Woodstock is a city in and the county seat of McHenry County, Illinois, United States, located 51 miles (82 km) northwest of Chicago. The population was 24,770 at the 2010 census and as of 2019, the population has grown to an estimated 25,240. The city's downtown includes a historic, turn-of-the-century town square, which is anchored by the landmark Woodstock Opera House and the Old McHenry County Courthouse. The city was named one of the nation's Dozen Distinctive Destinations in 2007 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Woodstock Opera House on the Square in historic downtown Woodstock
"True to Its Past; Confident of Its Future"
Location of Woodstock in McHenry County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
|Townships||Dorr, Greenwood, Hartland, Seneca|
|• Mayor||Dr. Brian Sager|
|• Total||13.07 sq mi (33.86 km2)|
|• Land||13.07 sq mi (33.86 km2)|
|• Water||0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||1,930.40/sq mi (745.36/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
|Wikimedia Commons||Woodstock, Illinois|
Early days, CentervilleEdit
Woodstock was originally known as Centerville because of its location at the geographic center of McHenry County. It was chosen as the county seat on September 4, 1843. Early settler Alvin Judd developed a plat for the town, which incorporated a two-acre public square, near which a 2-story frame courthouse and jail were constructed the following year by George C. Dean and Daniel Blair. In 1845, prominent resident Joel Johnson proposed that Centerville be given a more original name, and so the town was renamed Woodstock after Johnson's hometown of Woodstock, Vermont. (The town was listed as "Center" on the 1850 Federal Census, however.) In 1852, Woodstock was incorporated as a village with Judd as president. In response to a growing population following the end of the Civil War, Woodstock was incorporated as a city in 1873. John S. Wheat was elected as Woodstock's first mayor. A vital artery for the growing town was the train line to and from Chicago, which allowed for a substantial industrial presence early in the town's history.
Eugene V. Debs' prison stayEdit
In 1895, Eugene V. Debs served a short federal prison sentence in the Woodstock Jail following the 1894 Pullman labor strike in Chicago. Debs, the former president of the American Railway Union, was held in Woodstock instead of Chicago because federal officials feared that he would be surrounded with too many sympathizers in a Chicago prison and therefore could have still incited further violence. Debs was instead assigned to a cell in the newly constructed Woodstock Jail, which occupied the lowest floor of the Woodstock Courthouse on the town square. During his time in the jail, Debs received several influential socialist visitors and encountered the works of Karl Marx. He is said to have considered the Woodstock Jail one of the "greatest school[s]," and passed his time reading and writing many letters from his cell. By the time he was released in November 1895 (to great fanfare and before crowds of onlookers assembled in the Woodstock Square), Debs had become a socialist and a national celebrity. He later ran for the United States Presidency five times between 1900 and 1920 as the candidate for the newly formed Social Democratic Party.
During the early part of the 20th century, Woodstock had become "Typewriter City" and was home to factories of both the Emerson Typewriter Company and the Oliver Typewriter Company. Woodstock workers had built more than half the world's typewriters by 1922. The companies were very much a part of civic life in Woodstock during this time. Both factories had active social clubs, baseball teams that competed against one another, and Emerson even had a well-regarded band that played at public events. In 1919, Emerson Typewriter became the Woodstock Typewriter Company. The city grew and flourished with increasing demand for Woodstock typewriters up through and after World War II. Initially the company sold typewriters for use in the war effort both domestically and abroad, but even after the war's end returning servicemen, now familiar with the Woodstock brand, chose these models for their households. The factory was in use until 1970, and has since been converted into lofts.
Orson Welles and the Todd School for BoysEdit
Woodstock had an important role in the creative development of Orson Welles. In 1926, in the midst of a chaotic upbringing, he enrolled at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock at age 10. His five-year stay there was his only formal education, and the town and school made an impression on the young Welles. Years later, in 1960, when asked where he thought of as his hometown, he replied "I suppose it's Woodstock, Illinois, if it's anywhere. I went to school there for four years. If I try to think of a home, it's that." 
At Todd School, the young Welles came under the positive influence and guidance of Roger Hill, a teacher who later became the school's headmaster. Hill provided Welles with an educational environment that supported his creativity, allowing Welles to concentrate on subjects that interested him. Welles performed and staged his first theatrical experiments and productions at Todd. He also performed at the downtown Woodstock Opera House, where the stage — the site of his American debut as a professional theatre director — is now dedicated to him. Welles returned to Woodstock periodically after leaving school. In July 1934 at the age of 19, he coordinated the Todd Theatre Festival, a six-week summer festival at the Woodstock Opera House that featured Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir of Dublin's Gate Theatre.:165 His short film The Hearts of Age was shot on the Todd School campus during the festival.
Todd School for Boys closed in 1954, and several original buildings were purchased at auction and reused by Marian Central Catholic High School and Christian Life Services. Welles' former dormitory was demolished in 2010.
Role in movies and televisionEdit
Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1987Edit
Several scenes in the 1987 film Planes, Trains, and Automobiles were shot in Woodstock, including the scene in which the protagonists' rental car is towed in front of a building (the old Courthouse). The movie brought Woodstock to the attention of location manager Bob Hudgins, who later recommended the town to Harold Ramis for the filming of Groundhog Day.
Groundhog Day, 1993Edit
Woodstock is perhaps most famous for its role as the location for the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. Although the story is set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the movie's producers preferred the quintessentially American backdrop of the Woodstock Square and its surroundings. Outdoor and street scenes were filmed around the downtown and various side streets, and signs from stores and businesses are visible throughout the movie. Many notable scenes' locations are commemorated with plaques as part of a walking tour for visitors and enthusiasts. In January 2020, several key actors, including Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray and Stephen Tobolowsky returned to Woodstock to film a Groundhog Day themed commercial for Jeep. The commercial aired during the 2020 Super Bowl.
Woodstock was the basis for the fictional town of Hawkins Falls in the 1950s television soap opera Hawkins Falls, Population 6200. The city was also the site of primary filming for the movie Bored Silly, which was released in 2000. In August 2018 it was reported that filming had begun in and around the Square for the 2019 HBO series Lovecraft Country from producers J. J. Abrams, Jordan Peele, Misha Green and Ben Stephenson.
The Woodstock Independent is the award-winning local paper of record and is delivered weekly to subscribers. Published on Wednesdays, The Independent covers community news, events as well as local government and schools. The Independent also publishes The Torch, a feature-oriented magazine delivered free to all Woodstock residents 8 or 9 times a year.
Woodstock has become an important destination for live music in McHenry County and the region with venues featuring local, national, and international artists.
A number of organizations support and promote live music in Woodstock:
- Liquid Blues
- Jazz on the Square
- Off Square Music
- Opera Woodstock
- RIFF Productions
- Woodstock Folk Festival
- Woodstock City Band
- Potts & Pans Steelband
Woodstock is home to many Protestant and Catholic churches, a Jewish congregation and The Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple since 2002.
Woodstock's public schools are part of Woodstock Community Unit School District 200, which was formed in 1969. The district currently operates 1 early learning center (Verda Dierzen), 6 elementary schools (Dean Street, Greenwood, Mary Endres, Olson, Prairiewood and Westwood), two middle schools (Northwood and Creekside) and two high schools (Woodstock High School and Woodstock North High School). The three newest buildings, Prairiewood, Creekside and WNHS, were approved in a March 2006 referendum to address crowding in schools due to the area's growth between the mid-1990s and 2008.
Woodstock is also currently served by private educational institutions: St. Mary Catholic grade school (K-8) is located in town and students often continue on to Marian Central Catholic High School, also located in Woodstock.
Residents pursuing an associate degree normally do so at McHenry County College in neighboring Crystal Lake. Loyola University Chicago owns and operates a large property on Woodstock's eastern edge as its Retreat and Ecology Campus. Aurora University also operates its Woodstock Center downtown.
According to Woodstock's 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
|#||Employer||# of Employees|
|2||Woodstock Community Unit School District 200||1,142|
|3||Centegra Health System||904|
|6||Claussen Pickle Company||300|
|9||Other World Computing||180|
Woodstock's railroad station is the penultimate passenger stop on Metra's Union Pacific Northwest Line, which originates from Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago and ends in Harvard, Illinois. At Woodstock, Metra offers passengers 9 daily trains to Chicago on weekdays (11 returning outbound), and between 400 and 500 daily passengers use the train for travel to Chicago or other suburban communities along the line. This direct link to the city was historically instrumental in Woodstock's growth as a city, and remains an attractive option for local commuters and residents to reach Chicago. As a result, Woodstock's use of the system is greater than that of nearly half of the Metra system's other outlying stations, many of which serve larger or geographically nearer communities.
U.S. Route 14 once took drivers through the heart of downtown Woodstock, but a modern bypass now curves around the city's southwest border. Illinois Route 47 runs through the city in the north-south direction. Illinois Route 120's western terminus is in northwest Woodstock, and continues east past Woodstock's downtown and into rural McHenry County.
- Jack Allen, professional baseball infielder for the Syracuse Stars and the Cleveland Blues
- Jessica Biel, actress and model
- Bob Bird, Alaskan pro-life and political activist, first Distinguished Alumnus of Marian Central, graduated in 1969.
- Michael J. Brown, Illinois state representative and businessman
- Bryan Bulaga, football player, University of Iowa and Green Bay Packers
- Rick Fletcher, illustrator and cartoonist with Chicago Tribune; best known for The Old Glory Story and Dick Tracy
- Emma Goldman, anarchist and political activist
- Chester Gould, cartoonist and the creator of the Dick Tracy comic strip
- Nikol Hasler, author, sexual educator, internet personality
- Ann Hughes, Illinois state representative
- Marcellus L. Joslyn, businessman
- Dana Nafziger, football player
- Doug Oberhelman, CEO, Caterpillar Inc.
- Scott Sobkowiak, pitcher for the Atlanta Braves
- Barbara Stcherbatcheff, best-selling author and economic commentator
- Lynn D. Stewart, Illini star player from the 1960s and co-founder of the Hooters Restaurant chain
- Johnny Stompanato, mob associate of Mickey Cohen, boyfriend of Lana Turner: killed by Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane, in self-defense
- Michele Weiner-Davis, marriage therapist and author
- Orson Welles, director, writer, actor, producer, 1931 graduate of the Todd School for Boys:3
- Gigi Goode, American drag queen and contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race (season 12)
According to the 2010 census, Woodstock has a total area of 13.55 square miles (35.09 km2), all land.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 20,151 people, 7,273 households, and 4,843 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,891.1 people per square mile (729.9/km2). There were 7,599 housing units at an average density of 713.1 per square mile (275.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.48% White, 1.06% African American, 0.23% Native American, 2.01% Asian, 7.69% from other races, and 1.52% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 19.01% of the population.
There were 7,273 households, out of which 37.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.7% were married couples living together, 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.4% were non-families. 27.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.30.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 27.9% under the age of 18, 10.2% from 18 to 24, 33.2% from 25 to 44, 18.9% from 45 to 64, and 9.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females, there were 100.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $47,871, and the median income for a family was $54,408. Males had a median income of $40,137 versus $27,264 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,210. About 5.3% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.0% of those under age 18 and 3.0% of those age 65 or over.
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