Crystal Lake, IL


Crystal Lake is a city located in southeastern McHenry County in northeastern Illinois. It is named after Crystal Lake, a 230 acre (0.9 km2) lake 1.6 miles (2.6 km) west-southwest of downtown. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 38,000. Crystal Lake has a small bit of fame for being the city where the tradition of giving gold coins to the Salvation Army anonymously began in 1982. The city is also home to the Crystal Lake Community Band.



The City of Crystal Lake traces its origins to two separate communities which were established in the 1800's. Those communities were generally known as Nunda and Crystal Lake. In 1835, Ziba S. Beardsley had come to the shores of the lake and commented that the "waters were as clear as crystal," thereby giving the lake its name. Ziba Beardsley continued south to Naperville and missed the opportunity for fame as this city's founder. In February, 1836 the first white settlers, Beman and Polly Crandall and six of their ten children, came from New York State and traveled to Crystal Lake in a covered wagon. The family lived in the covered wagon for a time until a log cabin could be built. Their original cabin was built in the vicinity of today's intersection of Virginia Street and Van Buren Street. Four of the Crandall children were born here. Najah Beardsley's family was the second to settle here. His grandson, William Beardsley, was the first white child born on the Crystal Lake prairie (May 7, 1837).

The town was first known as Crystal Ville, but sometime before 1840, it was changed to Crystal Lake. The area known today as "Downtown Crystal Lake" was first called "Dearborn" and then "Nunda." The village of Dearborn came into existence in the mid 1850's after the railroads extended their lines through the area. In 1856, the first train depot was established. This depot was pre-fabricated and shipped from Chicago, Illinois on a flatcar. Although the depot was located near Dearborn, it was called the Crystal Lake Station. At that time, the main business district for the village of Crystal Lake was located on Virginia Street about one mile southwest of the railroad station. The railroad served to connect the people and industries of both Crystal Lake and Dearborn to Chicago and the rest of the county. Because of its close proximity to the railroad, Dearborn's population and business district quickly grew.

On October 7, 1868, Dearborn's name was changed to "Nunda" after an area in New York from which many settlers had come. The village of Nunda was platted in 1868 by local surveyor, John Brink. The village included the area now generally bounded by Route 176 on the north, Crystal Lake Avenue on the south, Main Street on the east, and Walkup Avenue on the west. Much of the land was originally owned by Daniel Ellsworth and Simon S. Gates. The villages of Crystal Lake and Nunda were each incorporated in 1874. In 1908, the name of the village of Nunda was changed to "North Crystal Lake." Several attempts were made to consolidate the two villages. Finally, after much disagreement, the village of North Crystal Lake was annexed to the Village of Crystal Lake in 1914, and a new city form of government was established.

The Dole family

Dole Mansion
Lakeside Center

Back in the 1860's, when the town of Crystal Lake was about 25 years old, Charles S. Dole purchased over 1,000 acres (4 km2) of land overlooking the lake. It was his dream to construct an elaborate estate that would reflect his position as a successful businessman. He was an early member of the Chicago Board of Trade, being associated with Armour, Dole and Company in Chicago. To carry out his plan, he built a three-story mansion with adjoining gardens and stables. European craftsmen were imported to lay parquet floors, fashion archways and carve interior wood work from black walnut trees grown on the property. As a final touch, he brought in Italian artisans to build several marble fireplaces. According to Mr. Dole's obituary, construction costs exceeded $100,000, an enormous amount of money in those days.

Lakeside Center

The estate was known as Lakeland Farm. Mr. Dole lived there with his wife Julia, his mother-in-law, Mrs. Harriet Coffin, his two daughters, Mary Florence, Harriet (Hattie), and son Sydney. Dole maintained the estate for over 30 years, entertaining lavishly. As an example, for his daughter's wedding in 1883 he built a spur line from the Chicago and Northwestern railway tracks almost to his doorstep. A canopied and carpeted walkway extended 750 feet from the front door to the train enabling the guests to walk to the mansion for the ceremony and return to the train without concern for the weather. Notable wedding guests included Julian Rumsey (mayor of Chicago and Dole's first cousin) and Levi Leiter (first partner with Marshall Field).

Mr. Dole's interests changed throughout the years. He laid out a half-mile racetrack on his property and purchased the finest horses that money could buy, soon accumulating a string of horses that was the envy of northern Illinois. It is said that Mr. Dole loved to go up in his tower (currently closed off) and watch his horses run. When tired of the fad of his stable, he disposed of his beautiful and valuable horses, holding an elaborate sale. The Dole's lived in the mansion until the late 1890's when the property was sold.

During the early 1900's, the property was owned and operated by several different ice companies. Ice was harvested from Crystal Lake and shipped by rail to nearby Chicago. The advent of refrigeration brought about the decline of the ice business. After laying vacant for several years, the property was sold in 1922 to the Lake Development Company. Today The Dole Mansion is owned by the Lakeside Legacy, along with Lakeside center, which is the building connected to The Dole Mansion.

Eliza Ringling

Ringling Road is an east-west road which curves from Country Club Road back up to Lake Avenue. There are less than one dozen houses that claim a Ringling Road address; but those houses range from a small, stone cottage to large, imposing mansions. It is no mistake that Ringling Road provides the northern boundary for the Dole Mansion property. The road was named after Eliza "Lou" Ringling, who was instrumental in turning the Dole Mansion into the Crystal Lake Country Club in 1922. Mrs. Ringling, and her group of investors, created the Lake Development Company, which subdivided much of the large Dole estate into what is known as the Country Club Additions subdivision. Eliza "Lou" Ringling was the widow of the oldest Ringling Brother, of circus fame.

In 1922, Mrs. Ringling and a group of investors, known as the Lake Development Company, purchased the Dole Mansion property (then known as the "Consumers Farm"). The transaction involved nearly a half million dollars and was one of the largest real restate deals handled in the area. Under Mrs. Ringling's guidance, the Dole Mansion was completely renovated and became home to the Crystal Lake Country Club.

Recent history

On April 11, 1965, a large and devastating tornado damaged or destroyed large portions of the city. 6 people were killed by the tornado, and a further 75 wounded. Damages in the city totaled over $1.5 million, as 80 homes and a shopping center were completely destroyed. Disaster shelters were set up to house the homeless, and then-governor of Illinois, Otto Kerner, Jr., personally visited the city to view the damage.

In the past twenty years, the history of Crystal Lake has consisted mainly of the peaceful growing of suburban subdivisions, as the population increased to 38,000 in the 2000 Census from 21,823 in the 1990 Census. In order to deal with the growth, Crystal Lake South High School was opened in 1978. Previously, Crystal Lake Community High School (now Crystal Lake Central High School) had served the entire city of Crystal Lake since 1924. Even more recently a third high school, Prairie Ridge High School, opened north of the city to accommodate the spread moving into the area between Crystal Lake and the two communities directly to its north, Prairie Grove, Illinois and Bull Valley, Illinois.

Some challenges currently facing the city of Crystal Lake include a large and sudden increase in the Hispanic population, a city library which is over capacity, continued school overcrowding due to the continued construction of suburban neighborhoods, and an inconvenient road system leading to frequently snarled traffic. However, the overall quality of life and education in the city remains quite high. In addition, a robust city park system, continued revitalization of the downtown area, including a new city hall, have continued to make Crystal Lake an attractive community for new residents.

Controversy erupted in the community in February 2006, when it was announced that the Gay Games, which are scheduled to begin July 15, 2006 in Chicago were seeking to hold the rowing events on Crystal Lake. The lake is uniquely suitable to hold such events because of its considerable length and width, and its shape. However, Crystal Lake, situated in strongly conservative McHenry County, is home to many conservative Christians, who were opposed to the events on moral grounds. On March 2, 2006, the Crystal Lake Park District voted to reject the Gay Games' application to use the lake for their rowing events, after a tense meeting where over one hundred residents spoke before the board, the majority in opposition. The vote was 2-2, as Crystal Lake Park District President Jerry Sullivan was absent. Under the Park District's rules, a tie votes lead to a denial of the issue being considered. The Gay Games indicated they may seek legal action against the city and the Park District, citing a recently passed Illinois law which prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation.

However, the very next day, March 3, 2006, the President of the Crystal Lake Park District, Jerry Sullivan, who had been on vacation in Mexico, returned and set aside the previous night's vote, and set a new meeting for March 7, 2006. The meeting was held in a local banquet hall in anticipation of great attendance, but the hall proved too small as many people were turned away and cars had to be assigned to an overflow parking lot. The ultimate result of the single-issue meeting, which lasted nearly four hours, was that the Gay Games would be allowed to use the lake, by a vote of 3 to 2.

Geography and climate

Crystal Lake is located at 42°13'35" North, 88°20'8" West (42.226423, -88.335439).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 43.5 km2 (16.8 mi2). 42.1 km2 (16.2 mi2) of it is land and 1.5 km2 (0.6 mi2) of it is water. The total area is 3.33% water.


Crystal Lake is a large city and has distinct neighborhoods,. As the largest city in McHenry County, Illinois, it contains three high schools, and has many separate neighborhoods. Because many adults work out of town, notably in Chicago, social life in Crystal Lake is determined largely by who people's children go to school with, and who lives nearby. For this reason, two of the separate neighborhoods are technically in the neighboring city of Lake in the Hills, Illinois, but are both socially and socioeconomically more a part of Crystal Lake, especially due to the inclusion of these neighborhoods in Crystal Lake schools.

Crystal Lake's ten neighborhoods are largely divided by wealth and school district. Starting from the north of the city, the ten neighborhoods are easy to trace out. The first has no de facto name like the others, but is referred to as "by Prairie Ridge," referring to the nearby high school of the same name. Houses in this neighborhood are large and widely spaced. The entire area lies just to the north of the city, from the downtown area to the adjacent community of Bull Valley, Illinois. Next is downtown Crystal Lake, which rings Crystal Lake Central High School. Houses here range greatly in size and age, and it is the most diverse neighborhood in the city. Directly south of downtown Crystal Lake is the Coventry neighborhood, named for the major through street Coventry Lane. Students in the Coventry neighborhood attend either the Central High School of Crystal Lake or the Crystal Lake South High School. Coventry has seen a large increase recently in its Hispanic population. Oral tradition holds that Coventry was originally populated by pilots who fly out of O'Hare Airport.

To the southwest of downtown Crystal Lake is the sprawling Four Colonies neighborhood, which covers nearly 2.5 square miles. All students from Four Colonies attend the South high school. Four Colonies is a solidly middle class neighborhood. South of Four Colonies is the Village neighborhood, which is named for its major thoroughfare, Village Road. An important feature of the village neighborhood is Indian Prairie Elementary School, which is built on a large and steep series of hills that is a favorite sledding location during the snowy months. The Village neighborhood is solidly upper middle class. Village residents attend the South high school.

The last two neighborhoods in Crystal Lake are de facto neighborhoods of Crystal Lake due to social and school district ties. These two neighborhoods are technically in Lake in the Hills, Illinois. The Spring Hill subdivision bears a strong resemblance to the Village neighborhood, but the houses are slightly smaller. Spring Lake residents attend the South high school, as Spring Lake is across the street from the Village neighborhood. Spring lake mixes the middle class and the upper middle class. The final neighborhood of Crystal Lake is also in Lake in the Hills, Illinois. This is the exclusive Boulder Ridge neighborhood, and it is a gated community centering on the Boulder Ridge Country Club. The neighborhood opens its gates to the public most famously on Halloween, and the neighborhood is well-known by local children to give excellent candy. A discussion of Boulder Ridge at any time of the year will invariably turn to this. Boulder Ridge is a solidly upper class neighborhood. Lakewood, Illinois, near the geographic center of Crystal Lake and on the south side of the lake also has social links to Crystal Lake and is, in many cases, considered part of the town.

Other neighborhoods in Crystal Lake ring the town's namesake lake, and are called West End, North Shore, and the Vista. These neighborhoods consist of many older home built on the lakeshore, and vary greatly in size and style.


The city's climate is much like that of its large neighboring city, Chicago. The city experiences hot summers and cold winters, with temperatures slightly more extreme than those of closer suburbs, due to the fact that rural lands still surrounds the city. Due to the lack of the urban heat island effect, Crystal Lake experiences colder nights and lower precipitation than recorded at Chicago. High temperatures are usually comparable to those in Chicago, with only a few degrees variation on most days.

The hottest month of the year is July, when the average high temperature is approximately 86°F (30°C). Temperatures in July, and in summer in general, can frequently exceed 95°F (35°C), and occasionally exceed 100°F (39°C), although this does not happen each year. The coldest month of the year is January, where the average high temperature is 23°F (-5°C). Overnight low temperatures are usually around 8°F (-12°C). In winter, the low temperatures fall below 0°F (-18°C) on many (often as many as fifteen or twenty) occasions per year. Extremely cold nights may record temperatures as low as -20°F (-29°C), or lower, but this is rare and does not happen each year.

The wettest month of the year is August, when thunderstorms contribute brief, heavy downpours of rain. July is the second wettest month of the year, also mainly due to thunderstorms. However, long dry spells can also occur at this time of year, sometimes lasting weeks. The two driest months of the year are January and February, where almost all of the precipitation falls as snow. In a typical year, total precipitation is 37.33in (1.05m) with a winter snowfall total of 39.8in (1.25m). Large snowstorms, although rare, do occur. In many years, at least one storm will deliver 12in (.3m) of snow in one day. Most snow-bearing systems are Alberta Clippers, while the more infrequent heavy snows are caused by Panhandle Hooks.


As of the census of 2000, there were 38,000 people, 13,070 households, and 9,854 families residing in the city. The population density was 903.4/km2 (2,339.5/mi2). There were 13,459 housing units at an average density of 320.0/km2 (828.6/mi2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.07% White, 0.56% African American, 0.16% Native American, 1.97% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 2.17% from other races, and 1.05% from two or more races. 7.01% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 13,070 households out of which 44.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.1% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.6% were non-families. 20.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.89 and the average family size was 3.36.

In the city the population was spread out with 31.6% under the age of 18, 6.7% from 18 to 24, 33.1% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 9.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 97.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $66,872, and the median income for a family was $75,396. Males had a median income of $52,154 versus $32,287 for females. The per capita income for the city was $26,146. 3.5% of the population and 2.6% of families were below the poverty line. 3.4% of those under the age of 18 and 3.8% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Culture and Sites of Interest

Crystal Lake, as a city, is large enough to entertain its own cultural institutions. However, it also shares many cultural opportunities with the city of Chicago, and the other large communities which surround it, as they are easily accessible from Crystal Lake, and vice versa. The city is home to the Northwest Herald, the only daily newspaper published in McHenry County. The newspaper deals mainly with local issues, but also carries national and world news. Several radio stations are located in Crystal Lake, including several Spanish language stations which serve the local immigrant community. Churches are also a large influence within the city, hosting many annual events. Another large presence in the city is the Crystal Lake Park District, which runs all of the city's numerous parks and the yearly events which take place within them.

Among the city's sites of interest are the lake and the historic downtown district. The lake, for which the city is named, contains a public beach which is open whenever weather is accommodating. However, boating is often restricted due to disputes with the both homeowners on the lake, as well as the city of Lakewood, Illinois, in which approximately 30% of the lake lies. The downtown district, which recently has undergone a revitalization, is home to many small specialty shops and businesses, and is a popular local shopping district. Also located in the downtown district is the Raue Center for the Performing Arts, which seats 700 and performs plays and hosts concerts throughout the year.

Notable Residents

Crystal Lake is notable for having produced contestants on American Idol who have reached the top 24, Jim Verraros and David Radford. Verraros made it to the show's final round during the first season, placing ninth. Radford appeared on the fifth season, making it to the semifinal round but being eliminated before reaching the show's "final twelve."

Sister Cities

Holzgerlingen, Böblingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, since 1996

Sister City Commitee of Holzgerlingen

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