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DeKalb, Illinois

City of DeKalb
Nickname(s): Barb City
DeKalb is located in Illinois
Location within the state of Illinois
Country United States
State Illinois
County DeKalb
Incorporated 1856
 • Mayor John Rey
 • City 14.81 sq mi (38.4 km2)
 • Land 14.65 sq mi (37.9 km2)
 • Water 0.16 sq mi (0.4 km2)
Elevation 879 ft (268 m)
Population (2010 Census)
 • City 43,862
 • Density 3,481.1/sq mi (1,341.4/km2)
 • Urban 68,545 [1]
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 60115
Area code(s) 815

DeKalb is a city in DeKalb County, Illinois, United States. The population was 43,862 according to the 2010 census. The city is named after decorated German war hero Johann de Kalb, who died during the American Revolutionary War.


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
  • Government 3
  • Industry 4
  • Park facilities 5
  • Health systems 6
  • Demographics 7
  • Education 8
    • Northern Illinois University 8.1
    • Public schools 8.2
  • Transportation 9
    • Airport 9.1
  • Sister cities 10
  • Notable people 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


Two examples of Joseph Glidden's early barbed wire.
The 1857 George Gurler House In DeKalb is affiliated with dairy farmers in the Gurler family.

Founded in 1837, DeKalb remained a small community until the arrival of the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company in 1853. DeKalb's central location brought easier shipping of crops and access to larger markets. Agriculture was the primary economic activity until 1873-4 when farmer Joseph Glidden developed barbed wire and began commercial mass production of his new invention. Glidden sold half of his interest to hardware merchant Isaac L. Ellwood and together the two formed the Barb Fence Company.

Two months after Glidden filed his application for a patent, lumber salesman Jacob Haish also applied for a patent and on June 25, 1874 ran interference papers against Glidden's patent. After several years of legal wrangling, in 1877 Glidden's patent won and Glidden was declared the "Father of Barbed Wire".

In 1865, H. B. Gurler moved to DeKalb, and later attempted to create high-grade milk. Gurler began shipping his "Pure Milk" to Chicago in 1895.

The founding of Northern Illinois State Normal School in 1895 added education to DeKalb's landscape. It later became Northern Illinois University, which is known for its business, nursing, education, engineering, and music programs.

The Melville Clark Piano Company started construction of a factory building in 1904. When it was completed in April 1905, it was a three-story, 300 x 500-foot building. Wurlitzer Pianos (and organs) were produced in this factory until December 1972.

Agriculture again came to the forefront with the creation of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau in 1912, one of the first organizations of its kind. In the 1930s, the DeKalb AgResearch Corporation (today MONSANTO) marketed its first hybrid seed corn.

In the early 90s, The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana performed together at NIU.

Today DeKalb has a thriving music and arts culture.


DeKalb is located at (41.931274, -88.750151).[2]

According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 14.81 square miles (38.4 km2), of which 14.65 square miles (37.9 km2) (or 98.92%) is land and 0.16 square miles (0.41 km2) (or 1.08%) is water.[3]

The Kishwaukee River flows northward through the city of DeKalb, Illinois.

On August 24, 2007, the Kishwaukee River at DeKalb, Illinois crested at 15.27 feet (4.65 m) (all time record 15.8 feet (4.8 m)) causing major flooding. This was only the second time the river rose above 15 feet (4.6 m) since the level of the river has been recorded.[4]


DeKalb is governed by a Council-Manager government. Policy is developed by an elected City Council then implemented by an appointed professional City Manager. DeKalb's City Council is made up of a Mayor elected at-large and seven alderpersons elected by ward. Each serves a four-year term, with half the council being elected every two years. A City Clerk is also elected every four years who serves as the official record keeper of the city. The Clerk is also the primary FOIA – or Freedom of Information Act – officer for the city. City council meetings are held the second and fourth Mondays of every month.


DeKalb is home to Northern Illinois University, the city's largest employer and the third largest campus in the state.[5] Other large employers include KishHealth (a regional medical group centered around Dekalb's Kishwaukee Hospital), General Electric, Monsanto (originally as DeKalb Corn), the local school district, and a large retail district along Hwy. 23 (and shared with Sycamore) that includes Walmart, Target, Lowes, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, JCPenney, Sears and dozens of other chain and local stores.

DeKalb is also home to warehouses for several major companies, including Target, 3M, Nestlé, and Panduit, in part due to Dekalb's proximity to major highways such as I-88 and I-39. 3M's complex serves as the distribution hub for five of 3M’s six business units and export operations to North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.[6]

In 1984, the intersection of two streets in a popular NIU housing district in Dekalb begot the name of a regional consulting firm called "Greenbrier & Russel,"[7] (subsequently acquired by Fujitsu Consulting in 2006[8]). In 2011, DeKalb was the broadcast base of Up and In: The Baseball Prospectus Podcast with Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks.[9]

Park facilities

DeKalb has over 44 community facilities:

  • River Heights Golf Course
  • Buena Vista Golf Course
  • Hopkins Park Pool and Community Center
  • DeKalb County Forest Preserves
  • Ellwood House Museum and Park

Health systems

  • Kishwaukee Hospital


A home in the neighborhood north of downtown DeKalb, near the Gurler House.

As of the census[10] of 2000, there were 39,018 people, 13,081 households, and 6,566 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,093.9 people per square mile (1,194.7/km²). There were 13,619 housing units at an average density of 1,079.9 per square mile (417.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 73.00% White, 9.08% African American, 0.24% Native American, 4.62% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 4.35% from other races, and 2.09% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.04% of the population.

There were 13,081 households out of which 25.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.0% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.8% were non-families. 29.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.02.

In the city the population was spread out with 16.9% under the age of 18, 39.2% from 18 to 24, 23.8% from 25 to 44, 12.0% from 45 to 64, and 8.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 97.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,153, and the median income for a family was $53,017. Males had a median income of $36,255 versus $26,422 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,261. About 9.0% of families and 21.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.2% of those under the age of 18 and 5.4% of those age 65 or over.


There are 10 public schools, 1 private school, 1 university, and 1 public library. [2]

Northern Illinois University

Altgeld Hall, the first building to be constructed at NIU.

Northern Illinois University (NIU) was founded in DeKalb as the Northern Illinois State Normal School in 1895. NIU is a comprehensive teaching and research institution with total enrollment around 23,000 (including about 17,000 undergraduates and 300 law school students),[11][12] which makes NIU the third largest campus in Illinois.[5] Notable NIU alumni include Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson), Jimmy Chamberlin (The Smashing Pumpkins drummer), former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, former Labor Secretary W. Willard Wirtz, Oscar-nominated actress Joan Allen in Pleasantville (film), former NFL players Michael Turner and Ryan Diem, Steve Harris from David E. Kelley's legal Drama The Practice.

Public schools

DeKalb is served by both public and private school systems. DeKalb Community Unit School District 428 operates seven elementary schools (Grades K-5), Clinton Rosette and Huntley Middle Schools (Grades 6-8), and DeKalb High School (Grades 9-12). DeKalb is also home to St. Mary's Catholic Grade School (Grades K-8).


DeKalb is the location of both a toll plaza and an oasis on Interstate 88. The oasis includes restaurants and a gas station. DeKalb is 30 miles (48 km) west of Aurora and 65 miles (105 km) west from downtown Chicago. The local Voluntary Action Center provides two types of transportation services, TRANS-VAC and MED-VAC. TRANS-VAC provides transportation to activities and businesses in DeKalb County and has two bus routes (the green line and blue line) that runs a regular hourly route Monday through Friday and some limited evening hours for individuals with special needs. MED-VAC provides transportation to out-of-town medical appointments. The NIU Huskie Bus Line serves NIU and the surrounding DeKalb area. It has the second largest ridership-per-mile of any bus system in Illinois.


DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport (DTMA) or (KDKB), serving the general aviation community, is located at 3232 Pleasant Street, DeKalb, Illinois.

Sister cities

DeKalb is partnered with Sycamore, Illinois, which is just north of DeKalb and the county seat of their county (DeKalb County).

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ 2,010 Census Urban Area List
  2. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  3. ^ "Places: Illinois". 2010 Census Gazetteer Files.  
  4. ^ South Branch Kishwaukee River at DeKalb, Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, National Weather Service. Retrieved 25 August 2007.
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ "Why Dekalb County?". DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  7. ^ "Executive Profile - Eric Wasowicz". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  8. ^ "Fujitsu Consulting Acquires Illinois-based Greenbrier & Russel". Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  11. ^ "Northern Illinois University". Forbes. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  12. ^ "Law School - Northern Illinois University". US News and World Report. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 

External links

  • Official Website
  • DeKalb Chamber of Commerce
  • DeKalb Corn Fest
  • Downtown DeKalb CORN-struction Fest
  • DeKalb Park District
  • DeKalb Public Library
  • Northern Illinois University
  • History of DeKalb
  • DeKalb County Youth Service Bureau
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