When the Mill Dam was constructed in 1851, the buildup of water behind it formed the Mill Pond. For many years, the fact that the dam was there was all people knew. It was used by the citizens of McHenry for fun and business. The pond was about 1 to 1 1/2 miles across at its widest section and depending on the area was about 12 to 15 feet deep. Many said the water in the pond was crystal clear. The water’s clarity and quality helped make the pond ideal for ice harvesting.
The Bordon Dairy Company and other companies used Mill Pond for its ice. Bordon built a large ice house next to the pond with its own system for retrieving the ice. They would cut out large sections usually 12-inch cubes lining them with straw. The houses worked so well, they would even keep the ice from melting in the summer. The companies took over maintaining the dam for its ice, even constructing a more manageable concrete structure in 1909. Sometimes, the pond required maintenance such as draining to cut weeds and other tall vegetation that might affect the quality of ice when it was harvested. In 1915, a large weed cutter was purchased for this task. In 1925 an ice-cutting machine was purchased by Bordon’s, McHenry Ice Cream factory, and Math Baur a local ice dealer.
Mill Pond also offered up a great place to sail a boat, swim, picnic, or go fishing. While there was the occasional accident or tragedy, most of the pond’s visitors enjoyed themselves and had wonderful memories of their visit. One item used by winter visitors was the ice boat, which are long crafts that slide on runners. A sail is attached to the craft, which helps with power and steering. The Pond also hosted ice skating races for skaters of all ages. They generally went in distances of 1/2, one, and two mile increments. In 1880, it was noted in the Plaindealer that there were “small armies” of children walking to the pond with their ice skates.
Over time, there was no use for the mill dam, as home freezers made natural ice companies obsolete. The Bordons sold the property by the dam in January 1928 to Kent & Company. Nearby development had started in 1927, as Math Baur sold the property next to the Pond to Kent & Company for 25 lots right next to the pond. In 1929, the dam was taken down and the pond was drained to make way for a new subdivision in June of that year. Mill Pond which for 75 years was part of McHenry’s identity, was no more. In its place was the Venetian Gardens, which would have 256 lots each containing 6,000 square feet. One of the first things constructed was a baseball field in May 1931.
- “’Venetian Gardens’ New Subdivision.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 20 Jun 1929, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Aug 2022.
- “Many Improvements Noted In McHenry.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 4 Aug 1927, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Aug 2022.
- “Ice Cutting To Begin On Mill Pond Soon.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 24 Dec 1925, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 20 Aug 2022.
- “Skating Races Sunday.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 14 Jan 1915, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 20 Aug 2022.
- “New Ball Park Opened Sunday.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 21 May 1931, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 20 Aug 2022.
- “The Boys are now having a glorious time….” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 24 Nov 1880, 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 20 Aug 2022.