Oak Park is a village adjacent to the western side of the city of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. It is the 29th largest municipality in Illinois as measured by population, and has easy access to downtown Chicago (the Chicago Loop) due to public transportation such as the Chicago 'L' Blue and Green lines, CTA buses, and Metra commuter rail. The 2000 census showed that the village had a total population of 52,524. As of the 2010 census, the population had dropped by 1.2 percent to 51,878.
In 1837, Joseph Kettlestrings purchased of land just west of Chicago. By 1850, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was constructed as far as Elgin, Illinois, and passed through what would later become Oak Park. In the 1850s the land on which Oak Park sits was part of the new Chicago suburb of Cicero. The population of the area boomed during the 1870s, with Chicago residents resettling in Cicero following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
The Village of Oak Park was formally established in 1902, disengaging from Cicero following a referendum. It has long styled itself as the "World's Largest Village".
Oak Park has a history of alcohol prohibition. When the village was incorporated, no alcohol was allowed to be sold within its village limits. This law was relaxed in 1973, when restaurants and hotels were allowed to serve alcohol, and was further loosened in 2002, when select grocery stores received governmental permission to sell packaged liquor.
Oak Park's enviable location as one of the closest suburbs to downtown Chicago, the availability of multiple modes of high-speed transportation to downtown Chicago, and its location between the Loyola Medical Center to the west and the University of Illinois at Chicago and multiple medical centers to the east attract university, legal, and health-care professionals to its aging housing stock.
Oak Park is home to the well-regarded Oak Park and River Forest High School, which is also the public high school for the bordering village of River Forest. A comprehensive college preparatory school, Oak Park-River Forest High School has had a long history of not only turning out alumni who have made contributions in a wide variety of fields, but have been notable in their fields. Among these are Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway, football hall-of-famer George Trafton, McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, city planner Walter Burley Griffin, comedian Kathy Griffin, basketball player Iman Shumpert, and the voice of iconic cartoon character Homer Simpson, Dan Castellaneta.