District 117 serves four Lake County communities: Antioch, Lake Villa, Lindenhurst & Old Mill Creek. These communities have rich histories in Lake County and are located nearly halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, making it a great place to enjoy the quiet country life over the hustle and bustle of both major cities, and still be close enough to visit or work in either major city.
The village lies in a gently rolling moraine landscape, dominated by lakes of glacial origin. Among these are the Antioch Lake, located south of the village center, Lake Marie, located west of the village center and the Redwing Slough Lake, located east of the village center. There are several smaller lakes and ponds, along with a complement of wetlands
Antioch was officially founded just prior to the Civil War and was re-incorporated in 1892, in which the village has been continuous to this day. The town grew as new settlers (primarily of English and German descent) established farms and businesses.
In the late 1800s, Antioch became a popular vacation spot for Chicagoans. Tourism grew quickly once the rail line to Chicago was laid in 1886. Originally, farmers near the lake accepted borders, then they added guest rooms onto their homes. Eventually, hotels and subdivisions of summer cottages were built. The tourists took excursion boats through the renowned flowering lotus beds. Hunting, fishing, and dancing were big draws, but most tourists (not to mention year-round residents) simply preferred the quiet country life over the hustle and bustle of Chicago. During Prohibition, one famous Antioch resident was Al Capone, who owned a summer home on nearby Bluff Lake.
The village has some small industries. Manufacturers in Antioch include the world-famous Pickard China factory, which makes fine china for Air Force One and Camp David, and Fischer Paper Products, which produces pinch bottom bags and other packaging products. Downtown Antioch has a mix of small retailers focused on antiques, quilting, small clothing boutiques, and a variety of ethnic restaurants.
Most of Antioch's residents work outside of the village, in Chicago or neighboring villages. Residents can reach both Chicago and Milwaukee by way of Interstate 94 and U.S. Route 41. Since 1996, Metra's North Central Service has played an increasingly important role in the development of Antioch. Weekday train service to and from Chicago appeals to many commuters and has given rise to new commercial development near the train depot. The village is currently undergoing rapid commercial and residential growth, with a majority of it along the Illinois Route 173 corridor. One of the last remaining operating Dairy Farms in Lake County also resides near much of the residential growth on Route 173 in Antioch. There were once over 1,700 farms, over 400 which were dairy farms operating in the County in 1940. But this number has since been reduced to just three to four dairies still in operation and a little over 22,000 acres (90 km2) of harvested corn and soybeans left in the County. Glenraven Farms resides just west of Highway 45 on Route 173 on 325 acres (1.3 km2) and has been in constant operation since the early 1950s. Golden Oaks Farms which bordered the property into the late 1990s and was also a Dairy Farm was bought by the Lake County Forest Preserve and turned into a park and conservation area.
Lake Villa itself began in 1883 as a project of merchant E. J. Lehmann, founder of the Fair Department Store on State Street in Chicago. Lehmann bought land between Cedar Lake and Deep Lake and built a private resort and a sumptuous, 150-room hotel to entertain friends, guests, and vacationers.
Lehmann hoped to call the settlement “Lake City,” but as there was already a town by that name in Illinois, the first post office in 1884 was called Stanwood. The name “Lake Villa” came into use after 1886.
Lake Villa was a station on the Wisconsin Central Railroad line which was built in 1887, providing convenient transportation to the resort from Chicago. While some summer vacationers did pass through Lake Villa, the town itself grew slowly, incorporating in 1901. By 1910 the population was 342. While Grand Avenue (Route 132) was once the boundary between Antioch and Avon Townships, residents successfully petitioned to create Lake Villa Township in 1912, arguing that this change would end the need to travel more than six miles to vote on Election Day.
The village did not develop much of a commercial center to compare with nearby villages such as Antioch and Fox Lake. The Lake City Hotel burned in 1915. Ice harvesting provided employment for some farmers and local residents in the winter. Lake Villa was also the location of the Allendale School, an institution for homeless boys founded in 1897. The Central Baptist Children's Home located itself on a Lake Villa estate in 1948.
In the 1950s a phase of suburban growth began. Lindenhurst began as a subdivision in Lake Villa Township in 1952. The land had been called “Lindenhurst Farm” by a prior owner, Ernst Lehmann, son of the weal- thy Chicago department store merchant who founded Lake Villa. Developer Morton Engle and his brothers bought the property in the late 1940s. Their company sought to market relatively inexpensive starter homes to war veterans. The company remained the primary developer in the early 1980s, building homes along with some small shopping areas and parks.
Lindenhurst was one of the first post– World War II suburban-style developments in northwestern Lake County. Most contemporaneous developments were in the suburbs much closer to Chicago. The pace of building accelerated in the 1970s, and by 1990 the population was 8,038. This grew to 12,539 in 2000.
Most households consisted of married couples and their families living in owner-occupied homes. While residential growth outstripped business and commercial growth, the village made commercial zoning a condition of some developments. In the 1990s the largest employer in the village was Victory Lakes Continuing Care Center, a retirement health complex.
While Lindenhurst began as an offshoot of Lake Villa, its more recent growth has been oriented toward the east, approaching Millburn (now part of Old Mill Creek ) and Gurnee. Lindenhurst's planners and officials expected growth to continue and sought to minimize the problems accompanying growth by securing boundary and annexation agreements with incorporated neighbors. The Lindenhurst Sanitary District began expanding its sewer capacity. New village and police buildings were constructed in the mid-1990s, along with a new Lake Villa District Library, which serves Lindenhurst. In addition, officials from neighboring school districts made efforts to coordinate their planning to deal with the projected population increases throughout the region.
Though Lindenhurst's own corporate history is recent, a significant Lake County historic site came within its borders through annexation in the mid-1990s. The Lake County Forest Preserve District acquired the historic Bonner Farm, dating to the 1840s, and planned to develop it into a historical museum to preserve part of Lake County's agricultural heritage.
Lake Villa itself remained a small, settled village. There was some growth through new subdivisions in the mid-1980s. In 1990 the village population was 2,857. The population grew rapidly to 5,864 in 2000, as developers built thousands of homes, along with a strip mall and business center.
Lake Villa and Lindenhurst continue to have overlapping histories, sharing schools, churches, and the Lake Villa District Library. In 1995 the Lindenhurst–Lake Villa Chamber of Commerce was organized by expanding a preexisting Lindenhurst chamber.
The new North Central Metra line, providing service to O'Hare Airport and to downtown Chicago, opened in 1996 with a station at Lake Villa. This restored rail passenger service to the village for the first time since 1965. The station is a replica of the original 1886 station, which was torn down in 1974.
Old Mill Creek remained a rural community well into the twentieth century. In the late 1830s, German and Scottish settlers established the small agricultural community that would later become Old Mill Creek. Jacob Miller built a sawmill and gristmill along a tributary of the Des Plaines River, naming it Mill Creek. In 1838, the Strang brothers, originally from Scotland, traveled from Canada to Illinois in search of work on the Illinois & Michigan Canal. They founded a small settlement near Mill Creek known as Strang's Corners, which served as the area's only commercial center. The name was later changed to Millburn, “burn” being the Scottish word for creek. The placement of the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad several miles east of Millburn stunted the settlement's growth.
The village of Old Mill Creek was incorporated in 1959. In the 1950s, Chicago millionaire Tempel Smith, of Tempel Steel Company, purchased several thousand acres in Old Mill Creek and introduced large-scale grain cultivation. Smith also established Tempel Farms, where he bred Lipizzan horses, which he imported from Austria, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. Smith's large property holdings passed to his three children upon his death in 1980, and by the early 1990s, Tempel Steel and the Tempel Smith family-owned close to 80 percent of the land in Old Mill Creek.
While suburban development took place to the south and west, Millburn and Old Mill Creek remained comparatively undeveloped. Most of the buildings in the almost 8,000-acre area were clustered in the 37-acre community of Millburn. In 1979, 18 of these were designated the Millburn Historic District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings in the district date from the mid to late nineteenth century.
In 1994, a commission outlined a program for a planned community in Old Mill Creek that aimed to bring some 16,000 new residents to the village in the next two decades. The plan called for a “green belt” along the creek to surround the community, along with low-density, moderate-income housing, and a commercial office park. Concerned with the continued, rapid expansion of nearby Lindenhurst and Gurnee, residents of Millburn, which was then still unincorporated, looked to Old Mill Creek's strict zoning laws to protect Millburn's country atmosphere. Residents thus elected in 1994 to be annexed to the village.