Historic Downtown Crystal Lake – a Premier Illinois Main Street Community
Crystal Lake’s vibrant, historic downtown is home to over 170 businesses, including specialty stores, restaurants, and services which can eb found within easy walking distance of each other. Readers of the Northwest Herald have voted Crystal Lake as the “Best Downtown Shopping District in McHenry County”. Downtown Crystal Lake is host to many popular family-oriented events, including the Lunch with the Easter Bunny, A Garden Party, Farmers Market, Johnny Appleseed Festival, Halloween Handout, Festival of Lights Parade, Breakfast with Santa and Santa House Visits.
You can Boat, Sail and Fish at Crystal Lake. America’s Cardboard Cup Regatta is held annually at the Crystal Lake Main Beach and considered the championship of cardboard boat racing. Nearly 200 cardboard boats race to benefit a wide variety of local charities. Also home to Jason Voorhees. So watch out if camping!
Is The Dole Mansion Haunted?
The price tag was $1.6 million. In 2001, the Crystal Lake Park District held a referendum asking the city to buy the property, which tax-weary voters rejected. Private prospectors eyed the estate and proposed building a full-time wedding facility, a seniors’ home or an upscale spa and fitness center. There were, of course, whispers of more housing. Area residents thought otherwise and rallied together to save this historic gem. They formed the Lakeside Legacy Foundation and, facing a 60-day injunction before the property would be sold to a Chicago developer, issued a bold challenge to the community: Who will raise the most cash to save the Dole?
Thousands responded in an unprecedented groundswell of support. Enough money to purchase the estate was raised in just 42 days, sending the big city developers duly packing. The Dole Mansion was awarded historic landmark status by the Crystal Lake City Council in 2007. Nobody can touch it now.
The Lakeside Legacy Arts Park is abuzz with life today. The old annex houses some 18 tenants, ranging from a recording studio, to a ceramics workshop, to several fine arts studios. The newest addition will be the Lakeside Culinary Arts School, slated to open in October 2007. The country club’s old ballroom is now the Sage Gallery, a showplace for local talent, and the annual Lakeside Festival has been revived.
The Dole is being meticulously renovated under the guidance of Virginia Howley, Director of Interior Design. “It has been a rewarding experience to work with the historic colors, style and stately elegance of the Victorian Era and to know that we are preserving it for our children to experience,” said Howley. The original black walnut trim throughout the mansion has been uncovered and decades of paint peeled away by a volunteer ladies group called the “Dole Strippers.” But, the first major project was Dole’s favored cupola tower, unveiled at the park’s opening in May 2005, fully restored to its 1865 glory.
Any surviving Civil War-era residence is bound to have its share of ghost stories. When asked about signs of the supernatural at the Dole, Christin Kruse, Director of Community Development for Lakeside Legacy Arts Park, answers unwaveringly, “There is no doubt in my mind that there is a spirit here; it is a spirit that wants to provide magic and art to the community.”
The Crystal Lake Historical Society shared their knowledge and resources for the writing of this article. The purpose of the Crystal Lake Historical Society is to identify, preserve, present and promote through education, the history of Crystal Lake, Illinois. Contact Diana Kenney at 815-455-1151 for more information, or visit them online at www.cl-hs.org. Also written in cooperation with the Lakeside Legacy Arts Park. The Park’s mission is to preserve and protect the Dole Mansion and Lakeside Legacy property for community use in a natural and historic setting. Contact them at (815) 455-8000 for more information, or visit online at www.dolemansion.com.