Hanover Park an affordable enclave that's rich in diversity
James Yelton drives to the basket while warming up before a tournament at a village park. The Hanover Park park district also offers tennis, swimming and sledding facilities (Andrew A. Nelles/ Photo for the Chicago Tribune / August 6, 2011)
More than half of the 38,000 residents are Hispanic, black or Asian.
"We were founded by German immigrants, then other immigrants followed in their tradition," said Corral. "Like my parents did, they came here to get jobs and raise their families. We're a working-class community and darned proud of it."
Twenty-seven miles northwest of the Loop, Hanover Park was not incorporated until the 1950s. "We're one of Chicago's youngest suburbs," said village President Rodney Craig, who recalls a rural setting when he moved here in 1974. Most of its housing was built in the 1960s and '70s. The trilevel/ranch/raised ranch style trio that builders offered then still defines the housing.
Hanover Park has no downtown and is a long and narrow village that stretches into Cook and DuPage counties. Drive past the no-tell motels and the farm stands on U.S. Highway 20 (Lake Street) and you reach the chunk of Lake Street that is Hanover Park's hub. Its anchors are the Metra station and village hall/police station complex.
If 2009 were a fish, Hanover Park's police chief, David Webb, would throw it back. That year, the village had four murders and increases in robberies, assaults and burglaries. Since then, the department has added officers and implemented the Area Response Team to stay a step ahead of gangs. Through its Safe Home program, officers meet with families of children identified by school officials as gang wannabes.
"We don't have the marketing departments that bigger towns have," said Craig. But the village is striving to lure businesses to its TIF districts, keep crime at bay and develop an identity.
Hanover Park is seeing a second generation of homeowners like Corral. Her parents still live in her childhood home, while she bought a house nearby. The heart of their community within a community, said Corral, is St. Ansgar Catholic Church, which holds services in English, Polish, Spanish and Tagalog.
Corral chose her house so her son could attend an elementary school with a dual-language program. "He speaks English, Spanish and Spanglish," she joked. "On weekends, he takes lessons in Chinese."
The tiny Hanover Park-Ontarioville (historic) District reflects Hanover Park's 19th century rural roots. It includes a handful of houses that have become commercial establishments, plus a church and cemetery.
Although the arrival of the railroad (now Metra) put Hanover Park (then Ontarioville) on the map, it had so few commuters in 1955 the stop was temporarily removed from the route. To compete with faster-growing Streamwood, Hanover Park incorporated in 1958. The next year, Hanover Builders built its first big subdivision, which now surrounds Community Park.
From there, Hanover Park expanded into a string of subdivisions linked by strip malls and small industrial parks.
Things to do
While Hanover Park is defined by many distinct school, park, library and community college districts, villagewide events help create a sense of community.
The village hosts an annual car show, tree-lighting ceremony and the twice-annual Maxwell Street flea market. Kids like the Touch-a-Truck Day and the Cops Day Picnic, which includes the landing of a police helicopter. The large Hispanic community excitedly turns out for the Hanover Park District's annual Mexican Independence Day Celebration, held each September.
Park district hot spots include the tennis courts at the Centre Court Athletic Club, the sledding hill adjacent to the club and the Seafari Springs Aquatic Center.
Hanover Park lacks a shopping center and chain restaurants (residents head to Schaumburg for those), but it has an enticing variety of ethnic restaurants. The newest one, Priscilla's Ultimate Express, offers soul food that includes candied yams and fried catfish.