Tune-in May 25 as WGN Radio’s Your Hometown series features Lake Zurich.

Lake Zurich is located in Lake County, about 32 miles northwest of the Loop. Original inhabitants were the Potawatomi until New England farmers arrived beginning in the mid-1830s followed by German immigrants in the mid-19th century.

The village’s lake is not manmade and was first called Cedar Lake. The lake offers residents multiple amenities including fishing, boating, kayaking, swimming, sandy beaches at Henry J. Paulus and Breezewald Parks and a walking path.  

Early pioneers included George Ela and Seth Paine. Paine settled east of the lake in 1836 and was inspired by French philosopher Charles Fourier and his ideas of utopian socialism to create an “intentional community” similar to some found in Switzerland. Paine renamed the lake and his settlement Lake Zurich, although Paine’s commune never reached beyond 100 residents and ended by 1852.

Lake Zurich remained primarily a farming community even after incorporation as a village on September 29, 1896 and the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern (EJ&E) Railway passing through in 1889.

It was a passenger rail line PLZ&W linking Lake Zurich to Chicago through Palatine in 1912, but mostly the automobile that brought growth to Lake Zurich. The rail service and paving of major village thoroughfares Rand Road (Route 12) and Half Day Road (Route 22) in 1922 and 1927, respectively, helped Lake Zurich gain a reputation as a resort area that continued into the 1970s. Summer cottages were winterized as more people choose to call Lake Zurich home all year-round.

The annual Alpine Fest is a favorite summer event with carnival rides, games and more. Hosted by the Lake Zurich Lion’s Club in mid-July, the festival in downtown Lake Zurich began in 1942.

Lake Zurich has 32 public parks encompassing 245 acres as well as county parks just outside the village’s border. In 2019, Kuechmann Park became Kuechmann Arboretum (626 N. Old Rand Road), a 7.8-acre open space with oaks ranging in age from 100 to 275, pollinators, a walking trail and nature playscape for kids.

For decades Lake Zurich was a destination for Bell’s Apple Orchard, last located west of Route 12 on Route 22. WGN Radio’s promotions manager Sara Tieman and digital strategist Mike Piff, both Lake Zurich natives, fondly recall the cider donuts, apple treats and apple picking at Bells. “Home of the Big Apple”, it was the earliest large-scale pick-your-own apple orchard in Lake County with 18,000 dwarf apple trees. The property was first called Mossley Hill Farm (Orchard) by William Webbe, a native of Liverpool who bought the land in 1893. John Bell and Webbe began the orchard in 1939 and it was a favorite spot for many until its closure in 1998.

The Ela Township Historical Society and Museum (95 E. Main Street), organized in 1975, is a resource for those wanting to know more about the village, including its History Day event held in September.

Famous names with Lake Zurich connections include advertising giant Leo Burnett who lived on a farm in Lake Zurich from 1942 until his death in 1971 and Chicago Bears linebacker Jack Sanborn who went to Lake Zurich High School. Hollywood recognized Lake Zurich in the 2013 sci-film ‘Gravity’ when Sandra Bullock’s fictional character engineer Dr. Ryan Stone tells George Clooney’s character that home was “Lake Zurich, Illinois.”

Your Hometown featuring Lake Zurich is sponsored by Illinois Lottery – Anything is possible in Your Hometown. And by McDonald’s, the Village of Lake Zurich and the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce.