A Brief History of Romeoville
Romeo, Juliet, and Lockport were built to house the workers for the I&M Canal in the 1800s. Romeo remained a small village of two streets on the east side of the Canal and on Isle a la Cache in the Des Plaines River. Juliet was renamed Joliet for explorer Louis Joliet. Romeo incorporated into a village in 1895 and was later renamed Romeoville. A grocery/ hotel and numerous taverns were the main businesses.
Romeo Beach was a popular swimming getaway for people from Chicago and its suburbs. A race track on the west side of the canal also attracted crowds who needed to eat. A small restaurant near the track grew into the still-popular White Fence Farm, owned by the Hastert family. The village was surrounded by farms in the unincorporated township.
The I&M Canal was crossed at Romeo Road on a narrow bridge that swung 90 degrees to permit river traffic to pass. It was replaced in 1998 and is visible from the Centennial Trail north of 135thStreet near the Isle a la Cache Museum.
One of the farms was owned by Patrick Fitzpatrick. It is believed to have been a station on the Underground Railroad in the 1800s. Fitzpatrick donated a portion of his land to the Catholic Diocese for a boys’ school which has grown into Lewis University. The Fitzpatrick House, not open to the public, is south of Lewis University on the east side of the road.
Neal Murphy was elected Mayor in 1929 and remained in office until 1969. There was a small deficit in the treasury when he took office. It was paid off within a year and the village remained debt-free through his tenure.
All one-room schools were closed in 1954. Valley View School was built in Romeoville to replace those serving the farm families in DuPage Township and western Lockport Township. Older students in the area attended Lockport High School until overcrowding led to building Lockport West south of Romeoville in 1964. As Romeoville and Bolingbrook grew, the need for more schools was acute, but half day sessions were not desired. In 1970, Patrick Page, a teacher in the district, devised a system where students would attend school for 45 days, then have 15 off, all year. Thus three-quarters of the students would be in school at a time. All students in a neighborhood had the same schedule, so older students were available to care for the younger ones. This system attracted attention from school districts around the country.
In 1958, construction of Hampton Park began on farm land on the West side of the Canal. The prefabricated houses, with windows and doors installed, were delivered by semi-trucks with attached cranes to unload the walls. From 10 to 15 homes were built each day. By the 1960 census, the village population had grown from several hundred to over 3000. Some of the original families remain in their homes. Five churches began at this time to serve the growing population. Several started in the schools until their buildings were finished.
The Romeoville Jaycees surveyed residents to learn the needs of the village. The resounding answer was: a library! They began the process of starting a library for Romeoville and the smaller village of Bolingbrook. Fountaindale Public Library District opened identical buildings in 1975. In 2008, the Romeoville building was transferred to the Des Plaines Valley Public Library District as its third building. Renamed the White Oak Library District, the Romeoville and Lockport buildings were remodeled, and the Crest Hill library relocated between 2011 and 2013.