Crystal Lake at 100
Crystal Lake commemorates the past 100 years of building a great place to live.
This year the City of Crystal Lake celebrates 100 years as a city. But the story of this city actually begins much earlier than 1914. In 1835, Ziba Beardsley passed through the area, traveling south, eventually settling in Naperville. When he came to the shores of what today is known as Crystal Lake, he stated: “The waters are clear as crystal.” The naming of the lake as Crystal Lake is thus attributed to him.
One year later, the Crandall family, Beman, Polly and their six children – making their way from New York by covered wagon – were awed by the tall trees, the crystal-clear lake and the open prairies of the region, and ended their journey west here. They built a log cabin in the area of what today is Virginia and Van Buren streets, and were granted homestead rights from the U.S. government. With the awarding of the homestead rights to the Crandalls and subsequent settlers, the Native American tribes, primarily the Sacs and Fox, were ordered to leave this area, which had been their home and where they had enjoyed plentiful fishing and hunting.
The prairie grasses were tall, so tall that a grown man could not be seen when standing in them, and cows wore bells so they could be located by their owners. Fires were always a danger as the tall grasses dried. As the area began to be settled, it was given the name Crystal Ville.
In 1840, the village was platted by surveyors Asa Bradley and John Brink with Christopher Walkup, Abner Beardsley and Beman Crandall. The name of the community was changed to Crystal Lake. Just north of the village of Crystal Lake, another village, originally called Dearborn, developed. It was platted in 1855 and the name was changed to Nunda. Both of these villages were incorporated in 1874.
Business began to grow in both villages with the opening of general stores and grocery stores. A.M. Anar opened the first store in Crystal Lake in 1840 and J. S. Reed and George McCullom are believed to have opened the first stores in Nunda. As businesses opened in the towns, each began to prosper.
The presence of the railroad in Nunda gave the village an advantage. It began to grow more quickly than Crystal Lake and became the business center. Transportation of goods both to and from Chicago by train allowed the businesses of Nunda to be well stocked.
The “Ice” Age
The railroad allowed ice blocks, which had been harvested from the lake, to be easily transported to Chicago. According to the book “Crystal Lake, Illinois, a Pictorial History,” about 200 men would work the four-to-six-week ice harvest season. Each room of the ice house would have 35,000 ice cakes on the bottom layer, and they would be stacked 15 to 20 layers high.
The ice business had its ups and downs when the ice houses, where the ice was stored until shipment, burned. After their ice houses burned, owners Joy and Frisbie replaced them only to have them burn again in 1869. Ice harvesting was at a rest until 1873 when C.S. Dole and J.S. Dole built six ice houses with a capacity of 1,250 to 7,500 tons per ice house. The ice-cutting business prospered until the early 1900s when electric refrigeration cut the need for ice blocks.
Farming and Lodging
Crystal Lake also continued to grow as a farming community, hauling produce to Chicago to trade for other needed household items. Bowman Dairy maintained a milk processing facility in Crystal Lake until 1936. Other businesses as well as manufacturers made their home here in Crystal Lake. These included a blacksmith shop, a pickle processing plant, a sawmill and a flourmill, to name a few. Along with these came the hotel business.
In the late 1800s, visitors escaping from the coal-laden air of Chicago came to Crystal Lake to enjoy the open spaces and the clean, crystal-clear water of the lake. The first hotel evolved from a stage stop and was originally called the King Hotel, later known as the Ashton House Hotel. Other hotels quickly followed. The Leonard Hotel in particular was known as a very fashionable hotel that held many special events. Unfortunately, the hotel burned in the fall of 1917.
Visitors escaping from the coal-laden air of Chicago came to Crystal Lake to enjoy the open spaces and the clean, crystal-clear water of the lake.
With the advent of the hotels, another business was born in the city – that of taxi drivers transporting visitors from the train to the lake and the hotels. Foremost among these, according to Mary Ott, of the Palmer House Museum, was Mary Cadwell, who ran up to 12 trips per day with her horse and carriage and is considered to be the first woman to own a taxi service.
In 1908, the town of Nunda changed its name to North Crystal Lake after being petitioned by its citizens. The towns of Nunda and Crystal Lake had spent years attempting to agree on a consolidation of the two towns. They first agreed on joining together to build new schools to house the ever-growing student population and then to work together to develop Union Cemetery. In April 1914, an agreement was finally reached between the two towns and North Crystal Lake was annexed into Crystal Lake. On September 23, 1914, Crystal Lake officially became a city.
“Crystal Lake is special because of the entire community, the people who live and work here.” –Elizabeth Maxwell
Crystal Lake has continued to grow both as a business-oriented city and as a wonderful place to call home. According to the 2010 census, Crystal Lake now has a population of more than 40,000, making it the largest community in McHenry County. “Crystal Lake is special because of the entire community, the people who live and work here,” said Elizabeth Maxwell, city planner. “You can see it by the way people attend community events and the way people help out at charity events.”
Past, Present and Future
Crystal Lake is a community that embraces its past yet moves proudly into the future. Historical buildings such as the Dole Mansion and the Palmer House are well maintained and proudly serve as a reminder of Crystal Lake’s beginnings. Its streets bear the names of early and important settlers such as Dole and Walkup.
“Crystal Lake’s schools, parks, downtown and especially its people continue to make this a good place to live.” –Diana Kenney
The small-town feel of downtown Crystal Lake and the business district has been maintained throughout the years with a nice selection of local businesses while the big box retailers have a home on Route 14. Parks, schools and the library are among the best in the area.
“Crystal Lake’s schools, parks, downtown and especially its people continue to make this a good place to live,” said Diana Kenney, executive director of Downtown Crystal Lake/Main Street and president of the Crystal Lake Historical Society.
1914: A Progressive Year
· New York Stock Exchange closed in August (until December) due to war in Europe, where nearly all stock exchanges were already closed.
· The Federal Reserve Bank of the United States officially opened for business.