English-style brick and half-timbered buildings combine with an old-fashioned town square to make Libertyville’s downtown area look like a movie set—a wholesome family movie, like It’s a Wonderful Life.
And for residents of this charming and historic town 30 miles north of Chicago, it is a pretty wonderful life, with gracious homes on tree-lined streets, highly-rated neighborhood schools and a welcoming hometown where neighborly gestures are commonplace.
But everything was not always rosy in Libertyville’s history. The architectural unity of the downtown area is owed to a disastrous fire that destroyed the original wooden buildings in 1895. The city fathers decreed that only brick would be allowed in the rebuilding process. Another historic area of town was Hawthorne-Mellody Farms, created by Samuel Insull, founder of Commonwealth Edison, in what is now Vernon Hills. When Insull was ruined in the Great Depression, the majority of the property was sold to publisher John F. Cuneo, whose estate recently donated the museum and gardens to Loyola University.
Three historic homes are located in Libertyville: The Adler Cultural Center, the former home of renowned architect David Adler, now devoted to art exhibits and education; The Adlai E. Stevenson Historic Home, where visitors can learn about the former governor and presidential candidate; and the Ansel Cook Home, a Victorian Museum in downtown Libertyville.
Part of the Lake County Forest Preserve District, Independence Grove offers a lake with fishing, boating and a sand beach; state-of-the-art playground with handicap-adaptable equipment; and a dramatic visitors center featuring interactive nature and history exhibits.
Indoor sports are the focus at the Sports Complex, where residents enjoy a fitness center, courts for volleyball and basketball, and indoor soccer fields. While some rec centers boast of their climbing walls, the Sports Complex offers a Climbing Mountain, 28 feet tall with climbing surfaces on all sides. The Parks Department also maintains 19 neighborhood park sites, the Libertyville Golf Course, and two outdoor swimming pools.
A variety of older homes, varying in size and value, surround Libertyville’s historic downtown. Victorian, Colonial, English Tudor and American Foursquare are among the styles represented, and prices range from $200,000 to over $800,000.
Newer homes span an even larger price range, with 3-bedroom homes in some subdivisions priced in the mid $200s, and a few large estate-style homes for over $2 million. Some townhomes and a few condos are available in Libertyville, priced from $150,000 to $400,000.
Except for those who live near the downtown area, life in Libertyville requires a car. Traffic is manageable, even along Milwaukee Avenue, and parking is plentiful. Commuters to downtown Chicago appreciate the convenience and reliability of the Metra trains, which make the trip from the Libertyville depot to Chicago’s Union Station in just over an hour.
Dining, Shopping and Nightlife
An intriguing array of restaurants keeps things lively in downtown Libertyville. From bars (The Firkin) and brewpubs (Mickey Finn’s Brewery) to urban-style bistros (545 North) and elegant fine-dining establishments (The Tavern), Libertyville has something for every taste and every occasion. For the late-night crowd, Mickey Finn’s offers live bands on Friday and Saturday nights.
Residents are loyal to the downtown shopping district, and enjoy the convenience of the mix of shops and services. But for a serious shopping trip, Westfield Hawthorn Shopping Mall is just minutes away in Vernon Hills.
Most of Libertyville’s students attend neighborhood schools of Elementary District 70, and award-winning Libertyville High School. Catholic, Lutheran and Montessori schools are also located in Libertyville.