Misc. Information


Then - 1951 Statistics


New House:         $9,000

New Car:             $1,520

Average Income:  $3,515

Loaf of Bread:      $        .16

Gallon of Gas:      $        .19

Gallon of Milk:      $        .92

Minimum Wage:    $        .75

Academy Award Winners:

Best Picture:  An American in Paris

Best Actress:  Vivien Leigh for A Streetcar Name Desire

Best Actor:    Humphrey Bogart for The African Queen

Songs of the Year:  Does Anyone Wish to Sing Them At Our Reunion?

They Call The Wind Mariah

I Whistle A Happy Tune

Getting To Know You

Crystal Lake: Small-town values, lakefront views
Quiet setting, diversity of homes draw families

Now - Crystal Lake in 2009

By Leslie Mann
Special to the Chicago Tribune
July 3, 2009

When Patti and Paul Noble decided to build a custom house, they looked to a northwest suburb where they had fond memories -- Crystal Lake.

"We had lived here years ago and knew we wanted to go back," said Patti. "We could have what we wanted here -- a new house in an older neighborhood, where we could walk into town for ice cream and my son could walk to school."

Now under construction, the Nobles' house has 21st Century amenities but "doesn't scream 'new construction here,' " said their architect, Daniel Repholz in Crystal Lake. "For us, making sure it fit into the neighborhood was huge," said Patti.

Crystal Lake's name dates back to 1835, when Ziba Beardsley admired the city's lake with "waters as clear as crystal." One of the Chicago area's more enchanting suburbs, it was incorporated in 1874 and annexed its neighbor, North Crystal Lake (formerly Nunda) in 1914.

Gone are the city's earlier employers, which included ice harvesters, cheese and pickle factories and a terra-cotta tile manufacturer that made the collectible Teco pottery. Now, its largest employers are its school districts and the many chain stores and restaurants that line U.S. Highway 14 and Randall Road.

Like other Metra suburbs, Crystal Lake is a bedroom community where many of its residents ride the train to work. Unlike many other Metra 'burbs, though, its downtown survived the 1970s arrival of malls and the 1980s advent of the big-box retailer. In fact, since 2005, it has donned the Premier Main Street Community title from the state, which acknowledges its successful downtown revitalization efforts.

A mile and a half west of Crystal Lake's nexus is the 234-acre lake that gave the city its name, with public and private beaches. Many of the cottages that ring the lake haven't changed much through the years, though they have been updated and enlarged over time.

"Now, it's hard to find a house on the lake for less than $300,000," reports Michelle Rentzsch, director of planning and economic development.

Although the tanked economy has brought residential building permits to a new low in Crystal Lake (three so far in 2009), the last 10 years have seen a mix of residential new construction and remodeling. Some buyers, says Rentzsch, reverted some of the older houses from multifamily to their original single-family status.

At Crystal Lake's core is an architectural medley of houses dating from the mid-1800s to the 1950s. These feature one of the Chicago suburbs' diverse collections of catalog houses, says Rebecca Hunter, an Elgin-based author of several books on the topic. They include a cute-as-a-button Sears, Roebuck & Co. model with a wide front porch that sold recently for $470,000.

Proud of their historic architecture, Crystal Lake residents are quick to point out their restored treasures. They include the cobblestone Columbus Wallace house from 1851, the 1858 Greek Revival/Federalist-style Colonel Palmer house (on the National Register of Historic Places) and the 1901 Queen Anne-style Raue house.

To help guide homeowners who want to remodel Crystal Lake's older houses, city officials refer them to a pattern book that was developed by the University of Illinois at Chicago's Design Center in 2008. "It identifies the styles of the existing homes and shows homeowners who want to remodel how to stay within the context of the house and the neighborhood," says Rentzsch.

On the north and south sides of town, builders have been turning farm fields into housing developments for the last few decades. This swelled Crystal Lake's population to the current 41,000.

Home sales in recent years have run the gamut, says Realtor Kay Wirth at Re/Max Unlimited Northwest in Crystal Lake, from a 1935, three-bedroom, fixer-upper that sold for $175,000 to a 1984, four-bedroom Colonial that went for $878,000.

What attracts newcomers to Crystal Lake? "We have it all," says its head cheerleader, Mayor Aaron Shepley. "The train, the lake, great parks and schools, close to Wisconsin. You want rural, then rural you shall have. You want more urban, then we have more urban."

"People keep track of each other here," says Shepley, who grew up in Crystal Lake. "My father moved to Montgomery but still comes back to the barber shop here so he can find out what's going on."

Bottom line, Shepley adds, many parents choose Crystal Lake for its schools. Its three public high schools maintain higher-than-state-average ACT scores. Its scattered neighborhood grade schools mean many kids can walk to school. Private schools here include three K-8 schools.

During his 10 years at city hall, Shepley's greatest hits, he says, have been downtown revitalization, streetscape improvements and overseeing the restoration of Vulcan Lakes, a 500-acre spent quarry that the city is turning into a lake with a marina. First envisioned 30 years ago, the Vulcan Lakes project has gained momentum after facing several economic and operational obstacles over the years.

The 2001 Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which serves as the city's guidebook for future development, highlights the addition of pedestrian-friendly amenities, more streetscape improvements and the preservation of natural resources. Within city limits, there are still 12 square miles that are tagged for future development.

But city officials also address the intangible -- the ambience that lures newcomers to the community and convinces townies to stay.

Crystal Lake's greatest strength, say the residents, is its community spirit, which endures despite it growth. "This is a town where the Salvation Army's kettles overflow at Christmas," says Rentzsch, who chose to raise her family here after visiting Crystal Lake's beaches as a child. "You know your neighbors. Your kids are safe. That's why I'm here."

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune


1951 Statistics (Thanks to Laura McCall)
From the "Pages of Time Nostalgia News Report"