DeKalb, Illinois

DeKalb /dɪˈkælb/ is a city in DeKalb County, Illinois, United States. The population was 43,862 according to the 2010 census, up from 39,018 at the 2000 census. The city is named after decorated Franconian-French war hero Johann de Kalb, who died during the American Revolutionary War.

DeKalb, Illinois
City of DeKalb
The Egyptian Theatre in downtown DeKalb
Barb City
Location of DeKalb in DeKalb County, Illinois.
DeKalb, Illinois
Location within the state of Illinois
Coordinates: 41°55′53″N 88°45′01″W
CountryUnited States
  MayorJerry Smith
  City15.45 sq mi (40.01 km2)
  Land15.28 sq mi (39.59 km2)
  Water0.16 sq mi (0.42 km2)
879 ft (268 m)
  Density2,826.09/sq mi (1,091.13/km2)
68,545 [3]
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
  Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
60114, 60115
Area code(s)815
FIPS code17-19161

Founded in 1856, DeKalb became important in the development and manufacture of barbed wire, especially for agriculture and raising livestock. While agricultural related industries remain a facet of the city, together with health and services, the city's largest employer in the 21st century is Northern Illinois University founded in DeKalb in 1895. Located about 50 miles from Chicago, the city is part of the Chicago metropolitan area.


DeKalb was originally called Huntley's Grove,[4] and under the latter name was platted in 1853.[5] The name is for Baron Johann de Kalb, a major general in the American Revolutionary War.[6] A post office has been in operation at DeKalb since 1849.[7] The development of barbed wire is key in the history of DeKalb. Joseph Glidden, who developed barbed wire, was a historic citizen of DeKalb. Glidden would ultimately be known as the “Father of Barbed Wire”. Glidden began to mass-produce his invention, and eventually sold half of the company to Isaac L. Ellwood. Together, the two formed the Barb Fence Company.[4]


The city of DeKalb is in northern Illinois, United States, roughly 55 miles west of downtown Chicago and roughly 30 miles southeast of Rockford, IL. The Kishwaukee River flows northward through the city of DeKalb.

According to the 2010 census, DeKalb has a total area of 14.812 square miles (38.36 km2), of which 14.65 square miles (37.94 km2) (or 98.91%) is land and 0.162 square miles (0.42 km2) (or 1.09%) is water.[8]

On August 24, 2007, the Kishwaukee River at DeKalb 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 has risen above 15 feet (4.6 m) since the level of the river has been recorded.[9]


DeKalb has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfa) typical of northern Illinois, with four distinct seasons. Summers can be hot, while winters are cold and snowy. Precipitation is somewhat uniform year-round, although it can be heavier in the spring and summer when the area is prone to strong thunderstorms.

Climate data for DeKalb, Illinois (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 28.1
Daily mean °F (°C) 20.5
Average low °F (°C) 12.8
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.47
Average snowfall inches (cm) 10.2
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 10 8 11 11 12 11 10 9 9 10 10 11 119
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 7 5 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 24
Source: NOAA [10]


Historical population
Est. 201842,611[2]−2.9%
Census Quickfacts

As of the census[11] of 2010, there were 43,862 people, 15,386 households, and 7,508 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,993.8 people per square mile (1,157.3/km²). There were 16,436 housing units at an average density of 1,121.9 per square mile (433.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 74.9% white, 12.8% African American, 0.3% Native American, 4.1% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 5.5% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 12.5% of the population.

There were 15,386 households out of which 26.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.2% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 51.2% were non-families. 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.07.

In the city, the population was spread out with 17.6% under the age of 18, 37.3% from 18 to 24, 22.6% from 25 to 44, 15.0% from 45 to 64, and 7.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23.6 years. For every 100 females, there were 101.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,719, and the median income for a family was $59,671. Males had a median income of $43,819 versus $36,488 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,155. About 19.6% of families and 32.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.0% of those under the age of 18 and 5.7% of those age 65 or over.

Culture and contemporary life

  • DeKalb is home to the annual event Corn Fest which is usually held in late August.[12]
  • The Egyptian Theatre, built in 1929, is one of a handful of such theatres still extant in the United States.[13]
  • The Stage Coach Players, founded in 1947, have their own theatre on 5th Street.[14]


DeKalb is home to Northern Illinois University, the city's largest employer and the third largest campus in the state.[15] Other large employers include Northwestern Medicine, 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, Best Buy, Sears, Kohl's, Ross, 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 three of 3M's four business units and export operations to North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.[16]

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,"[17] (subsequently acquired by Fujitsu Consulting in 2006[18]). In 2011, DeKalb was the broadcast base of Up and In: The Baseball Prospectus Podcast with Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks.[19] The town was also the filming location for the 2012 film, At Any Price

Parks and Greenspace

The DeKalb Park District is responsible for the 44 parks and recreation facilities in DeKalb. The park district was established in 1935 through the initiative of members of the League of Women Voters, to address the need for a public swimming pool in the community. The City of DeKalb gave the first four parks to the District: Annie's Woods, Huntley Park, Liberty Park, and Hopkins Park. By 1960, the district had eight parks and by 1970 twelve. Initially the main services provided focused on swimming and use of the outdoor parks. But as lifestyles changed, so did the district.

In the mid 1960s, the City gave the Ellwood House mansion to the district. In 1970, the park district hired its first full-time executive director and by 1980, the district had a pool, acquired Haish Gymnasium and Buena Vista, a nine-hole golf course. In 1985, the park district purchased River Heights, a second nine-hole golf course, which was later developed into an 18-hole course.

New parks were acquired as conservation areas in order to preserve floodplain lands and wildlife habitat. Other parks were established as community-wide active recreation facilities designed to serve all types of recreational uses. In addition to this system of parks the district established the Kishwaukee Kiwanis pathway system totaling over 8 miles in length, connecting DeKalb with Sycamore and the Great Western Trail to the east.

In 2000 the district opened the Sports and Recreation Center, a multi-function facility that features in indoor field of over 1 acre, clear-span space with synthetic field turf. The park district provides year-round athletic and recreation programs including day camps, youth baseball and softball, adult softball leagues both indoors and outdoors, swimming lessons, golf lessons, karate, tennis, adult and youth basketball leagues, indoor soccer, fitness classes, and preschool.

Today the DeKalb Park District park system includes 44 parks totaling over 700 acres: community parks, neighborhood parks, passive parks and linear parks. Notable parks and facilities include:

  • River Heights Golf Course
  • Buena Vista Golf Course
  • Hopkins Park Pool and Community Center
  • Nehring Center for Culture and Tourism
  • Ellwood House Museum and Park


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. City council meetings are held the second and fourth Mondays of every month.

Council Position Name of Member
Mayor Jerry Smith
First Ward Carolyn Morris
Second Ward Bill Finucane
Third Ward Tracy Smith
Fourth Ward Patrick Fagan
Fifth Ward Scott McAdams
Sixth Ward Mike Verbic
Seventh Ward Anthony Faivre
Source: City of Dekalb Website[20]


There are 11 public schools, one private school, one university and one public library."DeKalb". Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved December 8, 2016.

Northern Illinois University

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 20,000 (including about 16,000 undergraduates and 300 law school students),[21][22] which makes NIU the third largest campus in Illinois.[15] NIU is home of the Huskies. Notable NIU alumni include Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson and Krusty the Clown), 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), NFL players Michael Turner, Doug Free, Chandler Harnish, Jordan Lynch and Ryan Diem, former NBA Players Kenny Battle and Paul Dawkins, and actor 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 eight elementary schools (Grades K-5), Clinton Rosette and Huntley Middle Schools (Grades 6-8), and DeKalb High School (Grades 9-12), which is the Home of the Barbs. DeKalb is also home to St. Mary's Catholic Grade School (Grades K-8).



DeKalb is the location of two toll plazas 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: TransVAC and MedVAC. TransVAC provides transportation to activities and businesses in DeKalb County and has two bus routes (the green line and blue line) that run a regular hourly route Monday through Friday and some limited evening hours for individuals with special needs. MedVAC 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. The Union Pacific (former Chicago & North Western) main line from Chicago to Omaha runs through DeKalb.


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


  • Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital

Notable people

See also


  1. "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
  2. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved July 20, 2019.<
  3. 2010 Census Urban Area List Archived October 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  4. "History of DeKalb - DeKalb, IL".
  5. Callary, Edward (September 29, 2008). Place Names of Illinois. University of Illinois Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-252-09070-7.
  6. Chicago and North Western Railway Company (1908). A History of the Origin of the Place Names Connected with the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railways. p. 63.
  7. "DeKalb County". Jim Forte Postal History. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  8. "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  9. South Branch Kishwaukee River at DeKalb, Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, National Weather Service. Retrieved August 25, 2007.
  10. "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  11. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  12. "History of Corn Fest". DeKalb Corn Fest. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  13. "Arts and Culture - DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau". DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  14. "Stage Coach Players". Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  15. "NIU, 3 other Illinois universities' credit rating lowered".
  16. "Why Dekalb County?". DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  17. "Executive Profile - Eric Wasowicz". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  18. "Fujitsu Consulting Acquires Illinois-based Greenbrier & Russel". Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  20. "City Council | DeKalb, IL". Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  21. "Northern Illinois University". Forbes. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  22. "Law School - Northern Illinois University". US News and World Report. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  23. Michael Tomlan, Introduction to George F. Barber's Victorian Cottage Architecture: An American Catalog of Designs, 1891 (Dover Publications, 2004), pp. v-xvi.
  24. M. Ruth Little (2009). Barber, George F. (1854-1915), North Carolina Architects and Builders, A Biographical Dictionary. Website maintained by North Carolina State University Libraries. Accessed May 3, 2011.
  25. "A.J. Bramlett Player Profile, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA Stats, NCAA Stats, Game Logs, Bests, Awards". Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  26. Poulisse, Adam (October 3, 2015). "DeKalb's Cindy Crawford: Model's roots featured in her autobiography, 'Becoming'". Daily Chronicle. DeKalb, Illinois. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  27. 'Illinois Blue Book 1983-1984, Biographical Sketch of Joseph B. Ebbesen, pg. 97
  28. Krell, Alan (February 3, 2002). The Devil's Rope: A Cultural History of Barbed Wire. Islington, London, England: Reaktion Books. p. 23. ISBN 978-1861891440.
  29. McCormick, John (June 7, 2005). "Fred Eychaner: Reclusive millionaire is one of the nation's top Democratic donors". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  30. Wright, Gilson (April 15, 1973). "Barbara Hale is "my kind of people" says writer". The Journal News. p. 12. Retrieved September 4, 2015 via
  31. Litsky, Frank (October 1, 2011). "Mike Heimerdinger, 58, Who Helped to Coach Super Bowl Winners, Is Dead". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  32. Benjamin Secher (June 28, 2008). "Richard Jenkins: bald, 61 years old - and a star at last". Retrieved October 13, 2010.
  33. Reference for Business - Company History Index. "Cirrus Design Corporation - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Cirrus Design Corporation". Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  34. DeKalb Barb Football [@dekalb_football] (November 13, 2015). "Big thanks to DeKalb Alumni and current Atlanta Falcons Coach Doug Mallory for the conference call to the Barbs football team today" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  35. Conklin, Mike (September 8, 1987). "Stricken Giant`s Father Dismisses Cancer Link". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  36. "Mel Owens". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
  37. Schrader, Barry (January 21, 2014). "Richard Powers produces 11th novel". Daily Chronicle (Illinois). DeKalb, Illinois. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  38. Cimarusti, Luca (January 10, 2017). "Weekend Nachos leave behind a legacy of brutality". Chicago Reader. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  39. Weil, Martin (April 25, 2010). "Willard Wirtz, labor secretary for JFK and LBJ, dies at 98". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
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