History of Crystal Lake

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DownDowntown sign-1920s-2Downtown Crystal Lake circa 1920 


Crystal Lake Historic Preservation Commission

 Please visit the Historic Preservation Commission page for more information

  • 1836 - First Settlers Arrive

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. 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 now known as Virginia Street (Route 14). A log cabin inn, the Lyman-King House, on Virginia Street near Pomeroy Avenue, served as a stage coach stop and trading post.
  • 1840 - 1914 Two Villages Form

The Village of Crystal Lake was platted in 1840 with boundaries of 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, establishing the village as the commercial hub of McHenry County. 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, with telephone in 1883, wooden sidewalks in 1884, water systems in 1899 and 1912, and electricity and gas added in 1902 and 1909. Road paving became a predominant fixture in the community beginning in 1924 with the  increasing use of the personal automobile.

  • September 23, 1914 - Villages Consolidate into the City of Crystal Lake

The Village of Nunda became North Crystal Lake in 1908. Consolidation of Crystal Lake and North Crystal Lake occurred on April 28, 1914, and the City of Crystal Lake Charter was adopted on September 23, 1914.  The City celebrated its Centennial throughout the year of 2014.