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A History of Island Lake, Illinois

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It took a little imagination and a healthy entrepreneurial spirit to envision a lake community in the agricultural area, just west of Wauconda in the late 1920's.

The area had no lake or island, just rolling farmland, a gravel pit and Mutton Creek. In 1929, a group of area residents including Ray Paddock, Homer Cook and Dennis Putnam bought the land that is now Island Lake from Dowell, Smith, Burnett and Darrell. They decided to dam up Mutton Creek and establish a lake development patterned after their own community of Wauconda.

Unfortunately, their plans were no match for the Depression of the 30's. There were just a few families settled around the newly created lake before the National Mortgage and Investment Company, controlled by Mark and Joseph Horowitz, took control of the land eventually developing the surrounding lake lots as Island Lake Estates. An advertising campaign appeared in the Chicago papers which state "...Island Lake Estates, sensibly priced in a beautiful wooded area only 37 miles from Chicago..." Many of the earlier purchasers were from Chicago. Lots with lake rights sold for as little as $95. Small frame cottages sold for $695 and a log cabin $985. One early resident remembers "...going down to the crystal clear water of the lake and catching Northerns with ease."

In 1938, the Island Lake Property Owners Association was formed and George LaGrue was the first president. The housing crunch during post World War II brought a renewed interest in the lake community as many Chicago area residents looked to rural real estate to provide them with homes. Homes gradually were converted to year round status and new construction filled the remaining lots. Many of the children of cottage owners, with fond memories of ideal summers still fresh in their minds, chose to settle their young families here.

Difficulties in providing municipal services resulted in an incorporation of the Village on June 25, 1952 after a bitterly contested election. The first village mayor was Joseph Willard. The first village clerk was Faye Newlson. The original Board of Trustees consisted of Howard Bruback, John Buckley, William Buffam, Leslie Carlson, Arthur Mueller and Orlando Pretzman.

Island Lake adopted its first Comprehensive Village Plan in 1961 when John Buckley was mayor and Helen DeWire was clerk. It was a document that helped shape the future of the village. 1960 marked the opening of the super market known as Robin Hood in the newly developed shopping center on Route 176. Island True Value is now housed in that old supermarket. When Island Foods built its present facility and moved out of the old store, it was hailed as a forerunner of grocery shopping, (with its tall carts which did not need to be unloaded) and its telephone in the aisles (that gave you access to the customer service booth) if you failed to find the needed items.

Original buildings that were here before the development of Island Lake were: The Smith Farm - Now the site of Island Lake Plaza; Mae Pretzman (Smith) was born on this farm and still resides in Island Lake on Burnett Road; the Island Lake Furniture Store, now Hardee's; Connie Straus Tavern - presently the office building that houses Aline's Tax Service, on the north side of Route 176; the Barn of Burnett Road and Spruce - Trustee Georgine Cooper's present home.

In 1960, the village hall was built on Route 176. Later a garage and police department were added. The original village hall is presently the home of attorneys, Lewis and Levinson and other businesses. The Wauconda School District offered the Island Lake Grade School to the Village in 1985. The Mayor and Board of Trustees made the decision to purchase the present facility because it was a focal point of the community with its baseball fields and open land. Of course, the larger facility was a big plus.

On Palm Sunday, April 11, 1965, a tornado hit the village. A child was killed and the village sustained considerable property damage. Some homes were lifted and deposited in the lake. The community rebuilt and a year later only a few scars remained.

In 1969, village leaders formed the Island Lake Sanitary District. The village government in association with the newly created Sanitary District began the fight for a sewer system, (the first part of a plan for the cleanup of our lake) and an important improvement in the history of Island Lake.

Island Lake even had a balloon port for a time in 1976 when Wind Wizard operated on property just off Roberts Road. The sky was filled with many multiple colored balloons as they embarked on their journeys.

In 1977, Island Lake's first major industrial site was established when the area at Darrell and Burnett Roads was approved. Kemper valve and Fittings Corporation was built by Joseph Kemper.

In 1980, an 800 acre annexation of Fox River Shores made the village grow to about 1300 acres in size and brought the potential for considerable growth. 250 acres of the annexation was designated as a conservation area, called Cotton Creek Marsh. It is a rare and valuable wetland and the home of many endangered species. The management of the marsh has been turned over to the McHenry county Conservation District. The large tract of land brought the borders of Island Lake all the way west to the Fox River.

Sanctuary Subdivision, an apartment complex on the east side of Roberts Road, was annexed in December of 1980. The development was issued its first building permit in June of 1981 and was complete in April of 1988.

In 1982, a 36-unit apartment complex, one third for senior citizens, was approved by the village board and constructed by the Madsen Corporation. The housing project is located behind Island Foods. Cotton Creek Apartments on the south side of Burnett Road was built by Paul Hansen and Joseph Keirans. The first building permit was issued in October of 1985.

In 1988, a building permit was issued to develop the Island Lake Plaza shopping center that now houses the Post Office, Megacopies, Off the Wall Video and other businesses. In 1989, Hardee's was issued a permit to build its restaurant.

In October of 1989 the village annexed 29 acres on the south side of Route 176 (known as Weichsville and owned by Evelyn Filippo) bordering Slocum Lake and the west side of Darrell Road. This brought the village border further east on the South side of Route 176. In January of 1990, Westfield Homes of Gurnee was issued building permits for Westridge Development which added another 135 acres. This development consists of single family and multi-family homes bordered on the north side of Route 176 with commercial property.

March of 1991 increased the village by another 57.5 acres. This annexation consisted of 1,400 feet on the south side of Route 176 and east of Darrell Road. July of 1991 brought in another fifty acres call Highwood Lakes which is north of Burnett Road, bordering Dowell and Highwood Road. This development consisted of fifty-one single family homes on the old gravel pit. Hummel Construction was issued a building permit in August of 1990 to construct the building which houses equipment and has leasing space on Burnett Road. In August of 1994, the Keelans were granted a variance to erect a self-storage building on the corner of Burnett and Darrell Roads.

The Island Lake area was targeted for middle income people, who if they saved enough money, could have a nice lake cottage. And this has been the town's charm. Just plain folk getting a chance to own a piece of charming property in a natural setting surrounded by Mutton Creek, Cotton Creek Marsh, Island Lake, Highwood Lake, Slocum Lake and the Fox River.

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This page was last updated on 16 July 2012 at 4:12 pm

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