Saturday, July 5, 2014
The Impact of Globalization on Highwood, Illinois
Written in February 2008 for a course on geography,
Edited in July 2014
Although one may not expect a city of only 5,000 residents located on the North shore of Chicago to show much evidence of international influence, the history of Highwood, Illinois has a rich multicultural heritage that is reflected in its mix of foreign-born and immigrant-descended residents and their restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses which have put Highwood's economic success level on par with that of the mostly white and Jewish communities around it.
In 2000, the population of Highwood was 4,143. It is located in southeastern Lake County, 28 miles north of downtown Chicago. The City of Highwood is connected to all cities on the shore of Lake Michigan from Kenosha, Wisconsin to Chicago by the Metra / Union Pacific North Line. It is bordered by Lake Forest to the northwest, Fort Sheridan to the northeast, and Highland Park to the south.
Highwood was founded in the 1880s by Swedish settlers. Phone service in Highwood began in the 1930s, and cars became available in the 1940s, though they were difficult to afford during the war.
Today, 38.6% of Highwood residents are foreign-born and 38.2% are Hispanics of any race. Italian immigration to the city began in the early years of the 1900s decade, peaked during World War II, decreased dramatically in the late 1940s, and rose again in the 1960s. Highwood has been importing pasta, olive oil, cookies, candy, and panatone from Italy since before the 1930s. The city hosts the annual Highwood Days in August, which began as an Italian cultural celebration in the 1980s.
The economic blending between Highwood and the affluent, predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Highland Park has become more apparent since World War II through the 1960s, when Highwood experienced a business renaissance as several dozen taverns were replaces by better buildings occupied by restaurants. Since then, Highwood has seen an increase in white residents and property values. Over the last five to seven years, several antique stores and art galleries have opened.
In the mid-1950s, Highwood's numerous Italian-owned landscaping companies, of which today there are at least five, began hiring Mexican immigrants. The influx of Mexican immigrants to Highwood has spread to Highland Park and Lake Forest. There is also a significant Mexican population in North Chicago, ten miles north of Highwood.
Most Highwood residents work within the city, although train service to Kenosha and Chicago is readily available as it goes straight through the center of the town, which is less than one square mile in area. In the 1930s, many people living in Highwood worked as housekeepers and gardeners for residents of Lake Forest, Highland Park, and Lake Bluff. Today the most common occupations are landscaping, carpentry, stone masonry, electrician work, food service, plumbing, and family businesses such as auto body shops.
Today, downtown Highwood has many Mexican- and Italian-owned grocery stores and restaurants. There are two Mexican-owned grocery stores, called “mini-supers,” including one that cooks food to order. There are currently three Italian-owned grocery stores - one of which is a butcher shop that has been in business for 35 years – another is a bakery, and two of them make food to order or to go.
There are three or four Mexican-owned restaurants, which mostly employ Mexican cooks, busboys, and wait staff. There are at least nine Italian-owned restaurants, some of which employ Mexican cooks and busboys. The wait staff, hosts, and bartenders at restaurants and bars in Highwood are mostly Italian or white.
The Walgreen's store in Highwood offers specialty items that most other Walgreen's would not have, such as Mexican candy, pastries made by Mexico-based company Bimbo, and El Milagro tortilla chips. Walgreen's was built after Highwood's main pharmacy and convenience store, Laegler's Pharmacy, closed after about a hundred years of operation. The owner, William Laegler, became a pharmacist at Walgreen's. In Laegler's place is an upscale Italian-owned restaurant called Miramar.
Gabe Viti, the owner of Miramar – and Froggy's, which serves French cuisine – opened a Mexican restaurant called Pancho Viti, but it was unsuccessful and closed after several years. There is also a Chinese restaurant and a Greek restaurant called Yianni's Opa, which closed last year after about ten years of operation.
North Shore Estates is a 200,000 square-foot, 252-unit apartment property comprised of three four-story midrise apartment buildings located on the northern edge of Highwood's business district. It houses several hundred, perhaps a thousand residents. Since the early 1980s, the building has been known to be overcrowded and there are numerous health and safety concerns. What to do about the building has been a topic of concern in City Hall for the past few years. The building may be sold, but citizens have voiced their concern for the health of the residents as this would displace about 20% of Highwood's work force.
Another apartment complex north of North Shore Estates along Sheridan Road is the nearby Hotel Moraine, which has closed and is planned to be torn down and replaced by a condominium with retail space on the bottom floor, although logistical and population-density issues slow its development.
Across Sheridan Road from northern Highwood is the south end of the U.S. Army base Fort Sheridan. Fort Sheridan and Highwood belong to North Shore School District 112, which today includes Oak Terrace Elementary and Indian Trail School, which teach kindergarten through fifth grade, and Elm Place Middle School, which teaches sixth through eighth grade. Students attend high school in neighboring Highland Park. St. James Catholic School, which teaches kindergarten through eighth grade, has been open for at least 75 years. It has been developed since its construction, adding new classrooms and converting old classrooms into rental spaces for events.
After about a hundred years of operation, Oak Terrace School was rebuilt as Oak Terrace Elementary in 1999 and 2000 and has since become a dual language magnet school, owing to the increase in Mexican immigration to Highwood. Fifty-two point one percent of Highwood residents over 5 years old speak a language other than English at home. For each grade, the school offers one English-only class and one or several dual Spanish and English classes. As the grades advance, Spanish and English use in the classroom is blended. Kindergarten dual Spanish and English classes begin with Spanish immersion.
Recently, there has been an increase in the number of white students enrolled at Oak Terrace Elementary, the dual-language elementary school, as non-Spanish-speaking residents have become aware and have realized the need for their children to be aware of the Spanish language. Some residents believe that Oak Terrace's emphasis on dual language skills causes the content to be covered less in-depth. Sherwood School in Highland Park also offers dual language classes. Residents are free to choose which of Highwood's elementary schools their children attend.
In a study of Highwood, Illinois, one can find evidence of influence from Mexico, China, and most of Western Europe including Italy, France, and Sweden. It has been active in trade with Italy for at least 75 years. Residents celebrate their Italian heritage on an annual basis, and Hispanic heritage is reflected in one of its educational institutions, each contributing to the prevalence of multilingual people in the area. Highwood's status as a diverse immigrant neighborhood has shaped its distinct identity among cities on the North Shore for over one hundred years.