Looking back at Downtown historic Algonquin IL

Dated: April 5 2021

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Journey back to the days when Algonquin first began. Look back into the people's lives who made it happen. Discover the history that shows how far Algonquin has come.

  • Algonquin was originally inhabited by the Pottowatomi Indians and French trappers.
  • The first settler to arrive to the area was Samuel Gillilan and his family from Virginia in 1834. They built their cabin near what is now the Algonquin cemetery, on the north side of the village.
  • Algonquin is located roughly 47 miles northwest of the Chicago Loop. It is known as the "Gem of the Fox River Valley."
  • It was incorporated on February 25, 1890 in both Kane and McHenry Counties.
  • John Peter was elected the first village president and W. Seyk, Dorr W. Thomas, Charles Kublank, Andrew Doig, William A. Nason and John Johnston were elected the first village trustees.
Shortly after Samuel Gillilan arrived to the area, fellow settlers Dr. Cornish, Dr. Plumleigh, Eli Henderson, Alex Dawson and William Jackson soon followed. The town fathers had difficulty in selecting a name for the town— Denny's Ferry, Cornish Ferry, Cornishville and Osceola were all considered. The name "Algonquin" was finally chosen in December of 1847 after Samuel Edwards suggested the name of a ship he once owned.

In 1855, the railroad arrived to Algonquin and new businesses appeared including a sawmill, gristmill and flour mill. The gravel mining industry also took off at the end of the 1890s. Around the same time, the tourists began flocking to the area. By 1900, nine passenger trains would stop in Algonquin daily to drop off tourists from Chicago.
In the early 20th century, Algonquin thrived as a tourist destination and was home to several businesses including the C.W. Gould Butter and Cheese Factory, the Borden Condensing Company and the American Ironing Machine Company. But over time due to the popularity of automobiles and the decline of the railroad, the tourism to Algonquin slowed, leading to its transition into the commuter suburb it is today.
 
From 1906 to 1913, the automobile companies began to go to the Algonquin Hill Climbs, which was an event where if an automobile was able to make it up a series of steep hills in the Village, it would be given the stamp of approval. And because of that, the Algonquin Cup was formed which received national recognition at the time. The two hills used in the race were the Phillips Hill which extends from Illinois Route 31 to the cemetery and Perry Hill, located south of downtown, and which is now Lundstrom Lane.

Algonquin Historic Village Hall--Then & Now
 
above photo - Looking south down Main Street at Historic Village Hall  & Old City Hall today which is used as a meeting space for the community
About 15 years after Algonquin was incorporated, the village leaders decided to construct what is now known as Historic Village Hall, located at 2 S. Main Street.

It was completed in 1907 and cost $6,848 to build. Its size of 4,100 square feet was intended to accommodate 550 residents, which was the village's population size in 1900. The building is a style of Midwestern Prairie Architecture, which was introduced by Frank Lloyd Wright. W.W. Abell designed the building.

The first floor housed the fire department, a street sprinkling wagon, classrooms, a library, the marshal's office and jail. The council chambers and clerk's office were located on the second floor.

Before the official village hall was constructed, the village board meetings were held in two locations: the Masons Hall, 102 S. Main Street, and the Morton House Hotel, which is now the Shell gas station at the northwest corner of Main Street and Algonquin Road.

For many years the historic village hall was used as a gathering spot for the community, said Don Purn, who serves on the Algonquin Historic Commission.

"There were always several things going on over a period of time," he said.

In 1967 the village expanded the building to accommodate its growing population. The fire station doors were replaced with windows, which provided new council chambers and additional offices.

The enclosed stairs that are on the building's south side were added then, too.

In 1993 the building and its site was deemed a McHenry County Historical Landmark.

It was in the early 1990s that the village's population was outpacing the historic village hall's capacity to serve residents. So in 1996, the village offices and police department moved to their current location at 2200 Harnish Drive.

Today the historic village hall continues to serve as a meeting space for the community and looks much like it did when it was built more than 100 years ago.
Below - Algonquin Village Hall & Police station in new location on Harnish Dr
Downtown Algonquin has been recently "revamped", but it keeps its "Old Town" charm even today.... 
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Source - patch.com
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Hilda Jones

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