"A Zoo and a Whole Lot More" Brookfield by riorich55

Brookfield Travel Guide: 7 reviews and 56 photos

Another Childhood Memory

I periodically ride through Brookfield on the train on my way to and from Naperville and downtown Chicago. There are a couple of train stops if you take the local. The one called Hollywood is actually the Brookfield Zoo stop which is about a 10 minute walk away. Most people are familiar with Brookfield though its famous Chicago area zoo which was opened back in 1934 on land donated by Edith Rockefeller McCormick in 1919. The zoo is actually called the Chicago Zoological Park and I have visited many times since I was a kid when my parents took my sister and I there and more recently when my wife and I took our 4 little kids there. I guess we will soon enter the 3rd Brookfield Zoo phase of our lives when our kids start having kids of their own and we can get back as grandparents.

We haven't visited the Zoo in probably 20 years, but during the summer of 2013 with my new found passion for photography, I am planning to get a limited membership pass so I can go and take numerous pictures of and animals and people who visit.

The Village

Now a little bit of history, both of the village itself and another connection to Brookfield from the past.

Going back to the time of Abraham Lincoln when Illinois was in its infancy the area was mostly covered by prairie grasses, forests, and farms and large portions of the area were inhabited by the native Americans.

The settlement of the village dates to 1889 when Samuel Eberly Gross, a Chicago lawyer turned real estate investor, began selling building lots platted from farms and woodlands he had acquired along both sides of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad line, which provided passenger and freight service between Chicago and Aurora, Illinois.

The first two buildings Gross erected were a train station south of the tracks at what is now Prairie Avenue, and a pavilion across the tracks. The original train station was moved across the tracks and a few hundred feet east in 1981, and is now the home of the village's historical society and museum, as well as listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gross later added 2 more subdivisions. Hollywood in 1893 (the Zoo Stop) and West Grossdale in 1895. The village was actually incorporated as the village of Grossdale in 1893. The name was changed in 1905 after residents became displeased with Gross, whose personal life and fortune had floundered. A contest to choose a new name yielded "Brookfield" in respect for Salt Creek, which runs through the area.

In 1920, the old Plank Toll Road, now called Ogden Avenue (US Hwy 34), which also runs through my hometown of Naperville was paved, providing easy automobile access to and from Chicago.

A Personal Side

Going back to the Brookfield Zoo side of the story. When my sister and I were younger we lived with our parents in the nearby suburb of Berwyn. One of my mom's best friends from high school and her husband lived in Brookfield on Prairie Avenue on the west side of Salt Creek. (The western boundary of the zoo ends at Salt Creek. We would often visit them during the summers at their house and many times walk over to the zoo back in the days when the zoo was free (at least I think it was free, but as a kid I obviously paid no attention). We also would spend most New Years Days or Eves with this family which eventually grew to 5 kids (4 girls and 1 boy).

On my recent photography tour through Brookfield in early April, 2013 I drove my car to the area. Parked for free at the Hollywood Zoo train stop and walked over to the South Entrance to the Zoo (the main entrance is the North Entrance). I inquired about the passes and didn't buy one this day, but will later on this year.

I then walked throughout the town, passing the house where my mom's friends used to live and discovered the small downtown that I had never visited buy had briefly seen as the train zoomed on by.

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  • In a nutshell:More Than Just the Zoo
  • Last visit to Brookfield: May 2013
  • Intro Updated May 22, 2013
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