The first settlers of European descent came to the Homewood area in the 1830s. The Vincennes Trail, an early Indian trail connecting Vincennes, Indiana and the settlement at the mouth of the Chicago River, brought them here. The trail appears to have developed two branches starting at about 10th Street in Chicago Heights. The west branch followed the route of Riegel-Chicago Road to Holbrook Road, then west to Dixie Highway (Vincennes Road), then north through what is now Homewood and on to Blue Island.
In 1853, James Hart platted Hartford – the first name of Homewood’s downtown district. Later that year, the Illinois Central Railroad laid tracks through Hart’s subdivision. The railroad stop was designated as Thornton Station. Nearby Thornton village, located on the then navigable Thorn Creek, was imminently the more important town of the time. However, the lowering of Thorn Creek altered the development of Thornton. Thornton Station’s importance increased as the railroads expanded their influence.
The Thornton Flour Mill Company established its mill here in 1856. The many German families recently that had arrived from Europe, settled in the fertile prairie lands in the area and brought their grain to the mill. While the mill wheels turned the grain into flour, the farmer and his family patronized the business establishments of the expanding village — general stores, blacksmiths, and yes, saloons which offered meals free or for a small fee.
The change of the Village name from Thornton Station to Homewood was recognized by the United States Post Office Department in 1869. Homewood was officially incorporated as a municipality in 1893. Village fathers organized a Volunteer Fire Department in 1901 and a Police Department in 1904. No doubt creation of these departments was aided by the installation of telephone and electric service in 1901 and 1902.
The Illinois Central Railroad continued to be an important part of Homewood. Steam powered suburban train service terminated at Homewood in the 1890s. Early in the 1900s there were as many as 10 trains daily making the round trip from Chicago to bring golfers to play at country clubs in or near the town. Some of the more affluent golfers built summer homes west of the railroad tracks adjacent to Ravisloe Country Club.
The prosperity of the 1920s rekindled interest in building in Homewood. Streets stretched beyond the Village outskirts. Mains distributed water from the town wells and with new sewers under the newly paved roads, indoor plumbing became more than just a luxury.
The Great Depression slowed town expansion and spirits dropped somewhat, but the residents pulled together. One of the banks even remained solvent throughout those dark years. The town’s population increased to 3,000 by 1940.
Post World War II growth was explosive. New businesses and subdivisions developed overnight, and the population soared to near 18,000 by 1970.
Today, Homewood’s population is well over 19,000. Recognized as one of Chicago’s finer southern suburbs, Homewood still retains the flavor of a “country town.”