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Lake County Illinois CVB



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Lake County History

In the early 1830's, the land that would become Lake County was mostly undeveloped prairie, dotted intermittently with little villages and farming communities of the native Potawatomi.

As westward expansion rolled on, so did the settlement of the Great Plains. Pioneers streamed in from the east, looking for new lands and better opportunities. In 1834, the area received its first permanent settlers, and in 1837, the Caspar Ott Log House was built. This one-room log house located at The Deerfield Historic Village remains the oldest standing building in Lake County. In 1839, the township that would later become Libertyville was bustling enough to be named the seat of government for the newly formed Lake County.

The 1840's were a boom period in Lake County history. Population skyrocketed from around 2,600 residents in 1840 to over 14,000 by 1850. Immigrants were eagerly seeking a new life of freedom in America and no place offered a greater abundance of opportunity than the flourishing new settlements of the American Great Plains.

By 1841, the surrounding area continued to grow resulting in county residents voting to move the local government to a newly settled community called Little Fort. Years later, this community was renamed to Waukegan, which is the Potawatomi word for "little fort." It was here that the county built its first courthouse which was destroyed by fire. The second courthouse was a Victorian building that was later torn down and replaced with its current structure. Another historic structure, The Ansel B. Cook Home, built in 1878, sits on the site of the first permanent dwelling in Lake County.

As the 19th century drew to a close, the population has more than doubles and the area started to receive national attention as an outpost of great promise and opportunity. In 1911, the Great Lakes Naval Station was established and built. Today, it continues to be the Navy's only recruit training center where all incoming prospective cadets must pass through its doors before entering into active duty.

It wasn't until the 20th century that the flower of culture first began to bloom in Lake County. In 1904, Ravinia Park was established as an amusement park to lure riders to the newly founded Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad. Even though the amusement park is no longer around, the tradition of annual live musical performances in Ravinia Park is as popular as ever today! Ravinia Festival is the oldest outdoor music festival in the country. Another local venue for live entertainment that is still prosperous today, the GeneseeTheatre, staged its first performance in 1927.

Even with modern development offering a wide variety of first-class dining, entertainment, nightlife and outdoor recreation, Lake County still boasts some of the most beautiful and picturesque country scenery and breathtaking lakeside views in the American Midwest while remaining a historically significant destination.

Lake County Fun Facts

  • 700,000 - Residents call Lake County home
  • 29,200 - Acres of land managed by Lake County, offering innovative educational, recreational and cultural opportunities for all ages
  • $4,000 - The cost of building the original Libertyville Courthouse, Lake County's oldest public building, which was built in 1844
  • 170 - The number of lakes and rivers in Lake County, in addition to Lake Michigan, 400 miles of streams and thousands of acres of wetlands
  • 154 - Miles of trails for outdoor recreation in Lake County
  • 89 - Distinct locations in the National Register of Historic Places, ranging from architecturally significant houses to historically significant military bases are located in Lake County
  • Movies filmed in Lake County include: Risky Business, Groundhog Day, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Batman Begins, Plans, Trains and Automobiles, Ordinary People, Chain Reaction, Contagion, and My Best Friend's Wedding. The NBC televsion show Chicago Fire is also filmed in Lake County.
  • Half Day Road is named after a friendly Aptakisic Indian chief named Halfda.
  • Ravinia Festival is North America's oldest outdoor music festival.
  • The Gurnee Mills Mall exterior design was constructed to be in the shape of a dollar symbol, which can be seen clearly from an aerial view.
  • The Columbia Carousel at Six Flags Great America ties the world record for tallest carousel.
  • The Genesee Theatre's first performance was in 1927. Jack Benny Premiered "Man About Town" in 1939. The marquee, installed in 2004, is an exact replica of the one which graced the Genesee in 1927.
  • Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove is home to the world's largest corn maze.
  • The Sanfilippo Estate in Barrington houses the world's largest indoor pipe organ - 8000 pipes.
  • Al Capone reportedly had a home on Wonder Lake at the Chain O'Lakes State Park

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5465 West Grand Avenue, Suite 100 | Gurnee, Illinois 60031 | Phone: 847-662-2700
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No matter which route you take, all roads lead to fun in Lake County, Illinois, which is located halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. Lake County is home to 170 lakes and rivers, 30,000 acres of lush forest preserves, miles of hiking and biking trails, Six Flags Great America, Naval Station Great Lakes, Ravinia Festival and sandy beaches along Lake Michigan's shoreline. Family adventure is around every turn and awaits you in Lake County.
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