The Town Of Gurnee, Illinois
Located in Lake County, the village of Gurnee is near the Des Plaines River, west of the city of Waukegan. With easy access to Interstate 94, Gurnee is only 37 miles north of the Chicago Loop. It is home to Six Flags Great America, one of the largest amusement parks in the Midwest, as well as Gurnee Mills, the largest shopping mall in the Chicago area. The mall has almost two miles of storefront with 200 stores. Gurnee’s proximity to the 75 regional lakes and forest preserves makes Gurnee an excellent place for year-round activities.
The Gurnee Park District was established in 1968, when the residents of Gurnee authorized the creation of the district. The Park District provides a full range of programs that include aquatics, fitness, athletic leagues, trips, day camps, arts & crafts, music, and dance. Services are provided for persons with disabilities through the Warren Special Recreation Association. Senior activities are held monthly at Viking Park.
Gurnee has excellent public schools with three elementary and one middle school. Gurnee Days, a fun-filled local family event held annually in August, is a celebration that brings the community together. The Gurnee Days Corporation, a not-for-profit, volunteer organization, plans the festivities.
Nearby towns of Antioch and Lake Villa, among others, offer a full schedule of Metra commuter trains to Chicago. For those traveling by air, O’Hare International Airport is a short, easy drive. Pace bus service connects with the Northwestern Railroad in Waukegan and the Milwaukee Road (Amtrak) in Libertyville.
Village government and local organizations have worked together to achieve success in economic development. As growth in housing, business and industry continues, Gurnee still maintains its original charm. From the time settlers from the town of Warren in New York State came to the Gurnee area in 1835 to the present day, the Village of Gurnee is still a proud, family-oriented community.
“Early settlers in the Gurnee area came by foot, horseback, and by “”Prairie Schooners”” drawn by oxen or via the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes. They came from the town of Warren in New York State, which was named in honor of Major General Joseph Warren, killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Warren Township, Illinois, formed in 1850, was also named after him. The first settlement of Warren Township began in 1835 in the vicinity of the Des Plaines River.
The name of Gurnee is said to have come from a surveyor of the railroad named Louis J. Gurnee. However, one of the first settlers in the Chicago area was named Walter S. Gurnee, a Democratic political leader and one time mayor of Chicago who came from the east in 1836. Some believe it was named after him.
In the 1920’s the population of Gurnee consisted of retired farmers, business, and trades people. The one industry was the Bowman Dairy milk bottling plant which employed about 25 men. Gurnee was incorporated in 1928 with only 200 residents. It remained a small rural agricultural town into the latter half of the twentieth century. The construction of Interstate 94 in the 1960’s brought Gurnee easy access to Chicago. In 1976 the town became home to Great America, one of the largest amusement parks in the midwest. The eventual growth of industry and housing led to a population explosion in Gurnee, reaching a total of 30,396 residents in the year 2003.”