WGN Radio’s Your Hometown series features Crystal Lake on Thursday, May 26.
The largest city in McHenry County, Crystal Lake is roughly 45 miles northwest of Chicago. The origin of its name is due to a lake located outside of downtown and its waters “as clear as crystal”, as remarked by Ziba S. Beardsley, one of the town’s settlers.
Crystal Lake was originally two communities – Nunda and Crystal Lake – which underwent several name changes. The town was first known as Crystal Ville. The downtown area was first called Dearborn. Nunda and Crystal Lake were incorporated in 1874 and in 1914, the village of Nunda was renamed to North Crystal Lake and annexed to Crystal Lake.
Ice harvesting was one of Crystal Lake’s earliest industries that led to its becoming a commercial center in northern Illinois. From the mid-1800s until advancements in refrigeration, ice from Crystal Lake, said to be the finest in Chicagoland, was in high demand. Crystal Lake’s Dole Avenue, originally referred to as “Ice Track Road” is named for Charles S. Dole, who operated multiple ice houses under the name Crystal Ice Company. This 1.4-mile road was lined with railroad tracks that transported carloads of ice from the lake to the depot for transportation to Chicago. According to McHenry County Living, “by 1897, up to 200 men could cut 80,000 cubic feet of ice from Crystal Lake in a single day.”
The Dole Mansion, a Victorian-era Romantic Italianate manor located at 401 Country Club Road in Crystal Lake, was built for Charles Dole and is one of the village’s most significant historic structures.
Crystal Lake developed a reputation as a resort through through 1920s and wealthy vacationers built homes along the lake’s south shore.
Today, Crystal Lake offers its residents outdoor recreation at Veteran Acres Park, Raue Center for the Arts, and a downtown main street with unique shops and restaurants.
Following his retirement from WGN Radio in 1998, Wally Phillips hosted a two-hour Saturday morning show on WAIT-AM 850 in Crystal Lake.
Have your say in our “Your Hometown” series! Submit your suggestions on which town you think we should feature here. Hear a different “Your Hometown” featured every month.
Your Hometown featuring Crystal Lake is sponsored by McDonald’s.