Gurnee History - Village Government

1835-1927 | 1928-1975 | 1976-Present | Timeline
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Incorporated in 1928, the Village of Gurnee was the first village established in Warren Township, Lake County, Illinois. At that time, the population was only 200 and the village limits were very irregular, making up the two square miles required for incorporation. Leo Fenlon was the first mayor.

Chronology of Events

One warm and humid day in the month of August 1927 a meeting was held in the residence of Ray B. Dixon to consider the desirability and feasibility of the Gurnee area annexing to the City of Waukegan. This meeting was called at the request of the Waukegan Council. This suggested meeting was directed to Mr. Dixon who at the time was an active Real Estate broker in the area with offices in Waukegan.

Those attending and representing the City were Mayor Louis Yager, and Commissioners William Gee, Sr., Julius 'Dody' Balz, Al Carney and Nicholas Keller who conceived the idea. Representing the Gurnee area were Leo Fenlon, Leslie J. McClure, George McCullough, Supervisor for the Town of Warren, Sherman Sponenberg and probably two or three other citizens.

Mr. Keller seemed to be the spokesman for the Waukegan group, promising the residents of the area water, sanitary sewers, police protection, and other amenities should Gurnee petition to annex and become a part of the City. At that time the City Council was trying to get the territory lying West of McAree Road and East of the Warren-Waukegan Township line to annex to Waukegan, therefore, if Gurnee should petition to annex to Waukegan it would force some of the intervening area to become a part of Waukegan by referenda.

Those present representing Gurnee said they would discuss the proposal with other citizens and advise the Waukegan group of their decision which obviously was in the negative. This was the impetus needed to cause the incorporation of the Village of Gurnee under the laws of the State of Illinois. An election was held on March 7, 1928 to decide whether Gurnee should incorporate. The judges of the election were: Mrs. Vera Zimmerman, Mrs. Mabel McCullough, Mr. Richard Hook. The election clerks were: George Winter, Mr. William McCullough, Mrs. Eunice Denman.

In 1928 an election was held to incorporate the Village. Leo Fenlon was elected Village President, W.W. Appleyard was elected Clerk and the trustees were Charles Hook, Walter Getslaff, Wm. Barnstable, L.J. McClure, and Chas. Warner. Gurnee was then a town of 200 people&emdash;the village limits were very irregular to make the required number in two square miles. Street lights were installed and the Village Board hired the Township Road Commissioner to take care of the streets.

The first complaint on record was by some ladies on the East side of town about Klein's bees messing up their wash on wash day! Klein moved his bees out of town.

In 1930 through the efforts of Joe Dada the Village Board approved a fire tax and bought a fire truck. There was some talk of getting water from Waukegan&emdash;this talk went on for years but Waukegan was never very interested. The population of Gurnee was 503.

A Liquor Ordinance was passed in 1933&emdash;Keg beer license was $225, and Bottle beer license was $25. The next year there was an election to vote the town dry&emdash;which lost 104 to 52.

The village meetings were moved from the Woodman Hall to the Fire Station at McClure's Garage in 1933.

The State was after the Village to put in sanitary sewers and a disposal plant &emdash;this started in 1934 and was brought up periodically until we joined the North Shore Sanitary District and put in our sewers in 1968.

In 1936 Tom Dixon, who was a Special Policeman was also a driver for McClure Coal Co. on Depot Road, walked in on a robbery at the McClure office. While apprehending the robber he was shot, the bullet hit his star saving his life. Village passed a Resolution commending him on his heroic action on Jan. 14.

In 1940 the population of Gurnee was 661.

In 1941 a Recreation Tax was passed&emdash;A.J. Katzenmaier, Dorothy Powell and Grace Smith were appointed to the Recreation Board. This was the beginning of what is now the Park Board.

Dr. W.W. Smith was elected Village President, a year later he resigned to enter the Armed Services. Trustee Wm. Barnstable was then voted in as Village President by the Village Board.

The Woodman Hall and property was given to the Village and a Fire Station was built there. The Station was built mainly by donated labor&emdash; the cost was less than $10,000.

The office of Police Magistrate was created and Walter Rudin was the first Magistrate&emdash;speeding was the village's biggest problem.

In 1949 Barnstable didn't run for re-election. Gordon D. Gillings was elected Village President. A survey was taken in the village to determine whether a water system should be installed. Village Officials were invited to the dedication of WKRS on July 19,1949.

In 1950 the population of Gurnee was 1097.

In June 1951 a Special Election voted in a police tax and on June 1, 1952 Orin Anderson was appointed Police Chief.

In 1952 new side walks were put in on O'Plaine Road.

In August 1953 the village purchased the gravel pit and property from Mrs. Cora McCullough. Later a beach was made and the recreation Committee from the Village Board started a swimming program. Over the years large numbers of youngsters learned to swim and took Red Cross life-saving courses through the recreation program, plus many young, and old as well, spend enjoyable summer days at the beach. It is now being operated by the Park District.

In 1955 an interim census was taken - village increased 500 over 1950 census of 1097.

In 1956 The Lions Club and American Legion built a bath house at the beach. The Village Clerk hired a full time Deputy Clerk - Mrs. Cora Studer was hired. About the same time a second police man was hired. There was discussion on widening of Grand Avenue or relocating it - the village favored relocation. An addition was built onto the Fire station for the Police Office and Village Hall.

Village Board Meeting - 1955

Orvan Herman, Everett McClure,
Donald Craft, Harvey White,
Village Clerk John Cunningham,
Village President Gordon Gillings,
Village Attorney LaVerne Dixon.

On January 6, 1958 Clarence Johnson, Chairman of the Zoning Board, discussed with the Board the naming of streets and the numbering system. The Lions Club helped to carry out this project by selling house numbers. Later the Board took over and spent many hours finalizing this system.

In 1958 Sam Dada was hired full time for Public Works.

A special election for a water system was held March 7, 1959. Baxter and Woodmen, Village Engineers drew up plans for the Village water system, a well was drilled on Village property and as elevated tank was erected. Later a water softener was installed.

All Village employees, except police, are to by covered by Social Security and I.M.R.F.

In 1960 a portion of Gurnee Highlands, Ridgemont Subdivision, annexed to the Village for water use. On May 16, 1960 Gurnee became part of the North Shore Sanitary District. At this time the Village started the Industrial Park along Northwestern R.R. - Hoerner Box was first plant to locate here. In October 1960 a resolution was passed between City of Waukegan and Village of Gurnee to develop the Industrial Park. The population of Gurnee was 1831.

In March 1961 the Lions Club printed a city directory for Gurnee. They also donated $800 for street signs. At that same time they indicated an interest in establishing a Library District. On Dec. 14, 1961 preliminary plans for a sewer system were presented.

In Feb. 1962 a curfew ordinance was passed. In May Gilbert Clem prepared a flood report that was adopted as official publication of the Village concerning flood control.

In January 1963 a citizen's committee was formed for informing citizens of the sewer project. On May 7, 1963 an election was held for bond issue for sewers - it passed!

Another policeman was added to the force, bringing it to three men.

Brenamans donated a lot on Waveland Ave. for neighborhood park.

In 1965 the sewer contract was let to Preston Woodall Co.

In 1966 the Gurnee Women's Club purchased picnic tables and planted shrubs in the park. Clark Outdoor Spraying Co. was hired to spray for mosquitoes. The Adams Subdivision (Darlene Drive) was annexed to the Village.

In April 1967 Preston Woodall Co. defaulted on their contract. Kuch and Watson was hired by the bonding company to finish the sewer contract. The Sanitary Sewer System was completed in April 1968.

Civil Service for village employees was passed at an election April 18, 1967. Explorer Scouts were given permission to have fund drive for a new ambulance.Two-way radio for village cars and equipment were purchased from Motorola. Police Department was expanded to four full-time policemen.

On July 1, 1968 the Village entered into an agreement with SEDOL and Gurnee Grade School to purchase the Viking property. Mr. Olof Moller, the manager of the Viking Home, was instrumental in getting this property for the community. Village property was later turned over to the Park District and now is Viking Park. The Viking School was on the ten acres that the school purchased and SEDOL had about 5 acres.

On July 10, 1968 there was hearing to form a Park District. After it was established the Village leased the Park property at the beach to the Park District. In 1971 the Park District bought the Viking property from the Village.

In 1968 a police and fire alarm system was installed in the Police office. The Village received a $2500 bequest from the Lamb Estate for a Library Fund. It was turned over to the Warren - Newport Library when the Library was established.

In 1970 the population of Gurnee was 2738.

The position of Village Administrator was created in 1971 and Robert Trigg was appointed the first Village Administrator. In September 1971 the Village bought the Craft property for a Village Hall, the next May The D and D Construction Co. was hired to remodel the Craft building into a Village office and meeting rooms; it was dedicated in 1972.

On March 8, 1973 the Village Board was invited to an Open House at the Gurnee National Bank and Library.

In 1973 the population of Gurnee was 3812.

In early 1973 the Marriott Corporation said that they desired to build an Amusement Park near the interchange of Highway 132 and the Tollway. Many hearings were conducted and then the Village and the Marriott Corporation entered into an Annexation Agreement for Special Use to construct an amusement park. An advisory referendum was held and the people of Gurnee voted overwhelmingly (773 yes vs. 252 no) to approve the construction of the facility. The park was opened in May 1976.

On May 1, 1973 the property owners along Hwy 21 to Hwy 120 petitioned the Village to hold an election to annex to Gurnee; the election was held and voters elected to annex to the Village in the fall of 1973.

Heatherridge annexed with a Planned Unit Development in 1974. Prairie Oaks Development on Hwy 21 started building in 1977. Country Trails (O'Plaine) annexed with a Planned Unit Development in 1977 and started to build in 1978. In 1978 Gurnee had 270 homes under construction.

The Village Public Works Garage was constructed on Kilbourne Road in 1974. The Village office was remodeled in 1975 and a new police building was constructed in 1977.

The Village of Gurnee / History / Village Government / Last Revised 05/28/1997