A visitor to Wheaton might think he had somehow been transported from the Chicago suburbs to a quaint New England village—a leafy college campus, tree-lined streets filled with vintage homes, a historic courthouse, complete with clock tower.
Wheaton’s history dates back almost as far, from its founding in 1837 to its establishment as the DuPage County seat in 1867. Located 25 miles west of Chicago, Wheaton is also the home of Wheaton College, a four-year Christian liberal-arts college founded in 1860.
But Wheaton has adapted beautifully to modern times. Historic homes have been renovated to include gourmet kitchens and luxury baths. The courthouse has moved to a newly built facility, and the gracious old building has been converted to upscale condominiums. And the neighborhood shops in the downtown area have given way to gourmet restaurants and art galleries—all without losing an ounce of vintage charm.
An award-winning park district oversees 52 parks, including a nationally recognized zoo, a natural marsh preserve with an innovative ropes course, two swimming pools, and the recently renovated Arrowhead Golf Club. Families gather at Clocktower Commons for miniature golf and a skate park, while sports enthusiasts love the new Hubble Athletic Center and Parks Plus Fitness Center, which offers child care for residents using the facilities.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County also provides activities for families. Kline Creek Farm is a living history museum of 19th-century farm life, and the Danada Equestrian Center provides riding lessons and hayrides.
Wheaton comes alive in summertime, as cyclists ride the Illinois Prairie Path, part of a network of 61 miles of bike paths. The French Market, held in downtown Wheaton each Saturday from April to November, is modeled after France’s open-air markets, and the sweet sounds of the Municipal Band fill the air on Thursday evenings.
Lovers of vintage homes will find a lot to choose from in Wheaton, with many homes built in the late 19th and early 20th century priced from $600,000 to over $1 million. Also popular among old-house fans are the many catalog homes from Sears and other manufacturers.
A good selection of newer homes is also available in every price range. Recent sales include single-family homes priced from $180,000 to close to $990,000. New condos, townhomes and city style rowhouses have been built in recent years, attracting young professionals and empty nesters.
Major thoroughfares such as Naperville Road and Roosevelt Road connect Wheaton to I-88 and I-355 for a 45-minute trip (or more, depending on traffic) to downtown Chicago. But for commuters, shoppers and other visitors to the city, Metra trains are, as the slogan says, the way to really fly. Two stations serve Wheaton passengers, one downtown and one at College Avenue on the east side of town. Express trains reach Chicago’s Ogilvie Transportation Center in about 45 minutes.
Shopping, Dining and Nightlife
Downtown Wheaton is home to charming galleries and boutiques but is perhaps best known for its restaurants. Adelle’s upscale American cuisine and excellent wine list draws fans from as far away as Chicago, and Il Sogno’s Italian fare delights families as well as those seeking a romantic dinner.
Town Square Mall features national retailers such as Gap, Banana Republic, Chico’s and Williams-Sonoma, as well as a selection of casual dining restaurants.
Highly rated Community Unit District 200 serves most Wheaton families, with neighborhood elementary and middle schools that are in walking distance for most children. High schoolers attend either Wheaton North High School or Wheaton Warrenville South. Several private schools, including two private high schools, are also located in Wheaton. And Wheaton College, a Christian liberal arts and graduate school, continues to build on its 150-year history in Wheaton.