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Cicero: An American Town
–by John S. Kociolko
The Town of Cicero is one of the oldest and largest municipalities in the State of Illinois and the only incorporated town in Cook County. It bears the name of the great Roman statesman of the First Century B.C., Marcus Tullius Cicero.
Cicero was one of the greatest statesmen of Rome and an advocate of constitutional government. He died in the political turmoil which followed the assassination of Julius Caesar, but his writings and beliefs survived. Centuries later, the principles Cicero espoused would flourish again in a young republic with a new constitution, capitol and senate, the United States of America.
Illinois, part of the old Northwest Territory which the United States had acquired from Great Britain in 1783, joined the Union as the 21st state in 1818. Most of the early Illinoisans were from the South, where counties were the basis of local government and so the new state was divided into counties. Cook County was established in 1831, comprising what is today Cook, DuPage, Iroquois, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties.
Later settlers from the Northeast preferred their traditional township government and a new state constitution in 1848 authorized the creation of townships. In the following year, Cook County voters approved the new jurisdictions.
Among the townships created by the County Board in 1849 was a 36 square mile tract bounded by what are today Western, North and Harlem Avenues and Pershing Road. On June 23, 1857, 14 electors met to organize a local government for the district, which they named “The Town of Cicero.” Railroads, immigration and the Civil War contributed to economic growth in the new township, which by 1867 numbered 3,000 residents. In that year the state legislature incorporated the Town of Cicero as a municipality with a special charter, which was revised in 1869. Township and municipal functions have subsequently been discharged by a single board of elected officials.
Cicero’s rapid development in these early years now collided with the expanding political power of its neighbor, the City of Chicago. By 1889, Chicago had annexed more than half of the original Town. An 1899 referendum ceded the Austin neighborhood to the city and in the following year land containing a race track was transferred to Stickney Township.
On July 21, 1899, Ernest Hemingway, winner of both the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, was born within the Town of Cicero, in what is today the Village of Oak Park. In 1901, the three remaining components of the Town- today’s Oak Park, Berwyn and Cicero-voted to separate. The surviving Town of Cicero retained less than six of the 36 square miles carved out in 1849. Immigrants and their families swelled the Town’s population, however, and housing construction boomed within its diminished territory.
In 1901, the three remaining components of the old township – today’s Oak Park, Berwyn and Cicero – voted to separate. The surviving Town of Cicero retained less than six of the 36 square miles carved out in 1849. Immigrants and their families swelled the Town’s population, however, and housing construction boomed within its diminished territory.
Served by the Burlington, Illinois Central, Belt Line, and other railroads, Cicero attracted many industries in the Twentieth Century and became the largest manufacturing center in the state after Chicago. It was also the site of an early airfield in 1911. W. Edwards Deming began his pioneering work on management techniques in the 1920’s at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works, an industrial colossus which employed more than 40,000 people during World War II and was the dominant business in Town for eight decades.
From the early townsmen who fought in the Union Army during the Civil War, Ciceronians have proudly served in the armed forces. Their bravery is exemplified by Boatswain’s Mate Joseph P. Steffan, who died abroad the USS Arizona in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Capt. Edward C. Krzyzowski, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in Korea.
Cicero is composed of eight neighborhoods, with their own district names and characteristics. Two were named for businesses-Grant Works after an 1890 locomotive factory and Hawthorne for an 1850’s quarry, the first Cicero industry. Two bear the family names of local landowners, Warren Park and Drezel, while two more were christened by prominent residents, Clyde, recalling a river in Scotland and Morton Park honoring Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraskan who served as Agriculture Secretary to President Cleveland. Morton also gave his name to the local high school and college, yet he never lived in the town. Boulevard Manor derives its name from Austin Boulevard. The origin of the title of Parkholme is unknown.
The Town of Cicero has a colorful history, which forms a part of the larger stories of the county, state and nation. Three Presidents-Eisenhower, Reagan, and Bush- visited Cicero on their roads to the White House. We can better understand the present and plan for the future, if we know the achievements of the past.
This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2009)
|Coordinates: Coordinates: |
|Incorporated||February 28, 1867|
|• President||Larry Dominick|
|• Total||5.87 sq mi (15.19 km2)|
|• Land||5.87 sq mi (15.19 km2)|
|• Water||0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2) 0%|
|Elevation||607 ft (185 m)|
| • Estimate
|• Density||13,775.96/sq mi (5,318.89/km2)|
|Up 0.3% from 2010|
|Standard of living (2011)|
|• Per capita income||$14,539|
|• Median home value||$157,500|
Cicero (originally known as Hawthorne) is a suburb of Chicago and an incorporated town in Cook County, Illinois, United States. The population was 83,891 at the 2010 census. As of 2019, the town had a total population of 80,796, making it the 11th largest municipality in Illinois. The town of Cicero is named after Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman statesman and orator.
Originally, Cicero Township occupied an area six times the size of its current territory. Weak political leadership and town services resulted in cities such as Oak Park and Berwyn voting to split off from Cicero, and other portions, such as Austin, were annexed into the city of Chicago.
By 1911, an aerodrome called the Cicero Flying Field had been established as the town's first aircraft facility of any type, located on a roughly square plot of land about 800 meters (1/2-mile) per side, on then-open ground at by the Aero Club of Illinois, founded on February 10, 1910. Famous pilots like Hans-Joachim Buddecke, Lincoln Beachey, Chance M. Vought and others flew from there at various times during the "pioneer era" of aviation in the United States shortly before the nation's involvement in World War I, before the field closed in mid-April 1916.
Al Capone built his criminal empire in Chicago before moving to Cicero to escape the reach of Chicago police. The 1924 Cicero municipal elections were particularly violent due to gang-related efforts to secure a favorable election result.
On July 11–12, 1951, a race riot erupted in Cicero when a white mob of around 4,000 attacked and burned an apartment building at 6139 W. 19th Street that housed the African-American family of Harvey Clark Jr., a Chicago Transit Authority bus driver who had relocated to the all-white city. Governor Adlai E. Stevenson was forced to call out the Illinois National Guard. The Clarks moved away and the building had to be boarded up. The Cicero riot received worldwide condemnation.
Cicero was taken up and abandoned several times as site for a civil rights march in the mid-1960s. Cicero had a sundown town policy prohibiting African Americans from living in the city. The American Friends Service Committee, Martin Luther King Jr., and many affiliated organizations, including churches, were conducting marches against housing and school de facto segregation and inequality in Chicago and several suburbs, but the leaders feared too violent a response in Chicago Lawn and Cicero. Eventually, a substantial march (met by catcalls, flying bottles and bricks) was conducted in Chicago Lawn, but only a splinter group, led by Jesse Jackson, marched in Cicero. The marches in the Chicago suburbs helped galvanize support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, extending federal prohibitions against discrimination to private housing. The act also created the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, which enforces the law.
The 1980s and 1990s saw a heavy influx of Hispanic (mostly Mexican and Central American) residents to Cicero. Once considered mainly a Czech or Bohemian town, most of the European-style restaurants and shops on 22nd Street (now Cermak Road) have been replaced by Spanish-titled businesses. In addition, Cicero has a small black community.
Cicero has seen a revival in its commercial sector, with many new mini-malls and large retail stores. New condominiums are also being built in the city.
Cicero has long had a reputation of government scandal. By 2002, Republican Town President Betty Loren-Maltese was sent to federal prison in California, for misappropriating $12 million in funds.
According to the 2010 census, Cicero has a total area of 5.86 square miles (15.18 km2), all land. Cicero formerly ran from Harlem Avenue to Western Avenue and Pershing Road to North Avenue; however, much of this area was annexed by Chicago.
- St. Mary of Czestochowa, a Neo-Gothic church built in the Polish Cathedral style along with the sculpture of Christ the King by famed sculptor Professor Czesław Dźwigaj, who also cast the monumental bronze doors at St. Hyacinth's Basilica in Chicago. The church's other claim to fame is as the site of Al Capone's sister Mafalda's wedding in 1930.
- J. Sterling Morton High School, East Campus, also known as Morton East High School, was built in 1894. The original school was destroyed by fire in 1924, and the current building was constructed. Located at 2423 S. Austin Blvd, Morton East serves residents of Cicero.
- Chodl Auditorium, located inside Morton East High School, was built in 1924 (completed 1927) to replace the 1,200-seat auditorium which was destroyed by fire. The auditorium was originally a dual-purpose room, serving as a gymnasium for students, and was originally built for this purpose. In 1967 the school stopped using the auditorium as a gymnasium. Chodl Auditorium is among the largest non-commercial proscenium theatres in the Chicago Metropolitan Area and is listed with the National Register of Historic Places.
- Hawthorne Works Tower, one of the original towers of the enormous Western Electric manufacturing plant that once stood east of Cicero Avenue, is still located behind the Hawthorne Works Shopping Center near the corner of Cermak Road (22nd Street) and Cicero Avenue.
- Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.
On the south side of Cicero, there were two racetracks. Hawthorne Race Course, located in Cicero and Stickney, is a horse racing track still in operation. Just north of it was Chicago Motor Speedway at Sportsman's Park, which was formerly Sportsman's Park Racetrack (for horse racing) for many years. This Sportsman's Park facility is now closed, acquired by the Town of Cicero, and has since been demolished. Facilities of the Wirtz Beverage Group have been built on the west half and a Walmart built on the east half.
|U.S. Census Bureau|
As of the 2010 census, 83,891 people, 22,101 households, and 17,752 families resided in the town. The population density was 14,315.9 people per square mile (5,527.4/km2). There were 24,329 housing units at an average density of 4,151.7 per square mile (1,600.6/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 51.9% White (9.2% Non-Hispanic white), 3.8% African American, 0.8% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander American, 39.3% some other race, and 3.5% from two or more races. 89.6% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race, with 80.2% of Mexican descent.
There were 22,101 households, out of which 57.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.3% were headed by married couples living together, 17.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 19.7% were non-families. 15.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 5.5% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.79, and the average family size was 4.19.
The age distribution at the 2010 census was 33.8% under the age of 18, 11.6% from 18 to 24, 30.9% from 25 to 44, 17.7% from 45 to 64, and 5.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 27.8 years. For every 100 females, there were 103.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.9 males. Of the total population, 50.9% are male and 49.1% are female.
As of the 2011 American Community Survey, the median income for a household in the town was $39,557, and the median income for a family was $42,235. Male full-time workers had a median income of $31,603 versus $31,117 for females. The per capita income for the town was $14,339. About 15.6% of families and 18.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.9% of those under age 18 and 16.2% of those age 65 or over.
As of 2011, 52.5% of occupied housing units were owned properties, and 47.5% were rentals. There were 4,667 vacant housing units. The average age of home properties was greater than 66 years.
Cicero is a factory town. As of 1999, about a quarter of the city contained one of the greatest industrial concentrations in the world. There were more than 150 factories in 1.7 mi (2.8 km), producing communications and electronic equipment, sugar, printing presses, steel castings, tool and die makers' supplies, forging and rubber goods.
Cicero is served by Cicero Elementary School District 99 and comprises 16 schools, making it one of the largest public school districts outside of Chicago. Elementary students attend the following schools, depending on residency: Burnham (K-6), Cicero East (4-6), Cicero West (PK-4), Columbus East (4-6), Columbus West (PK-4), Drexel (K-6), Early Childhood Center (PK), Goodwin (PK-6), Liberty (K-3), Lincoln (PK-6), Roosevelt (5-6), Sherlock (PK-6), Warren Park (PK-6), Wilson (K-6), and Unity Junior High (7-8), which is separated into East/West sections. East side being held for eighth graders & seventh graders on the West side. Unity is the second largest middle school in the country. High school students entering their freshman year attend the Freshman Center and then continue high school at Morton East of the J. Sterling Morton High School District 201. The McKinley Educational Center serves as an alternative school for 5th-8th graders and the Morton Alternative School serves as an alternative school for 9th-12th graders
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago operates two PK-8 schools in Cicero:
From 1927 until 1972, Cicero was the home of Timothy Christian School.
Cicero is also home to Morton College.
Cicero is served by two major railroad lines, the BNSF Railway and the Belt Line Railroad. Public Transportation is provided by Metra BNSF Railway Line between Aurora and Chicago's Union Station with a stop at the Cicero station near Cicero Avenue and 26th Street. Currently, this station is undergoing a much needed reconstruction and expansion by Metra. Also, the CTA Pink Line provides daily service from the 54th/Cermak terminal to the Loop. Its Cicero station is also located in Cicero. Multiple Pace and CTA bus routes cover portions of Cicero.
Cicero is served by the Cicero Fire Department (CFD), with a staff of 68 professional firefighters and 24 paramedics. The CFD operates out of three fire stations.
- Felix Biestek (1912–1994), American priest and professor
- Al Capone (born 1899), Nickname "Scarface", was an American gangster and businessman and the co-founder and boss of the Chicago Outfit.
- JoBe Cerny (born 1947), an actor from Cicero, is the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy.
- John Edward Robinson (born 1943), American serial killer
In popular culture
- In the show “Chicago PD” Cicero is the hometown of the main character Sargent Hank Voight.
- In the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, Cicero is the home of Al Capone. Many of the episode plots are based in Cicero.
- Cicero is mentioned as the hometown of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman and his brother Chuck McGill in Better Call Saul.
- In the musical Chicago Velma Kelly mentions Cicero in the number "Cell Block Tango" as the location of the hotel where she murdered her husband Charlie and sister Veronica.
- In Walker Percy's novel Love in the Ruins, the schismatic American Catholic church establishes Cicero, Illinois as its "new Rome."
- In Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Cicero is annexed by Chicago, as a satirical allegory for the Nazi annexation of Austria.
- In Guys and Dolls, the Chicago-area gangster "Big Julie" claims to be from "East Cicero, Illinois" (and pronounces the final "s" on Illinois).
- In the 1948 film noir Sorry, Wrong Number, the story takes place in New York City but in flash-backs recounted by several characters we learn that the story actually begins in Chicago and Cicero. The female character Leona Cotterel (Barbara Stanwyck) is the rich, spoiled daughter of the owner of a pharmaceutical company located in Cicero. She lives with her father in a Chicago mansion. A few years later, after she marries, the story moves to Bayonne, New Jersey, and ends in Manhattan and Staten Island.
- Al Bundy from the show Married with Children mentions that he gets his hair cut in Cicero.
- In Guns Under the Counter, on The Fiery Furnaces' album Rehearsing My Choir, Cicero is mentioned in the line "In Cicero, Never stand at a window".
- "Town of Cicero". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
- "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
- "Cicero (town), Illinois". State & County QuickFacts. U.S. Census Bureau. 8 July 2014. Archived from the original on 25 July 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
- "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- Illinois Regional Archives Depository System. "Name Index to Illinois Local Governments". Illinois State Archives. Illinois Secretary of State. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Cicero town, Illinois". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
- "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved May 21, 2020.
- "Cicero, IL". Encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
Gray, Carroll (2005). "CICERO FLYING FIELD - Origin, Operation, Obscurity and Legacy - 1891 to 1916 - OPERATION, 1911 - THE ESTABLISHMENT OF CICERO FLYING FIELD". lincolnbeachey.com. Carroll F. Gray. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
The second great aeronautical event of 1911 around Chicago was the establishment by the A.C.I. of a top-notch flying field named "Cicero Flying Field" (or simply "Cicero") within the township limits of Cicero (bounded by 16th St., 52nd Ave., 22nd St. and 48th Avenue..At some point during May, the A.C.I. was given a five year lease on the Cicero property by the Grant Land Association, Harold F. McCormick's property holding company. At the conclusion of the 1911 Aviation Meet, the hangars in Grant Park were moved to the southern edge of the 2-1/2 sq. mi. lot in Cicero.
Gray, Carroll (2005). "CICERO FLYING FIELD - Origin, Operation, Obscurity and Legacy - 1891 to 1916 - 1909 & 1910 - GLENN H. CURTISS & THE AERO CLUB OF ILLINOIS". lincolnbeachey.com. Carroll F. Gray. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
The day before his two-day exhibition flights at the Hawthorne Race Track in Cicero, Illinois, on October 16 and 17, 1909, Glenn Curtiss spoke to the Chicago Automobile Club and suggested that an aero club be formed in Chicago. In response to his remarks, the Aero Club of Illinois ("A.C.I.") was incorporated on February 10, 1910, with Octave Chanute as its first president - a perfect choice, to be sure...The second great aeronautical event of 1911 around Chicago was the establishment by the A.C.I. of a top-notch flying field named "Cicero Flying Field" (or simply "Cicero") within the township limits of Cicero (bounded by [West] 16th St., 52nd Ave [S. Laramie Avenue]., 22nd St [West Cermak Road]. and 48th Ave.), conveniently located adjacent to interurban rail service - just a 15 min. 5¢ trip on the Douglas Park "L" from downtown Chicago, and also was served by two streetcar lines.
Gray, Carroll (2005). "CICERO FLYING FIELD - Origin, Operation, Obscurity and Legacy - 1891 to 1916 - 1916 - THE FINAL FLIGHT & A NEW FIELD". lincolnbeachey.com. Carroll F. Gray. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
On April 16, 1916, when "Matty" Laird took off from Cicero Flying Field, at the controls of his self-designed and self-built Boneshaker biplane and flew to the new Partridge & Keller aviation field at 87th St. and Pulaski Road, in Chicago, Cicero Flying Field ceased to be. The next day, the Aero Club of Illinois (A.C.I.) officially opened its new 640 acre Ashburn Field on land purchased by A.C.I. President "Pop" Dickinson for the A.C.I.. Ashburn was located at 83rd St. and Cicero Avenue, about 7-1/2 miles almost due south of Cicero. All of the hangars and buildings at Cicero had been moved to Ashburn Field some months earlier.
- Duechler, Doug (September 5, 2006). "Part II: From Capone to 'Bohemian Wall Street' to, of course, Betty". News. Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest. Colorful Cicero. Oak Park, Illinois: Wednesday Journal. LCCN sn91055447. OCLC 24273230. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
- "1951 Race Riots Then & Now - Cicero, IL". Retrieved 2013-05-26.
- Wilkerson, Isabel (2020). The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. New York: Random House. p. 375. ISBN 978-0-679-44432-9.
Nolte, Robert (September 8, 1966). "'Victory' Means Little to Cicero". Billings Gazette. Billings, Montana. p. 7 – via Newspapers.com.
Although he says the Cicero march was a victory, residents of Cicero probably feel no different about Negroes than they did one week ago. (Negroes are not allowed to live in Cicero, but ironically, 15,000 of them work in the suburb's factories and stores five days a week.)
- "Chicago Lawn". Encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- "American Experience.Eyes on the Prize.The Story of the Movement". PBS. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- Engel, Matthew (31 August 2002). "Spirit of Capone lives on in Mobtown, Illinois". The Guardian. Cicero, Illinois. Retrieved 10 April 2011.
- "Betty Loren-Maltese and fellow perps". Ipsn.org. 2001-06-16. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2015-08-01.
- "NASA Earth Observations Data Set Index". NASA. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
- "Historical United States Census Data". Census.gov. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- "Selected Economic Characteristics: 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates (DP03): Cicero town, Illinois". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
- "Selected Housing Characteristics: 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates (DP03): Cicero town, Illinois". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
- Profile of Selected Social Characteristics, Cicero, Illinois Archived 2020-02-12 at archive.today. U.S. Census Bureau. Accessed 2007-04-10.
- "Welcome to The Town of Cicero". Thetownofcicero.com. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- "Post Office Location - CICERO Archived 2012-07-20 at archive.today." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on April 17, 2009.
- "Welcome To Our Lady of Charity School in Cicero, Illinois". Olc-school.org. 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- "St Frances of Rome School". Sfr-school.org. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- Fire Department. Thetownofcicero.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cicero, Illinois.|
Named after the famous Roman consul, this western suburb of Chicago is a blue collar town long associated with manufacturing.
In the 1920s Cicero was where Al Capone relocated to escape the attention of the Chicago police, and there are a couple of landmarks around town harking back to his time.
A manufacturer at the height of its power in Capone’s time was Western Electric at Hawthorne Works, and the last remaining vestige of this vast complex survives in the form of a Medieval-style tower along West Cermak Road.
This factory, manufacturing phone components and electrical products, essentially gave birth to Cicero and is remembered for its progressive employment ideals and its well-paid and content workforce.
1. Columbus Park
A masterpiece in the Prairie Style, this park just northeast of Cicero was designed entirely by the feted landscape architect Jens Jensen (1860-1951).
Jensen was given free rein to implement his ideas at Columbus Park, and these 144 acres were laid out between 1915 and 1920.
Complementing the natural beauty of the pre-existing landscape, the park features a meandering lagoon designed to evoke a prairie river, endowed with charming little cascades and waterfalls made from stratified stone.
Native plants grow throughout Columbus Park, and there’s a tangle of stone paths that converge on the “Council Ring”, a circular stone bench for storytelling.
Incorporated into the fabric of the park is the nine-hole, links-style Columbus Park Golf Course.
2. Oak Park Conservatory
Both a remarkable piece of local heritage and a botanical wonder, this conservatory is on a small plot a couple of minutes from Cicero.
The structure, dating to 1929, has a stately Edwardian design and contains a wide array of plant life. Many of the plants growing in Oak Park’s public spaces are cultivated in this facility.
In the collections are desert species, including several groups of cactus and succulents, as well as bay, figs, date palm and olive trees.
You can also see a variety of orchids, rainforest plants and ferns, and exotic fruits, from fig to banana, lemon and papaya.
The conservatory has a bustling events program, including Uncorked, a monthly wine festival, with local food and live music.
3. St. Mary of Częstochowa
One monument that will capture your attention on your way around Cicero is an historic church, completed in 1918.
This opulent neo-Gothic building is a classic example of the Polish Cathedral style that is specific to the Great Lakes region.
These Catholic churches, mostly from the 19th and early 20th century are renowned for their grandeur and theatrical ornamentation, and St. Mary of Częstochowa is no different.
Visible for miles around, the two towers framing the main portal are 200 feet tall and are crowned with crocketed pinnacles.
Inside, the communion rail, pulpit and altars are all fashioned from Carrara marble, and the main altar is capped with a replica of the venerated Polish icon, the Black Madonna of Częstochowa.
On the sidewalk in front is a sculpture of Christ the King, by Czesław Dźwigaj, famed for the monumental bronze doors on St Hyacinth’s Basilica in Chicago.
An interesting piece of trivia about the church is that Al Capone’s sister Mafalda was married here in 1930.
4. Hawthorne Works Tower
Up to 1983 Cicero was dominated by an immense factory complex that opened in 1905 and manufactured telephone equipment and household appliances.
At its peak the Hawthorne Works employed 45,000 people and became the focus for influential academic industrial studies in the 1920s.
Around that time the trailblazing engineers and statisticians Walter A. Shewhart and W. Edwards Dennin were employed at the works.
After the factory shut down the land was redeveloped as a shopping center, but the works’ famous castle-like tower, complete with decorative arrow loops and machicolations continues to rise over the former site.
To see artifacts and accounts from Hawthorne Works, check out the excellent Hawthorne Museum at Morton College.
5. Freddy’s Pizza
This family-run Italian deli, market and restaurant at 1600 61st Ave is a neighborhood go-to, in business since 1968.
Freddy’s Pizza is completely without pretence, so it’s appropriate that you’ll find such a place in Cicero.
What you get are delicious Italian specialties, from Neapolitan and Chicago-style pizza to ravioli, stuffed gnocchi in vodka sauce and chicken vesuvio.
At the deli counter you can pick from a vast range of imported fine meats and sausages, cheeses, seasonings, olive oils, homemade marinara sauce and freshly prepared salads and pasta dishes to take home.
Always popular are the frozen lemonade and gelato and in a range of homemade flavors.
6. Cicero Community Park
This spotless neighborhood park is the main gathering place for Cicero. The centerpiece at Cicero Community Park is a little plaza couched in formal flower beds and traced by a pergola.
During the summer there’s a calendar of festivals, games and programs happening here, while carnivals are set up in the parking lot on the southwest corner.
A lovely time to come is around the holiday season for the Christmas lights. The park also has a few permanent amenities, like an open skate park, while the network of paths have a steady stream of joggers, families with buggies, cyclists and dog walkers.
7. West Cermak Road
This artery passes through Cicero and runs as far east as McCormick Place south of downtown Chicago.
In Cicero, West Cermak Road is where most of the local businesses are located. And given Cicero’s Hispanic population there’s no shortage of authentic taquerias and Mexican restaurants, bakeries, ice cream shops and markets.
Some picks are La Lupita (6539), Indio (6037), La Central (6034), Paleteria Las Delicias De Michoacán (5737), Taqueria La Guadalupana (5517).
For a bit of local history, 4833 W. 22nd Street is the site of Al Capone’s Cicero headquarters in 1924.
There’s plenty of early 20th century architecture to admire on West Cermak Road, and this goes especially for the Olympic Theatre (6134), dating to 1927.
8. Bobby Hull Community Ice Rink
Named for one of the greatest Chicago Blackhawks of all time, this open-air skating rink in Cicero opened for its inaugural season in 2011.
Weather permitting, the Bobby Hull Community Ice Rink is open seven days a week, all season long.
Open skate entry fees and skate rentals are $3 and $5 respectively for non-residents and just $1 each if you live in Cicero.
Most days are broken down between stick and puck sessions (normally 10 am til 3 pm), and lighted open skate, which continues into the evening.
9. Hawthorne Park District
Cicero proper doesn’t have a ton of other public open space, but the Hawthorne Park District building backs onto a large sweep of greenery.
This offers a few amenities, like a basketball court in great condition and tennis and volleyball courts, along with a small swing set for children.
You’ll find a large open field for casual sports, picnics and walks, bordered by tall mature trees and with a pair of baseball diamonds on the south side.
There’s ample free parking by the park district building and you can rent a hall here for private events.
10. Portillo’s Hot Dogs
If you’re in the Chicago area and craving some quick indulgent food, this Second City icon is a good bet.
Portillo’s was founded in Villa Park in 1963, and despite its high reputation has only recently started to branch out beyond Illinois’ borders.
Almost all of the chain’s 60 locations are within this state, and there’s a spot a few minutes west of Cicero on Roosevelt Road in Forest Park.
Best known for its Chicago-style hot dogs, with chopped onions, tomatoes, pickle and everything else piled onto a poppy seed bun, Portillo’s also has a menu packed with other Chicago favorites like Italian beef sandwiches and baked mostaccioli pasta.
11. Barrie Park
As soon as the snow settles in winter, families flock to this neighborhood park, which has one of the best sledding hills around.
The slope is well cared for throughout the season, while the park, a few minutes north of Cicero, also has a small playground for wee ones, a soccer field and a baseball diamond.
Barrie Park has an interesting past, as the site of a manufactured gas plant at the turn of the 20th century.
In the late 1990s hazardous chemicals were found in the soil, which triggered a three-year clean-up operation before the park bounced back better than ever in 2005.
12. Cicero Marketplace
On the east side of Cicero, this enormous shopping center has a ton of big box stores and chain restaurants.
Cicero Marketplace has been around since 1995 and has a Target, Home Depot, Sam’s Club, GameStop and Five Below, to name a few.
Sprinkled around the place are branches of IHOP, Sonic, McDonalds, KFC, Panda Express and Starbucks.
A little further north, in the shadow of the Hawthorne Works tower is another strip mall with a Foot Locker, Menards, a 14-screen AMC multiplex and a few more eateries like Taco Bell, Popeye’s and Subway.
13. North Riverside Park Mall
Keep going along West Cermak Road and in a few minutes you’ll come to this large mall in North Riverside.
There are close to 100 stores and services at the North Riverside Park Mall, including familiar brands like Old Navy, Sephora, H&M, Forever 21, Foot Locker, Victoria’s Secret, Hot Topic, Claire’s and Kay Jewelers.
The main anchor on the south side is JCPenney, and here and there you’ll find some food court favorites like Cinnabon, Dunkin’, Baskin Robbins and Auntie Anne’s.
14. Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park
If you’re on the hunt for family activities, this center is in North Riverside, right next to the mall.
There’s a lot going on inside Urban Air, and the range of attractions extends far beyond a typical trampoline park.
You’ve got go-karts, virtual reality games, a climbing wall, a “Sky Rider” zip line, a ropes course, kid-friendly “Adventure Hub” playground and bumper cars.
Added to that are all of the side activities you would normally find at a trampoline park, like a Wipeout area, battle beam, dodgeball court, tumble track and slam dunk zone.
You can also purchase flexible passes giving you access to as many or as few attractions as you please.
15. Hawthorne Race Course
In the south of Cicero, the Hawthorne Race Course first opened in 1891, making it the oldest family-run racetrack in North America.
When horse racing was banned in Chicago in the early 20th century the field became a testing ground for the aviation pioneers Victory Allan Lockheed.
A noteworthy detail about the main track here is the home stretch, which at 1,320 feet is one of the longest in the United States.
Three events to mark in the diary are the thoroughbred graded stakes races, the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (October), the Illinois Derby (April) and the Sixty Sails Handicap (April).
When we wrote this article the course was in the process of a $400 million redevelopment, which will turn the track into a casino and entertainment destination, to go with its historic track.
15 Best Things to Do in Cicero (IL):
- Columbus Park
- Oak Park Conservatory
- St. Mary of Częstochowa
- Hawthorne Works Tower
- Freddy’s Pizza
- Cicero Community Park
- West Cermak Road
- Bobby Hull Community Ice Rink
- Hawthorne Park District
- Portillo’s Hot Dogs
- Barrie Park
- Cicero Marketplace
- North Riverside Park Mall
- Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park
- Hawthorne Race Course