In November of 1945, the people of McHenry County saw something they hadn’t seen before: people picketing in the streets. On November 15, 1945, the Illinois Telephone Traffic Union voted to strike. During the war,… More
Through most of its existence, McHenry County has been an area focussed on agriculture. In the late part of the 19th century, pickle factories became something of a fad in the county. Woodstock, Crystal Lake, and Nunda were just some of the local towns to have them. By 1880, McHenry actually had two pickle factories. The first one was built in the summer of 1874 by a group of farmers.
The McHenry Pickle Factory cost about $8000 to build, measured 40’x80’ and had two stories. It included an additional 50’x125’ wing for “salting purposes”. This wing would include 50 tubs, each 8 ft. tall and 10 ft. in diameter for the purposes of pickling the cucumbers. Each tub cost about $40. The operation was up and running in August 1874 and received over 1000 bushels of cucumbers by the end of that month. Expecting success in its initial year of operation, the factory signed up for over 200 acres of cucumbers to be grown in the area.
By 1876, the factory was operated by two men named C. B. Curtis and a Mr. Walker, and ran under the name Curtiss, Walker & Co. The business did well and was regarded as one of the best factories in McHenry County. They even contracted a cooper, B. W. Austin, to make the barrels on site to store and transport the pickles. When Walker died in 1880, Curtiss sold his shares of the company to W. A. Cristy who ran the business under the name Cristy, Walker & Co. Cristy would go on to run the company for almost twenty years.
When W. A. Cristy took over the business he planned a large renovation for the factory. He put up two new buildings: a Boiler House (16’x20’) and a Vinegar House (24’x40’). For the company’s vinegar, Cristy used a corn and malt formula that gave the pickles a better flavor than traditional formulas. Also for the making of vinegar, Cristy bought a 25-horsepower engine that would make it cheaper to produce. When started the engine produced 700 gallons of vinegar daily. All told the renovation cost about $40,000. However, this paid off, as the factory would produce about 20,000 bushels of pickles a year and distribute them throughout the United States.
Cristy went on to have a very successful career here in McHenry. He sold the pickle factory to R. W. Stafford in May 1899. He ended up in Joplin, Missouri until his death in 1924.The pickle factory itself would thrive well into the 1920’s.
“Pickle Shipping.” McHenry Plaindealer 5 Dec. 1877: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 May 2017.
“Pickle Seeds.” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Apr. 1876: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 May 2017.
“New Roof For Pickle Factory.” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Dec. 1890: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 23 May 2017.
“Change of Ownership.” McHenry Plaindealer 18 Apr. 1880: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 May 2017.
“Cooper Shop Connected to Pickle Factory.” Woodstock Sentinal 12 Nov. 1874: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 16 Jun. 2017.
“Cooper Shop Sold.” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Jul. 1876: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 23 May 2017.
“Pickle Factory Enlarged.” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Nov. 1880: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Jun 2017.
“Pickle Factory Improvements.” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Aug. 1877: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 May 2017.
“Pickle Factory Construction.” Woodstock Sentinal 20 Aug. 1874: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 May 2017.
In August of 1919, a local resident named “Buff” Feltz stopped by the McHenry Plaindealer office with an old dance program he found in walls of a Crystal Lake house he helped raze. Plaindealer editor, F. G. Schreiner found the program interesting and posted the details of the dance thinking that some of the “old-timers” might enjoy it too.
The dance was held on Friday, February 8, 1878, at the Riverside Hotel in McHenry. At that time, the Riverside was famous in the area for its dances, or in the case of the event on the 8th, masquerade balls. People came from places such as Woodstock, Richmond, and even Chicago to attend these events. Local businesses offered a variety of masks for these dances. P.D. Smith (whose store was near the train depot) and Smith, Aldrich & Haythorn’s (located on Riverside Drive) were just a couple of the businesses to offer these products.
The band for the evening was a six-piece group from Lake Geneva called the Rogers and Gillett’s Band of Geneva Lake. It cost $2 to dance and that would also pay for your supper. For 25¢, you could walk in and mingle with other guests. As with other masquerade balls, most participants wore masks or were in costume. The first and last dances were the only two dances, in particular, that were “mask only” and the final dance featured an “unmasking”.
It turns out that the weather for the Feb 8th ball was terrible and the roads were very difficult to travel “with a team or on foot”. That being said, it was reported that the masquerade ball actually had a respectable attendance. Those who were able to make it had a great time. The music was well received, the food “gave entire satisfaction”, and many of the costumes were festive. Two costumes that stood out were a person who was dressed as the McHenry Plaindealer and another wearing flour sacks representing Hanley’s Mill.
Certainly, Schreiner’s article gave anyone who was at the ball a trip down memory lane. For others, it shared a piece of McHenry’s colorful history.
“Unearths Old Relic.” McHenry Plaindealer 14 Aug. 1919: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Aug 2016.
“Preparations for the Masquerade.” McHenry Plaindealer 23 Jan. 1878: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 23 May 2017.
“Friday Evening’s Masquerade Ball.” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Feb. 1878: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Aug 2016.
“Costumes.” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Feb. 1878: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Aug 2016.
“The Masquerade.” McHenry Plaindealer 13 Feb. 1878: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Aug 2016.
“A Very Fine Assortment of Masks.” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Feb. 1878: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Aug 2016.
“Advertisement.” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Feb. 1878: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Aug 2016.
The drive-in theater was one of the iconic crazes of the 1950s. While the first drive-in was actually in Camden, New Jersey in 1933, the popularity of the drive-in didn’t take off until the 1950s. Drive-ins offered some things that their indoor counterparts didn’t. Overall, the atmosphere befitted its casual summertime setting. At a drive-in, you could bring a baby, smoke, dress more casually, and be much louder as the speakers hooked right up to your car.
McHenry didn’t get passed up in this popular trend. In July 1951, McHenry got its first drive-in theater, the Skyline. Owned by Roy Miller, the screen was listed as facing northwest, as opposed to now as it faces southeast. The Skyline was in the same location that the McHenry Outdoor is at today. The screen was 52’ x 70’ and was the only outdoor theater in the vicinity. It also had illuminated speaker posts and a refreshment stand. The illuminated speaker posts didn’t just offer the audio from the movie, but also served as a guide telling customers where to park. The snack bar offered BBQ burgers and pizza among other refreshments. By 1956, the Skyline had a 104’ long screen and was showing two movies nightly. In 1963, Roy Miller sold the Skyline to Stan Kohlberg of Chicago. At that time, Mr. Kohlberg owned eight other theaters and had three more under construction.
While McHenry’s outdoor theater still stands, most weren’t so lucky. One big advantage indoor theaters had was profit. Indoor theaters weren’t dependent on the season or weather, therefore, they could play movies more frequently, thus make more money for movie studios. In the late 1950s there were about 4000 drive-ins, today there are about 400. Apparently, most drive-ins were “mom and pop” businesses that didn’t have people who wanted to take over the business when operators retired. Yet the McHenry Outdoor still stands today as a nostalgic glimpse of Americana.
*This article was inspired by the sign in the picture at the top taken last summer (2016). Sadly it seems to have been blown down this spring.
“McHenry Will Have Drive-In Theater Soon.” McHenry Plaindealer 27 Jul. 1950: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Mar 2017.
“Drive-In Theater Announces Official Opening on July 20.” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Jul. 1951: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Mar 2017.
“Skyline Drive-In Advertisement.” McHenry Plaindealer 12 Jul. 1956: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Mar 2017.
“New Theater Owner.” McHenry Plaindealer 3 Jul. 1963: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Mar 2017.
“Red Faber To Pitch” McHenry Plaindealer 25 Jul. 1935: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 7 Mar 2016.
“Red Faber Now A Local Resident” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Aug. 1935: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 7 Mar 2016.
McHenry’s first venture into the electric world started in February 1908. Town leaders wanted to bring McHenry into the electronic age for some time, but this wasn’t as easy as one might think. Electric companies weren’t like the giant corporations that we have today. Many were start-ups, most of which failed. For example, towns would get electric service, only to lose it if the company supplying the electricity went out of business.
In February of 1908, the town board started meeting with George Paige and Lloyd Howell to set up what would become the McHenry Electric Service Company. While the company was a start-up, both Paige and Howell had experience in the electric company business. They would set up and maintain the company’s equipment. This included setting up new lines, fixing broken equipment, and trimming trees that might damage electric wiring. The company’s headquarters was housed in the basement of the Buch Building (where the Old Bridge Tavern is today.) The electricity’s main source of power was a 50-horse gasoline powered motor. The village board was very excited to provide this new service to its citizens, as well as the vacationers who would be in town for the summer.
By June of 1908, electric service was up and running. For those who took advantage of the new service, it was well received. The village set up six-foot tall posts with electric lights along the main streets of town. For whatever reason, price or convenience, the service didn’t take off. For a while, the McHenry Electric Service Company even offered to set up customers at the company’s expense. By the summer of 1909, the company came forward to the village board and stated they were not getting the patronage required to successfully run the business. In October, the McHenry Electric Service Company was put up for sale and McHenry looked as if it would spend the winter in the dark.
However, on November 1, 1909, the Illinois Lakes Light and Power Company took control of the business and equipment from the McHenry company. The Illinois Lakes’ company was much larger in scale, offering services in several locations, such as Mount Prospect, Cary, and Crystal Lake. The company was run by Edward Lake. Lake decided to run the electric company similar to a telephone company with lines connecting larger areas including running connections from town to town. It was a more ambitious plan than most electric service companies were running at that time. The Illinois Lakes Light and Power Company went on to become one of the largest electric companies in the state.
“An Ordinance” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Mar. 1908: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Cement Foundations” McHenry Plaindealer 7 May 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Electric Service Now In Buch Building” McHenry Plaindealer 16 Apr. 1908: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Franchise Is Accepted” McHenry Plaindealer 12 Mar. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“May Have Electric Lights” McHenry Plaindealer 27 Feb. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Plant Now In Operation” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Jun. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“New Engine” McHenry Plaindealer 24 Dec. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Electric Tidbits” McHenry Plaindealer 14 May 1908: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“$1,000,000 Company” McHenry Plaindealer 18 Nov. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Company Changed Hands” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Nov. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“McHenry’s Light Plant” McHenry Plaindealer 26 Apr. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“More Lights” McHenry Plaindealer 5 Aug. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“That Lighting Question” McHenry Plaindealer 7 Oct. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Line Reaches Out After Many Cities” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Nov. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Big Free Display” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Apr. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Change At Music Store” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Feb. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Drop In” McHenry Plaindealer 15 Jul. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Factory Needs Help” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Free Concert At Boat Factory” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Dec. 1919: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Has Neat Quarters” McHenry Plaindealer 26 Feb. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Is Branching Out” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Nov. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Music Dealer In New Territory” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Jan. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Music Store Expands” McHenry Plaindealer 9 Jun. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“New Quarters For Music Store” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Jan. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Repairing Building” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Saxophone Demonstration” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Mar. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Will Open Retail Store” McHenry Plaindealer 22 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
During the early 1900s, McHenry was a bustling tourist town that attracted many people from the city and other local areas as a vacation spot. By 1911, it was becoming apparent to some citizens in the village of McHenry that the town hall no longer met the needs of its people. If the town was to grow it would need a more attractive and functional city hall. Other neighboring towns, such as Wauconda and Richmond, had recently built new town halls and some McHenry citizens felt McHenry needed to follow suit.
The original city hall building had been a cheese factory from 1875 up until its renovation in 1885 as the village hall. It is interesting to note that even though McHenry was settled in 1834, it didn’t incorporate until 1872 and thus didn’t need a hall until then. During the spring and summer of 1911, the town government made plans to construct a building for about $9,000. Blueprints were drawn up with the new building consisting of a brick two-story structure. The new building would be put on a ballot and if passed, the town board would be able to take the money needed for construction out of the village’s treasury. Taxes wouldn’t need to be raised if the town would maintain its cash flow. However, on August 11, 1911, the town voted against constructing the new building by a decisive margin of 125-70.
The contention stayed dormant for four years, until 1915, when the matter of a new building came to the forefront because of the city hall’s deterioration. The city sold the old village building, which was then razed in June 1915. The city fathers then found a nice solution for the new city hall. Instead of placing the construction of a new building on another ballot, the village compromised. The town’s old ice house & pump station were solidly built and the owner was willing to sell. With some remodeling, the city council felt the ice house would make a fine village hall. Conveniently, it was located right next door to the old city hall. The city had a new terracotta front installed, a new sidewalk and new office furniture placed in the old ice house. The pump station, which would remain in use as the city’s water reservoir, was right next to the renovated building. The modernized city hall was then ready for public use in September 1915. The updated city hall would serve admirably for fifty years until its replacement was constructed on Green Street in the 1970’s.
“Population of McHenry” McHenry Plaindealer 27 Apr. 1911: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Need New City Hall” McHenry Plaindealer 27 Apr. 1911: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Vote On City Hall” McHenry Plaindealer 20 Jul. 1911: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“No New City Hall” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Aug. 1911: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Village Hall and Gym” McHenry Plaindealer 12 Feb. 1914: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Sealed Bids for Old City Hall” McHenry Plaindealer 6 May 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Old Village Hall Sold” McHenry Plaindealer 20 May 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Village Hall Talk” McHenry Plaindealer 20 May 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“To Remodel Power House” McHenry Plaindealer 10 Jun. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Razing Old Hall” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Jun. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Work On City Hall Front” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Jul. 1915: 8. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Laying Brick” McHenry Plaindealer 26 Aug. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Cement Walk” McHenry Plaindealer 14 Oct. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Neat Municipal Building” McHenry Plaindealer 28 Oct. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“City Hall Front Finished” McHenry Plaindealer 9 Sep. 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Special Edition – Next Saturday” McHenry Plaindealer 10 Aug. 1911: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“McHenry, Illinois” Sanborn Map. Jan. 1922: http://sanborn.umi.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“McHenry, Illinois” Sanborn Map. Jul. 1898/: http://sanborn.umi.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.