Maywood: another look

Neighbor to the west has historical roots, business potential

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By Tom Holmes

Rev. Jacques Conway has been the pastor of Neighborhood Methodist Church in Maywood since 2003. When asked to describe the relationship between Forest Park and Maywood, he replied, "There is none."

Indeed, when fifteen Forest Park Chamber of Commerce members were asked to recall the last time they had spent money in Maywood, six said that couldn't remember, and one replied, "1985." Since New Year's Day, only one had spent even a dollar in our neighboring village to the west, and that was two months ago. 

Maywood is the next door neighbor we don't know. 

In terms of shopping, dining or drinking, there is almost nothing in Maywood to attract Forest Parkers. Rev. Conway, who lives in River Forest, underscored that point by saying that the biggest source of tax revenue from businesses in Maywood is at the corner of Lake St. and First Ave., a business district containing a Walgreens, a gas station, and two fast food restaurants. Even the race track bearing the town's name is really located outside of Maywood.

Michael Romain, who was born and raised in Maywood and now publishes the Village Free Press there, knows his hometown as well as anybody. He agreed with Rev. Conway that the relationship between the two towns is "not very substantial," and that in terms of business, Madison is a one-way street heading east.

The absence of Forest Park residents in Maywood is especially striking when compared to the involvement of Oak Parkers in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. Oak Park residents are doing everything from tutoring to urban gardening to manning food pantries with their neighbors to the east. Forest Park residents complain about Proviso East High School but don't seem to be doing anything in an organized way to mitigate the problems there.

Although Romain will be the first to acknowledge Maywood's issues, he also believes there are opportunities for mutuality. One place is the high school. On the one hand, he was a student at Proviso East for two years before moving to River Forest, and he thinks that many criticisms of the school are valid. On the other hand, he said that the reality there, "is not nearly as bad as the perception."

But more importantly, the young publisher had this to say about the problems at Proviso East: "Ironically Forest Parkers and Maywoodians are probably united in a common disdain for the school. That may be one area where they have a common bond, because everyone is angry at the school."

The mistake people in Forest Park make, Romain continued, is to blame the culture in the school on the culture in Maywood. 

"This is where the prejudice comes in," he said. "From a Forest Park perspective, the school is that way because of the people in Maywood are that way. It's easy for someone living outside of Maywood to blame the culture at Proviso East on Maywood. I don't think that's fair."

"Some areas of Maywood, like north of Washington Boulevard, which is integrated, have higher household incomes than some areas in Forest Park. The blocks between 9th  and 14th  and between Madison and Roosevelt Rd., sometimes referred to as the Seminary District, is a pretty decent middle class community," Romain added. 

There is a contingent of black folk in Maywood who trace their roots in the town back to before World War I. 

"Maywood had one of the richest African American communities in the western suburbs," said Romain. "Blacks have been in Maywood a long, long time. The West Town Museum at the corner of 5th  and St. Charles has archives showing that around the turn of the century Maywood had a large community of black domestics and was a stop on the Underground Railroad."

Another opportunity west of the Desplaines River is housing at what Romain calls "bargain basement prices." Patrick Jacknow at Jacknow Reality here Forest Park lists a brick bungalow in Maywood with an asking price of $159,000. When asked what a comparable house would cost in Forest Park, Jacknow estimated it selling for around $260,000. 

And it's not just the cost of housing that is attractive. On the north side of Maywood are homes which would fit right in any part of River Forest. Maywood, in fact, has16 homes and properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Romain suggested that Maywood's historical housing might be the occasion for Forest Parkers to get to know their neighbors to the west.

"There are some things already going on," he said," that actually do attract people to Maywood. The Historic Homes House Walk is a pretty big hit in the summer. 

"For $15 you get a guided tour on a trolley of the historic homes of Maywood. Some of the unknown history of Maywood will blow your mind," Romain said.

Another opportunity to get to know Maywood is the annual Bataan Day celebration. "Last year," he recalled, "about 300 people sat under a big white tent while a military band played and people made speeches. Maywood has a strong base of veterans who fought in the Bataan Peninsula of the Philippines during World War II. Many have moved on, but they come back every year." 

Conway noted that business opportunities would abound for Forest Park merchants if a stronger relationship could be fostered between the two communities. He said that Maywood doesn't have a bakery, flower shop or a full service super market. To shop for groceries, he said, many drive north to Meijer's in Melrose Park. Romain added that he will soon be selling advertising in his Village Free Press publication.

Romain also looked at the big picture and into the future. 

"What people don't realize," he pointed out, "is that Maywood is centrally located — Forest Park, River Forest and Oak Park to the east, LaGrange to the southwest, Riverside to the south — you have all these suburban hot spots, some of the nicest suburbs in the state in this very region, and Maywood is centrally located."

Rev. Conway went to another place to motivate Forest Parkers to reach out and get to know Maywood. "I think it boils down to being good neighbors," he said. "Neighbors at least talk over the fence. Ask the elected officials when was the last time they talked seriously to people in Maywood."

"There hasn't even been a time of conversation in the same place at that the same time to talk about mutuality and challenges, just a conversation between people of these communities of positives and negatives [would help]," he said. 

"It has to start with an initial time of coming together. That will be a huge opportunity."

Reader Comments

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What's in the water? from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2014 9:50 AM

I agree with "Forest Park Deserves." And I'd like to what point will uber-liberalites stop this nonsense and address the real problem with society which is behavior and the lack of consequence? Children having children...Horrible parenting...welfare rewarding out of wedlock with multiple children households who have no business being parents and don't love or nurture the ones they have. Let's try changing the world by not accepting and rewarding the bad behavior.

Corrado from Forest Park  

Posted: March 30th, 2014 8:27 PM

People who say you should do business here because it would help this community don't know anything about business. Business isn't charity. Its about making money. That's not selfish. If you can help someone make money you will make money too. But with that comes all the other things you learn as a child (perhaps at Proviso), like honesty, hard work, respect for other people and their property, abiding by the laws. Surely someone in Maywood abides by these. Who are they? I can't see them.

Michelle W from FP  

Posted: March 27th, 2014 9:43 AM

Great points made. What hit home for me most of all was the comparison between Oak Parkers and Austin and Forest Parkers and Maywood. It's easy to deflect criticism, but we should all be thinking about how we could do better.

jerry from forest park  

Posted: March 26th, 2014 4:39 PM

Forest Park deserves, If you think Dan hates Forest Park give him a call, have coffee with him. You might change your mind. I don't think he is getting rich printing the Review.


Posted: March 26th, 2014 2:35 PM

So the other 8 communities are feeding in all the bad seeds to the high school?

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: March 26th, 2014 2:10 PM

It's not called Maywood High School. It's called Proviso High school. Maywood is just one of ten municipalities, in whole or part, that feed students into D209.


Posted: March 26th, 2014 1:57 PM

So if the people in Maywood are so great, how then is the high school so bad? Most of the people of Forest Park do not send their children there. I think Mr. Romain, who doesn't live there but chooses to live in River Forest, needs to ask himself why, if Maywood is so great, why doesn't he reside there? I am glad the river, cemeteries and even better would be a wall to separate us is fine. Maywood brings nothing to the proverbial party!

Forest Park deserves better from Forest Park  

Posted: March 26th, 2014 1:20 PM

(2 of 2) River Forest, to tell people in Forest Park that; if we don't agree with him about the origins or the problems in Proviso East, then we are prejudiced. Michael, define culture, and after you do, tell me how much this culture in Maywood contributes to the problems in Proviso. Give me a percentage so I can know how big of a racist I am. Dan Haley, deep down you must really hate Forest park.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: March 26th, 2014 1:18 PM

I have nothing but respect for Michael Romain and his newspaper, but he's misstating the issue a bit here. As a frequent critic of D209, I've never, and I know many others have not, focused just on Maywood, but on the corrupt culture in Proviso Township. That does not constitute prejudice. River Forest and Oak Park have been free to develop their own district cultures in large part because they made conscious decisions to not be entangled with other municipalities in a non-coterminous township.

Forest Park deserves better from Forest Park  

Posted: March 26th, 2014 1:16 PM

(1 of 2) So let's see: Michael (River Forest's own Sal Alinsky) went to school in Maywood for 2 yrs. but then moved to River Forest. Now young Sal (Michael Romain) condemns us for being prejudiced. "The mistake people in Forest Park make, Romain continued, is to blame the culture in the school on the culture in Maywood. 'This is where the prejudice comes in,' he said." So it takes an Oak Park newspaper to write an article about a River Forest residing Reverend, quoting a young adult who moved to

FoPa Watcher  

Posted: March 26th, 2014 12:04 PM

Oak Park, River Forest and Berwyn are across the street from Forest Park. Maywood is across the cemeteries, river and industrial land away. You needn't get to a road with a bridge on it to cross into OP, RF or Berwyn. This town's commerce has NEVER been turned the other way. This goes back to turn of the last century, but was cast indelibly by the depression and finally the high school. You can't shorten the distance between Maywood and Forest Park with words. Their heritage is aligned with Bellwood, Melrose and Broadview which has always shortchanged Forest Park. This village's independent. self-reliant streak was due in large part to the attitude of Proviso Township toward Forest Park. They weren't really there for us in times of need. NEVER! Mutual benefit? The challenge should not be for Forest Park to prove anything to those west of the river, it should be for them to show us how they've ever been good neighbors to us.


Posted: March 26th, 2014 10:02 AM

i was told video gaming would be bad because it would bring elements in from maywood and bellwood. Now you want Forest Park to join and do business with the community? Who is running this Forest Park show?


Posted: March 26th, 2014 9:51 AM

Why aren't there businesses there? Why have a biz there when your life is forfeit like the long-time hardware store owner gunned down in his family's shop? Malcolm X said it best---Black people need to take care of their OWN problems and quit looking for others to do for them. If anything, Maywood residents need to come into FP to see what they can LEARN and do differently.


Posted: March 26th, 2014 9:48 AM

Oh, brother. If the Proviso mess doesn't originate in the homes of those who go to school there, where does it come from? The air surrounding the campus? Maywood is called Murderwood for a reason. In the not so distant past whites were driven from their homes by crime and mayhem. I have friends in Maywood who tell me NOT to come to visit because their streets are so dangerous. And I see plenty of Maywood when the thugs overrun Madison at the Summer-Fest and other venues.

Bob Cox from Forest Park  

Posted: March 26th, 2014 8:16 AM

A very accurate and honest perspective of Maywood/ Forest Park resident's relations Rev. Conway. Thank you Tom for the observance of some Forest Parker's fears and biases... a tale of two worlds.

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