Other Chicago suburbs gentrified or decayed their way through the 20th Century, while multiplying their populations. Meanwhile, Wayne persisted, the tortoise to their hare.
"We are frozen in time by intention," said Wayne's village president, Eileen Phipps, who compares her village to the fictional Brigadoon. "We have no Starbucks or McDonalds because people move here for a different kind of life. We want open space, large lots, wildlife and the equestrian heritage." Indeed, Wayne has long been the village of choice for the horsey set.
Located 30 miles west of Chicago's Loop, Wayne straddles the Kane and DuPage county line, although its village hall is in DuPage. It wasn't incorporated until 1958, but was founded in the 1830s and still has houses from that era. Wayne's population inched up to 2,407 by 2009. Phipps predicted it will max out between 2,500 and 2,800 people.
What keeps housing developers at bay, explained Phipps, is Wayne's 1- to 4-acre lot size minimums. And, the village has no city water or sewer lines. Even the older houses in the center of town, whose smaller lots were grandfathered in, have wells and septic fields.
Wayne's jagged boundaries stretched east and west from its downtown core as some unincorporated property owners annexed into the village. "We don't forcibly annex land," said Phipps. Now, Wayne is mostly landlocked and has boundary agreements with Bartlett, South Elgin, St. Charles and West Chicago.
Police Chief Dan Callahan has five full-time and eight to 10 part-time officers cruising Wayne's neighborhoods, where the people wave at them, he joked, "with all five fingers."
"Our department is the poster child of community policing," he said. "Because of our low crime rate, we're able to be proactive. We do vacation checks several times a day so the bad guys go elsewhere. We have keys to half of the homes."
A hectic day for his officers, said Callahan, includes an ambulance assist, speeding tickets for drivers who ignore Army Trail Road's 25 mph limit and traffic control for one of Wayne's frequent horse shows.
Many Wayne residents are on first-name basis with the officers because they pick up their mail across the street from the police station. Prior to 2000, the Wayne Post Office did not deliver. Since it added delivery, many residents still pick up their mail so they can greet neighbors.
Wayne residents treasure the history of their land, which was named for "Mad Anthony" Wayne, a Revolutionary War general. Its downtown, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, includes a few dozen historic houses.
An example of the in-town houses that sold recently is an 1836 three-bedroom charmer that sold for $237,000, reported Realtor Karen Ashe of Ashe Real Estate in Wayne.
More typical of Wayne home sales, though, is the four-bedroom, rehabbed 1800s estate that sold for $1.75 million. It includes a guest house, horse barn and tennis court.
While many Wayne residents keep horses at home, others board them the village's stables. Toni and Howard Levine board their horses, Senator and Bo Diddley, at the privately owned Dunham Woods Riding Club. "After a lousy day at work, the horses are very therapeutic," said Toni.
The stable, which is operated by the Wayne-DuPage Hunt, is adjacent to the former Solomon Dunham home. Built in 1836, the house is now a banquet facility.
In the 1880s. Dunham's son, Mark, built the house kitty-corner to the club, known as the Dunham Castle. Not a day goes by that people don't pull into their driveway to see this landmark, said Karen Armbrust, who owns the castle with her husband Dave. The 18-room, multi-turreted house was headquarters for Mark Dunham's French Percheron (draft horse) importing business that his letterhead called "the largest importing and breeding establishment in the world" and won 111 prizes in the 1893 World's Columbia Exposition.
Another local landmark is the Little Home Church by the Wayside, a picturesque venue for many brides and grooms each year. Built in 1871, it burned down and was rebuilt in 1872. "That was about the same time as the Chicago Fire, but Mrs. O'Leary's cow had nothing to do with this fire," said Pastor Ronald Purser.
Another architectural icon is getting a second life, thanks to the Wayne Historical Preservation Society. The original downtown railroad depot, built in 1884, had been retired by the Dunham family to the castle's property after the railroad quit using it. In 2007, the Society moved it to its original location, gave it a basement and began its restoration. Completed, it will double as a historical museum and community center.
After the Dunhams, Wayne's best-known resident was the late Marguerite Henry, who wrote 50 children's books, including several that chronicle the annual corralling of horses at Virginia's Chincoteague Island. Her former house is still on Army Trail Road.
While some of Wayne's west side homes are within St. Charles Community Unit School District 303, most fall within School District U-46 (Elgin). The latter includes Wayne Elementary School, which is tucked into the village's downtown. "Many of the Wayne kids, though, go to private schools, like Elgin Academy [in Elgin]," said Phipps.
Weekends, Wayne residents ride their horses or watch the hunt riders and their hounds chase the "fox." (A scent bag replaced a real fox years ago.)
West side residents have the Fox River in their back yard. That includes Adam and Tanya Szatkowski, whose sport of choice is kayaking. They built a house on two acres in 2008 after demolishing five of the dozens of former summer cottages built along the river at the turn of the century, when it was a destination for Chicagoans. "One of our neighbors has a house that used to be the dance hall," said Adam.
Bikers and hikers know Wayne for its serene stretch of the Illinois Prairie Path, which winds through the 3,432-acre Pratt's Wayne Woods Forest Preserve. Bird-watchers bring their binoculars to Pratt's to see species including sandhill cranes and yellow-headed blackbirds. Wayne is also home to plenty of deer, coyotes, owls and the beavers who recently toppled Phipps' apple trees.
In early October, neighbors gather for a pig roast, bonfire and kite-flying on Wayne Day. In June, the village stages a Flag Day parade and picnic.
The decades-long political hot button in Wayne is the proposed Red Gate Road bridge across the Fox River. If built, it would feed more east-west traffic through Wayne, although the village has jurisdiction of its stretch of Army Trail Road and has no intention of enlarging it to accommodate rush-hour commuters, said Phipps. Meanwhile, the nearby Stearns Road bridge, which the Illinois Department of Transportation plans to finish in 2011, makes the Red Gate project redundant in the eyes of many.
Wayne has only a handful of commercial residents that contribute sales taxes to its village coffers. Unlike some of its larger neighbors, though, it does not have big-city expenses. Its village board members donate their time, and residents give money to buy police department equipment. The result is property taxes on par with those in next-door St. Charles.
"When Meijer (supermarket) tried to build here, they said, 'Don't you understand the sales tax we'd bring in?'" recalled Phipps. "We said yes, we do, but you don't understand Wayne."
As she eyes the remainder of her term, Phipps said her goal is to "continue the quiet way of life that people move here for."
"Wayne is small-town country living but within reach of civilization," said Szatkowski. "There are plenty of stores and restaurants nearby in South Elgin and St. Charles. But day to day, it's just very peaceful."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times