Skokie (; formerly Niles Center) is a village in Cook County, Illinois, United States. Its name comes from a Potawatomi word for "marsh". A Chicago suburb, for many years Skokie promoted itself as "The World's Largest Village". Its population, according to the 2010 census, was 64,784. Sharing a border with the city of Chicago, Skokie's streets, like that of many suburbs, are largely a continuation of the Chicago street grid, and it is served by the Chicago Transit Authority, further cementing its connection to the city.
Skokie was originally a German-Luxembourger farming community, but was later settled by a sizeable Jewish population, especially after World War II. At its peak in the mid-1960s, 40% of the population was Jewish, the largest percent of any Chicago suburb. In recent years, however, Skokie's population has become significantly more diverse, and several Jewish synagogues and schools have closed. However, Skokie still has a very large Jewish population. It is home to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which opened in northwest Skokie in 2009.
Skokie has received national attention twice for court cases decided by the United States Supreme Court. In the mid-1970s, Skokie was at the center of a case concerning the First Amendment right to assemble and the National Socialist Party of America, a neo-Nazi group. Skokie ultimately lost that case. In 2001, although Skokie was not a direct party to the case, a decision by the village regarding land use led the court to reduce the power of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. In October 2013 Skokie was rated #71 on Americas top 100 places to live on the livability.com website.
In 1888, the community was incorporated as Niles Centre. About 1910, the spelling was Americanized to "Niles Center". However, the name caused postal confusion with the neighboring village of Niles. A village-renaming campaign began in the 1930s. In a referendum on November 15, 1940, residents chose the Indian name "Skokie" over the name "Devonshire".
During the real estate boom of the 1920s, large parcels were subdivided; many two- and three-flat apartment buildings were built, with the "Chicago"-style bungalow a dominant architectural specimen. Large-scale development ended as a result of the Great Crash of 1929 and consequent Great Depression. It was not until the 1940s and the 1950s, when parents of the baby boom generation moved their families out of Chicago, that Skokie's housing development began again. Consequently, the village developed commercially, an example being the Old Orchard Shopping Center, currently named Westfield Old Orchard.
During the night of November 27–28, 1934, after a gunfight in nearby Barrington that left two FBI agents dead, two accomplices of notorious 25-year-old bank-robber Baby Face Nelson (Lester Gillis) dumped his bullet-riddled body in a ditch along Niles Center Road adjoining the St. Peter Catholic Cemetery, a block north of Oakton Avenue in the town.
The name of the town was changed from "Niles Center" to "Skokie" by referendum in 1940. "Skokie" had previously been used as the name for the marshland on which much of the town was built; the term "Skokie marsh" was being used by local botanists, notably Henry Chandler Cowles, as early as 1901. Maps long named the Skokie marsh as Chewab Skokie, a probable derivation from Kitchi-wap choku, a Potawatomi term meaning "great marsh".
Virgil Vogel's Indian Place Names in Illinois (Illinois State Historical Society, 1963) records the name Skokie as deriving
directly from skoutay or scoti and variant Algonquian words for fire. The reference is to the fact that marshy grasslands, such as occurred in the Skokie region, were burned by the Indians to flush out the game.
In Native Placenames of the United States (U. of Oklahoma Pr, 2004), William Bright lists Vogel's Potawatomi derivation first, but adds reference to the Ojibwa term miishkooki ("marsh") recorded in the Eastern Ojibwa-Chippewa-Ottawa Dictionary (Mouton, 1985), by Richard A. Rhodes.
The 1940 change of name may also have been influenced by James Foster Porter, a Chicago native, who had explored the "Skoki Valley" in Banff National Park in Canada in 1911 and became captivated by the name. Porter supported the name "Skokie" in the referendum when he returned to America.
In the early 1990s, the demographics of those who lived in Skokie would change forever. Chicago's urban renewal plan would bring in many impoverished families from all over the city to inhabit Skokie. In the early 1990s, the generation of the children growing up in Skokie took an urban approach due to influence from Chicago. The nicknames "Skompton" and "Sko" were given to Skokie by the troubled 90's baby generation located on the South East side of Skokie on various streets off of Oakton in the Downtown Skokie area.
Supreme Court rulings
Twice in its history, Skokie has been the focal point of cases before the United States Supreme Court. National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977), involved a First Amendment issue. Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S. 159 (2001) touched upon the Commerce Clause.
In 1977 and 1978, Illinois Nazis of the National Socialist Party of America (derived from the American Nazi Party) attempted to demonstrate their political existence with a march in Skokie, far from their headquarters on Chicago's south side. Originally, the NSPA had planned a political rally in Marquette Park in Chicago; however the Chicago authorities thwarted these plans, first, by requiring the NSPA post an onerous public-safety-insurance bond, then, by banning all political demonstrations in Marquette Park.
Seeking another free-speech political venue, the NSPA chose to march on Skokie. Given the many Holocaust survivors living in Skokie, the village's government thought the Nazi march would be politically provocative and socially disruptive, and refused the NSPA its permission. In the event, the American Civil Liberties Union interceded in behalf of the NSPA, in the case of the National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, wherein an Illinois appeals court raised the injunction issued by a Cook County Circuit Court judge, ruling that the presence of the swastika, the Nazi emblem, would constitute deliberate provocation of the people of Skokie. However, the Court also ruled that Skokie's attorneys had failed to prove that either the Nazi uniform or their printed materials, which it was alleged that the Nazis intended to distribute, would incite violence.
Moreover, because Chicago subsequently lifted its Marquette Park political demonstration ban, the NSPA ultimately held its rally in Chicago. In 1980, the attempted Illinois Nazi march on Skokie was parodied in the film The Blues Brothers and later dramatised in the television movie, Skokie in 1981.
Migratory bird rule
In 2001, Skokie's decision to use an isolated wetland as a solid waste disposal site resulted in a lawsuit. Ultimately, the case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and resulted in an overturn of the federal migratory bird rule. See Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook Cty. v. Army Corps of Engineers for more information.