Before arriving here in 1885, Professor Thomas E. Hill had been a teacher, a newspaper publisher and a public servant, having served two terms as mayor of Aurora. He also was the author of Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms, regarded by many as the pre-eminent etiquette book of the age. He and his wife, Ellen, brought a new level of sophistication to our town. Both their dress and their manner were refined and they inspired others to follow their lead. Shortly after his arrival, Hill succeeded Joseph R. McChesney as Village President, serving in that capacity from 1885 to 1889.
Hill also was a visionary and saw how the village, with its attractive rolling terrain and situated as it was on a train line just 25 miles west of Chicago, could become a magnet for wealthy folks who wanted to escape the noise and clamor of the big city. To complete the attraction, Hill and several local partners purchased much of the acreage northeast of the downtown area. They dammed a creek to create a beautiful 50 acre lake which Hill called Lake Glen Ellyn (“Ellyn” being the Welsh spelling of his wife’s name), built a 100-room hotel on the hill overlooking the lake, and constructed a nearby pavilion where five different natural springs purportedly offered healing powers for pretty much anything that ailed a person. The development of this subdivision coincided with, and arguably encouraged, the building of many of the grand Victorian style homes that also helped the Village to overcome its shoddy image.
Recognizing the contribution that Thomas E. Hill and his wife had made, and possibly to capitalize on the appeal that Lake Glen Ellyn had brought to the community, the town fathers decided in 1891 to change the name of the village to Glen Ellyn.
Without a doubt, there are multiple candidates for the accolade of best leader in the history of Glen Ellyn. But Thomas E. Hill would have to be toward the top of most people’s list.