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Set on the southern edge of an ancient glacial ridge, Blue Island was settled in 1835, making it one of the oldest communities in Cook County. In 1834, the Chicago Democrat observed “the ridge, when viewed from a distance, appears standing in an azure mist of vapor, hence the appellation, Blue Island.” Norman and Julia Rexford are celebrated as the first permanent residents. Their hotel, the Blue Island House, served travelers along the historic Vincennes Trail, which connected the settlement to Fort Dearborn in Chicago. Blue Island grew rapidly as the Calumet feeder canal opened in 1848. The first rail line–the Rock Island–was soon to follow in 1852. The Illinois Central arrived in 1892. These tracks, now operated by Metra, continue to serve Blue Island’s residents and visitors, as does the 1868 depot built by the Rock Island Railroad.
Germans were the first of the many waves of immigrants to find a new home in Blue Island. Their influence was marked by the four breweries that operated here beginning in the 1850s. Clay left by the glacial lake bed made Blue Island the brick making capital of the world in the late 1800s. Blue Island’s early twentieth century history was dominated by railroading and heavy industry. Our businesses and manufacturers have exported a wide variety of products that have included beer, brooms, cigars, dental equipment, produce, condiments, and railroad cars.
The famed nineteenth century historian of Chicago, Alfred Andreas, described Blue Island as “among the prettiest little suburban towns in the West.” Today, Blue Island’s charms continue to be discovered. With its tree-lined streets and historic architecture, the City has an air of permanence that accompanies its casual, small town appeal.
Blue Island Today
Take a look at what is going on around town by viewing current videos and slideshows produced at Blue Island’s own television station, BITV. You’ll see why Blue Island is the place to be!