History of Crystal Lake

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Crystal Lake Main Beach
Crystal Lake's Main Beach is one of many attractions.

 

   


Crystal Lake Historic Preservation Commission

 

The Crystal Lake area’s first European settlers, Beman and Polly Tuttle Crandall arrived in February 1836 with their six children, and discovered a sparkling clear lake, tall timber, and vast prairies. By August 1836, the U.S. government granted homestead rights to the Crandalls. An old trail, forged by the Sac and Fox tribes, extended from Fort Dearborn in Chicago to northwest Wisconsin, with the portion through Crystal Lake known as Route 14. A log cabin inn, the Lyman-King House, stood on Virginia Street near Pomeroy Avenue and served as a stage coach stop and trading post.

The Village of Crystal Lake was platted in 1840 by Beman Crandall, Christopher Walkup, and Abner Beardsley. At the time, the surveyors determined the boundaries to be Virginia Street to the north, Lake Avenue to the south; McHenry Avenue to the east; and Dole Avenue to the west.

The Village of Nunda was established in 1855, with the Chicago, St. Paul and Fond du Lac railroad (the track is now owned by the Union Pacific), the first direct rail connection from Chicago. The train stop in the Village of Nunda established the town as the commercial hub of McHenry County. The street configuration of Crystal Lake’s present downtown reflects the railroad’s early influence. In 1856, a rail spur line (now Dole Avenue) was built from the Village of Nunda to Crystal Lake to transport ice cut from the lake to Chicago and to bring visitors from Chicago to the area.

Many public infrastructure improvements took place in the early years of the two villages. The Chicago Telephone Company received a right-of-way in 1883. In 1884, wooden sidewalks were constructed. The water system was built in the Village of Nunda in 1899 and in the Village of Crystal Lake in 1912. The Nunda Electric Company built a plant on Walkup Avenue, south of the Union Pacific track, in 1902. Western United Gas and Electric Company began operations in 1909. The city built the wastewater treatment system on McHenry Avenue, south of Barlina Road, in 1919. Road paving became a predominant fixture in the community 1924 and 1929 with increasing use of the personal automobile.

The Village of Nunda became North Crystal Lake in 1908. Consolidation of Crystal Lake and North Crystal Lake occurred on April 28, 1914. The city of Crystal Lake Charter was adopted on September 23, 1914.

Since World War II, the population and boundaries of the city of Crystal Lake have changed dramatically. Throughout the Chicago area, people have relocated father from Chicago to places like Crystal Lake in search of more open space, less traffic, cheaper land and safer neighborhoods.