Lana Turner: killed by Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane, in self-defense
  • Michele Weiner-Davis, marriage therapist and author
  • Orson Welles, director, writer, actor, producer, 1931 graduate of the Todd School for Boys
  • Geography

    According to the 2010 census, Woodstock has a total area of 13.55 square miles (35.09 km2), all land.


    As of the census 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.


    Woodstock, Illinois Wikipedia

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