A History of Excellence
From its beginning as North Kankakee, later as Bradley, our village has been home to many small businesses, from one-chair barbershops and "mom-and-pop" grocery stores and taverns to three of the world's largest manufacturers of starch, furniture, appliances, and farm and home implements (Standard Starch Company, David Bradley Manufacturing Company, and Kroehler Manufacturing Company).
Among our first citizens were wealthy entrepreneurs, enterprising businessmen, and working men from all classes of society. The new factories of North Kankakee were built by carpenters, bricklayers, and stonemasons from nearby communities and Chicago. Many remained in the village and took jobs in the factories. Other workers (some were trained craftsmen), many of them immigrants from Germany, Scandinavia, Italy, Poland, Bohemia, and Slovenia, were drawn here by the prospects of factory jobs.
They found their neighbors were descendants of an established French Canadian settlement (Bourbonnais) and Irish, who had come to America as miners and quarry men and remained to build canals and railroads. Also resident in the area was that potpourri of Anglo-Americans, descended from the area's pioneer settlers. These are the people and the times the Bradley Historical Society is chartered to preserve and memorialize.
Bradley Historical Society
The mission of the Bradley Historical Society is to collect, record and preserve the cultural heritage of the village of Bradley, and to memorialize the industrial workers of 19th and 20th Century America.
J. Herman Hardebeck
Kankakee businessman and real estate agent who in the spring of 1891 organized a land syndicate called the North Kankakee Improvement Association. By May, Hardebeck had an option on more than a thousand acres of land. A full page advertisement in the August 27, 1891, issue of the Kankakee Gazette announced “The North Kankakee Boom.” a population of 4,000 was guaranteed by July 1, 1892—”400 dwelling houses wanted at once.”
Although North Kankakee had been planned as a subdivision of Kankakee, and Hardebeck had offered to donate two lots, one on the east side and one on the west side, for police and fire stations, its citizens voted to incorporate as an independent municipality in October 1892.
The economy of North Kankakee was nearly wiped-out by a severe depression in 1893. Hardebeck rallied his forces and persuaded a farm implement company, the David Bradley Manufacturing Company, to move its factory in 1895 from Chicago to the failed Demme & Dierkes factory buildings in North Kankakee. Shortly afterward North Kankakee’s name was changed to ‘Bradley City” and then shortened to “Bradley” in 1896.
Bradley Historical Society Board
The Bradley Historical Society was organized in the fall of 2002 by Village Board members Bob Redmond and Bob Martin at the request of Bradley Mayor Jerry L. Balthazor. Pictured from left to right are the Bradley Historical Society Board members: Ryland Gagnon, Bob Redmond, Bob Martin, Vice President Gail Schultz, President Bob Simpson, Secretary Marcia Stang, Nelda Ravens and Treasurer Don LeBran. Not shown are Board members Steve Coy and Vic Johnson, Society historian. The Society meets on the first Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m., in the Bradley Village Hall.
This float constructed by Bradley Historical Society members illustrated the Bradley Christmas Parade theme, “Christmas Past & Present.” The past was depicted as a scene from the 1890s David Bradley factory and the present by a worker using a computer. The float won first prize in the Not-For-Profit entry category.
One of the Society’s activities was this quilting demonstration and quilt display at the Bourbonnais Township Park District’s Perry Farm in September 2003. There is a police history display that Bradley Chief of Police Steve Coy assembled of the Bradley Police Force for display at the Perry Farm .
Some facts about Bradley
- The Village of Bradley was incorporated as an independent municipality in October 1892. Originally known as North Kankakee, the name was changed to Bradley City in 1895 then shortened to Bradley in 1896.
- West Bradley was the first area platted by developer J. Herman Hardebeck on September 7, 1891 with approximately 500 acres. Hardebeck platted an additional 360 acres as East Bradley on June 1, 1892. Our little village has grown east, west, north and south from those great beginnings to now include over 4,437 acres.
- Bradley neighborhoods stretch from Inglesh Avenue in West Meadowview, the most southwest corner of town, all the way to Summerfield Street in the northeast. Our corporate limits are from Brookmont Boulevard on the south to 6000 North Road; from the Kankakee River on the west to an ever expanding line to the east totaling 6.93 square miles.
- There are 73.5 miles of village streets plus an additional 9 miles of US/State routes for a total of 82.5 square miles of roadway in the village limits. According to the 2010 Census, our population is 15,895.
- Currently, there are three zip codes in the village limits. Residents of West Meadowview are serviced by the Kankakee 60901 Postal District. Residents north of Armour Road and east of Cardinal Drive are serviced by the Bourbonnais 60914 Postal District. All other village residents are serviced by the Bradley 60915 Postal District.
- There are also three elementary public school districts in the village limits: Bradley District 61, Bourbonnais District 53 and St. George District 228. All areas of Bradley are in the Bradley Bourbonnais Community High School District 307.
- Residents of Bradley, Bourbonnais and St. George are all in Bourbonnais Township and Bourbonnais Township Park District. All Bradley residents are in Kankakee County.