Introduction to DeKalb, Illinois

Located about 65 miles west of Chicago is the Illinois city of DeKalb. Accessible to many points in the state via Interstates 88 or 39, DeKalb is also close to the cities of Rockford (40 miles to the northwest) and Aurora (30 miles to the east). Known as the 'Barb City,' DeKalb is famous for being the birthplace of barbed wire, which was invented here by Joseph Glidden in 1873. The city is also home to Illinois' second largest university, Northern Illinois University, which was founded as Northern Illinois State Normal School in 1895.

The city of DeKalb shares the same name as the Illinois county in which it resides. They were named after General Baron Johan DeKalb, who came with Lafayette from France to serve in the Revolutionary War and fought in several battles leading the Maryland and Delaware Continentals. The exact reason why his name was chosen for this city is unclear, in light of the fact that there is no apparent link between the man and this region.

Founded in 1837, DeKalb saw its early growth and prosperity closely linked to the city's prominence in the barbed wire industry, which transformed the community from strictly an agricultural town to a major manufacturing center for the product. Another factor in the city's ongoing prosperity has been the presence of the University, which to this day provides a steady labor pool comprised of skilled and professional workers. DeKalb today is home to a variety of industries. As a leader in corn and soybean production, the county of DeKalb maintains its long tradition of being a center for agriculture. In addition, the city of DeKalb houses industries which include logistics, warehousing and distribution, electronics, biotechnology, and manufacturing of heavy equipment.

Arts and Entertainment in DeKalb

Rich in history, DeKalb offers its residents and visitors a variety of architectural and entertainment venues which showcase both the past and present. Perhaps the most notable of DeKalb's historic gems is the Ellwood House Museum. Built by barbed wire millionaire Isaac L. Ellwood in 1879, this grand Victorian mansion is operated as an historic house museum and is open for guided tours. Another historic site in the city is the famed Egyptian Theatre, a restored 1930s movie palace which also features some of the best Egyptian/Art Deco architecture in the country. The Stage Coach Theater, organized in 1946, is one of the oldest community theaters in the state. Other famous attractions include: the Gurler House, a beautiful example of the Greek Revival Style; the Harley-Davidson Museum, exhibiting over 65 antique and modern motorcycles; the J.F. Glidden Homestead & Historical Center, honoring the inventor of barbed wire; the Blackwell History of Education Museum, a one-room schoolhouse with displays and programs available to the public; and the Altgeld Art Gallery, located at Northern Illinois University.

DeKalb also hosts community-wide celebrations, such as Corn Fest, a celebration of the city's agricultural heritage, which features live music, food, a marathon race, and activities for kids. Holiday festivals include downtown DeKalb’s Halloween Spooktacular and also Holly Days, an event which features horse-drawn carriage rides.

Collegiate sports are alive and well in DeKalb due to the presence of the Northern Illinois University Huskies. A Division-I member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) since 1997, the Huskies football team has one MAC Conference Championship under its belt and has won eight championships from other conferences with which it had been affiliated previously. Fans of professional sports can take the roughly 30-minute drive to Chicago to catch some action, much of which is major league variety, featuring the following teams:

  • Chicago White Sox (MLB American League baseball)
  • Chicago Cubs (MLB National League baseball)
  • Chicago Bulls (NBA basketball)
  • Chicago Bears (NFL football)
  • Chicago Blackhawks (NHL hockey)
  • Chicago Sky (WNBA basketball)
  • Chicago Fire (MLS soccer)
  • Chicago Machine (MLL lacrosse)
  • Chicago Rockstars (ABA basketball)
  • Chicago Rush (AFL Arena Football)


Total Population
Male Share of the Population
Female Share of the Population
Senior Citizens
Employed Population 16+
Age of the Population


% of people married
Average household size

Education and Earnings

Population % with Bachelor Degree or Higher
Median Earnings25+
Median Earnings Without High School Qualification
Median Earnings With High School Degree


Median Family Income
% Above Poverty Level
% Below Poverty Level

Commute & Sprawl

Average Commute Time
% Working from Home
% Walking and Biking to Work
% Using Public Transportation


People Living Alone
Median Gross Rent
Median House Value


Other(often includes Hispanic and African American)

Source: American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, 2015, www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/.

Dekalb Almanac

Category Value
Nearest Medium City 25 miles W of Elgin, Illinois (center to center)
Nearest Large City 56 miles W of Chicago, Illinois
County De Kalb
Standard Zip Codes 60115
Phone Area Codes 815
Time Zone Central (-6 hours from GMT)
Daylight Savings The city observes Daylight Saving Time.
Latitude 41.92
Longitude -88.75

Dekalb Climate

Nearest Weather Stations


  • Temp ranges are avg daily min and max for the month
  • Precipitation is rainfall (and rainfall equiv of snowfall)

Station DE KALB
Distance 1.9 miles
Jan Temp 10 to 27 F
Apr Temp 37 to 58 F
Jul Temp 63 to 84 F
Oct Temp 40 to 63 F
Annual Precip 37.3 inches
Distance 16.3 miles
Jan Temp 8 to 27 F
Apr Temp 35 to 58 F
Jul Temp 60 to 83 F
Oct Temp 37 to 62 F
Annual Precip 33.6 inches
Station PAW PAW 2 NW
Distance 19.1 miles
Jan Temp 8 to 25 F
Apr Temp 36 to 57 F
Jul Temp 60 to 82 F
Oct Temp 38 to 61 F
Annual Precip 36.7 inches

Nearby Cities and Towns

Location Population Median Family Income
Cortland 4,323 $77,757
Creston 740 $51,094

Source: American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, 2015, www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/.

Dekalb Public Libraries

Dekalb P.l.
Dekalb, Illinois
(815) 756-9568
Library Web Site

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Dekalb Hospitals

(Voluntary non-profit - Other)
(815) 756-1521
Emergency Service: Yes

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Dekalb High Schools

(Sorted by Number of Students)

1515 S 4TH ST
Serves 1,578 students.
Student/teacher ratio: 16.7

901 S 4TH ST
A Non-traditional School
Serves 23 students.

Dekalb Colleges

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