The Crystal Lake area was first settled by Europeans in February 1836 and platted in 1840. What began as two separate villages, one around the rail line in the current downtown, the other on the old Indian trail now known as Route 14 where the stage coach stop and trading post were, was consolidated on September 23, 1914.
During the late 1800's and early 1900's, Crystal Lake enjoyed nationwide fame through the manufacturing of architectural terra cotta and TECO pottery. Downtown Crystal Lake has several buildings adorned with locally produced terra cotta.
Ice harvesting was also big business in Crystal Lake during this time, shipping ice by rail to nearby Chicago. The advent of refrigeration brought about the decline of the ice business.
Meanwhile, Crystal Lake served as a favorite vacation and weekend spot for many Chicagoans. They arrived regularly by train to stay at the resort hotels at or near the lake. Some prominent citizens chose Crystal Lake as their full time home. Charles S. Dole, of Amour and Dole, was one of them, building an elaborate mansion on 1,000 acres overlooking the lake. The mansion was later used as headquarters for several ice companies. After laying vacant for several years, the property was sold in 1922 to the Lake Development Company with Mrs. Al "Lou" Ringling as one of the principal investors. She was the widow of the oldest Ringling Brother, of circus fame. The mansion was rejuvenated, the huge annex was constructed and thus the property was converted into the first Crystal Lake Country Club.
Since World War II, the population and boundaries of the city of Crystal Lake have changed dramatically. Throughout the Chicago area, people have relocated farther from Chicago to places like Crystal Lake in search of more open space, less traffic, more affordable land and safer neighborhoods.