Lake County, Illinois

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Lake County, Illinois
Great Lakes Bldg 1.jpg
Seal of Lake County, Illinois
Logo of Lake County, Illinois
Map of Illinois highlighting Lake County
Location in the U.S. state of Illinois
Map of the United States highlighting Illinois
Illinois's location in the U.S.
FoundedMarch 1, 1839
Named forLake Michigan
Largest cityWaukegan
 • Total1,368 sq mi (3,543 km2)
 • Land444 sq mi (1,150 km2)
 • Water925 sq mi (2,396 km2), 67.6%
Population (est.)
 • (2017)703,520
 • Density1,586/sq mi (612/km2)
Congressional districts6th, 10th, 14th
Time zoneCentral: UTC−6/−5

Lake County is a county situated in the northeastern corner of the U.S. state of Illinois along the shores of Lake Michigan. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 703,462,[1] making it the third-most populous county in Illinois. Its county seat is Waukegan, the ninth-largest city in Illinois. [2] Lake County is one of the collar counties of the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area.

According to the 2000 census, Lake County is the 31st richest county in the nation by per capita income. The lakefront communities of Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Highland Park are part of the affluent North Shore area.

Naval Station Great Lakes is located in the city of North Chicago. It is the United States Navy's Headquarters Command for training, and the Navy's only recruit training center.


The Caspar Ott Cabin, built in 1837, is the oldest structure in Lake County.
Lake County at the time of its creation in 1839

The county, which was primarily unsettled prairie and was still home to its native Potawatomi Indians, was created by the Illinois State Legislature in 1839. At that time, Libertyville, then known as Independence Grove, was the first county seat. In 1841, however, the county's residents voted to move the county government to Little Fort, now Waukegan, where the commissioners had purchased a section of land from the state. Lake County's first courthouse was built on part of that land in 1844 and the remainder was sold to pay for the $4,000 construction cost.

The county's first courthouse was used solely for court sessions and the jail, but in 1853, commissioners constructed a building to accommodate county administration offices and house records. When fire damaged the courthouse on October 19, 1875, the county records were saved because they were in the adjacent building.

After the fire, proposals were made to move the county seat to Highland Park, Libertyville or another site in central Lake County. The county commissioners, however, decided to rebuild in Waukegan. The east half of the building was reconstructed at a cost of $45,000. In 1895, the first jail building was added to the government complex and a west addition was added to the courthouse in 1922. By 1938, county commissioners saw a need for additional space and approved the addition of a 5th Floor. This courthouse, however, was demolished in 1967 to make room for a new high-rise administration building, which was completed with the addition of the jail in 1969 and courts in 1970.

Shortly thereafter, the Lake County Board commissioned the construction of a multi-faceted justice facility and ground was broken in 1986 for the Robert H. Babcox Justice Center, named in memory of Sheriff Babcox, who served as Lake County Sheriff from 1982-1988. The justice center, which houses the county jail, work release program, sheriff's administration offices and three courtrooms, was finished in 1989 at a cost of $29.6 million.

Additional county government facilities have been built or expanded throughout Lake County, including the Coroner's Office, Health Department/Community Health Center facilities, Division of Transportation, Public Works and Winchester House. Lake County government services extend throughout the county's 470 square miles (1,200 km2).

The historic Half Day Inn, a tavern/restaurant, was constructed in 1843. This structure, once located at the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Rte. 45/Old Half Day Road, was one of the oldest structures in Lake County until it was demolished in 2007 to make way for retail space, condominiums, and a retention pond.


A satellite view of the Lake County district

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,368 square miles (3,540 km2), of which 444 square miles (1,150 km2) is land and 935 square miles (2,420 km2) (67.6%) is water.[3] It is the second-largest county in Illinois by total area. Most of the water is in Lake Michigan.

State parks


Besides Lake Michigan, lakes in the county include:

  • Lake Amy
  • Antioch Lake
  • Ashley Lake
  • Bangs Lake
  • Lake Barrington
  • Benet Lake
  • Big Bear Lake
  • Bluff Lake
  • Brandenburg Lake
  • Bresen Lake
  • Butler Lake
  • Lake Catherine
  • Cedar Lake
  • Channel Lake
  • Lake Charles
  • Countryside Lake
  • Crooked Lake
  • Davlins Pond
  • Dead Lake
  • Deep Lake
  • Deer Lake
  • Diamond Lake
  • Druce Lake
  • Duck Lake
  • Dunns Lake
  • East Loon Lake
  • Echo Lake
  • Lake Eleanor
  • Elmwood Farms Lake
  • Lake Fairfield
  • Fish Lake
  • Forest Lake
  • Fourth Lake
  • Fox Lake
  • Gages Lake
  • Lake Germaine
  • Grandwood Lake
  • Grass Lake
  • Grassy Lake
  • Grays Lake
  • Harvey Lake
  • Hastings Lake
  • Hendrick Lake
  • Highland Lake
  • Honey Lake
  • Homer White Lake
  • Huntley Lake
  • Island Lake
  • Independence Grove
  • Lambs Lake
  • Leo Lake
  • Liberty Lake
  • Lake Linden
  • Little Bear Lake
  • Loch Lomond
  • Long Lake
  • Loon Lake
  • Lake Louise
  • Lucky Lake
  • Manor Lake
  • Miltmore Lake
  • Minear Lake
  • Mud Lake
  • Lake Naomi
  • Nippersink Lake
  • North Tower Lake
  • Petite Lake
  • Pistakee Lake
  • Lake Potomac
  • Redhead Lake
  • Redwing Slough Lake
  • Round Lake
  • Saint Marys Lake
  • Sand Lake
  • Sand Pond
  • Schreiber Lake
  • Shady Lane Resort Lake
  • Lake Sheree
  • Silver Lake
  • Slocum Lake
  • Slough Lake
  • Spring Lake
  • Sterling Lake
  • Sullivan Lake
  • Sun Lake
  • Sylvan Lake
  • Third Lake
  • Timber Lake
  • Turner Lake
  • Twin Lakes
  • Valley Lake
  • Waterford Lake
  • White Lake
  • Wooster Lake
  • Lake Zurich

Natural areas

Lake County's forest preserves and natural areas are administered by the Lake County Forest Preserves district. These facilities include traditional nature preserves, such as the Ryerson Conservation Area, as well as golf courses and historic homes, such as the Adlai Stevenson historic home.[4] A long north-south string of the preserves in Lake County, including Half Day Woods, Old School Forest Preserve, Independence Grove, and Van Patten Woods, form the Des Plaines River Greenway, which contains the Des Plaines River Trail, a popular place for walking, running, and biking. Lake County is also home to Illinois Beach State Park, featuring over six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, as well as dune areas, wetlands, prairie, and black oak savanna. Several local environmental groups operate in Lake County, such as Conserve Lake County and Citizens for Conservation, working to improve habitat. Volunteer opportunities also exist with the Lake County Forest Preserve District.[5]

Adjacent counties

Major highways

  • I-94.svg Interstate 94
  • US 12.svg U.S. Route 12
  • US 14.svg U.S. Route 14
  • US 41.svg U.S. Route 41
  • US 45.svg U.S. Route 45
  • Illinois 21.svg Illinois Route 21
  • Illinois 22.svg Illinois Route 22
  • Illinois 43.svg Illinois Route 43
  • Illinois 53.svg Illinois Route 53
  • Illinois 59.svg Illinois Route 59
  • Illinois 60.svg Illinois Route 60
  • Illinois 83.svg Illinois Route 83
  • Illinois 120.svg Illinois Route 120
  • Illinois 131.svg Illinois Route 131
  • Illinois 132.svg Illinois Route 132
  • Illinois 134.svg Illinois Route 134
  • Illinois 137.svg Illinois Route 137
  • Illinois 173.svg Illinois Route 173
  • Illinois 176.svg Illinois Route 176


Historical population
Est. 2017703,520[6]0.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[7]
1790-1960[8] 1900-1990[9]
1990-2000[10] 2010-2017[1]
2000 census age pyramid for Lake County

As of the 2010 Census, there were 703,462 people, 241,712 households, and 179,428 families residing in the county.[11] The population density was 1,585.6 inhabitants per square mile (612.2/km2). There were 260,310 housing units at an average density of 586.7 per square mile (226.5/km2).[3] The racial makeup of the county was 75.1% white, 7.0% black or African American, 6.3% Asian, 0.5% American Indian, 8.5% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 19.9% of the population.[11] In terms of ancestry, 20.5% were German, 12.9% were Irish, 9.4% were Polish, 6.9% were Italian, 6.5% were English, and 4.0% were American.[12]

Of the 241,712 households, 40.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.6% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 25.8% were non-families, and 21.5% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.82 and the average family size was 3.31. The median age was 36.7 years.[11]

Employment by occupation in Lake County

The median income for a household in the county was $78,948 and the median income for a family was $91,693. Males had a median income of $62,042 versus $44,200 for females. The per capita income for the county was $38,120. About 4.8% of families and 7.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.6% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.[13]


The following sports teams play in Lake County:

Sites of interest

Amusement parks

Six Flags Great America


Performing arts

Genesee Theatre





Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities


The county is divided into eighteen townships.

Zion TownshipBenton TownshipNewport TownshipLake Villa TownshipGrant TownshipAvon TownshipWarren TownshipWaukegan TownshipWauconda TownshipFremont TownshipLibertyville TownshipShields TownshipCuba TownshipEla TownshipVernon TownshipWest Deerfield TownshipMoraine Township
Lake County townships (clickable)


Lake County Board
DistrictBoard MemberParty
1Linda PedersonRepublican
2Diane HewittDemocratic
3Dick BarrRepublican
4Brent PaxtonRepublican
5Judy MartiniRepublican
6John WasikDemocratic
7Steve CarlsonRepublican
8Bill DurkinDemocratic
9Mary Ross CunninghamDemocratic
10Jessica VealitzekDemocratic
11Paul FrankDemocratic
12S. Michael RummelRepublican
13Sandy Hart, ChairmanDemocratic
14Angelo D. KyleDemocratic
15Jennifer ClarkDemocratic
16Terry WilkeDemocratic
17Michael DanforthRepublican
18Julie SimpsonDemocratic
19Craig TaylorRepublican
20Adam R. DidechDemocratic
21Ann B. MaineRepublican


As a historic Yankee settlement, Lake County was initially a stronghold of the Free Soil Party. In the 1848 presidential election, it was Free Soil nominee and former President Martin van Buren’s strongest county, giving him over 58 percent of the vote.

Consequently, Lake County – although it did give a plurality to Franklin Pierce in 1852 – would turn rock-solid Republican for the next century. The only time between 1856 and 1960 it did not vote for the Republican Presidential nominee was in 1912 when the GOP was mortally divided and Lake County voted for Progressive Party nominee and former President Theodore Roosevelt over conservative incumbent William Howard Taft. In 1964 the Republican Party nominated Barry Goldwater, whose hostility to the Yankee establishment and strongly conservative policies were sufficient to leave many traditional Republicans to stay home or even to vote for Lyndon Johnson, who narrowly became the first Democrat to win an absolute majority in the county since James K. Polk in 1844. Between 1968 and 1988, however, Lake County became powerfully Republican once more, with no Democrat cracking forty percent of the vote.

However, the Republican edge narrowed considerably in the 1990s, and Bill Clinton actually won it with a plurality in 1996–the only time that Clinton won one of the collar counties during his two campaigns for president. After narrowly voting for George W. Bush twice, in 2008 it swung over dramatically to support Democrat and then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama, who carried it by almost 20 points. Obama won it but by a slimmer margin in 2012. Hillary Clinton won it handily in 2016, tallying her second-best margin in the state.

Presidential elections results
Presidential elections results[14]
YearRepublicanDemocraticThird parties
201636.2% 109,76756.4% 171,0957.5% 22,658
201245.1% 129,76453.5% 153,7571.4% 3,972
200839.5% 118,54559.1% 177,2421.4% 4,113
200450.5% 139,08148.8% 134,3520.7% 1,862
200050.0% 120,98847.5% 115,0582.5% 6,118
199645.5% 93,14945.6% 93,3158.9% 18,300
199244.2% 99,00036.5% 81,69319.3% 43,294
198863.5% 114,11535.8% 64,3270.7% 1,191
198468.4% 118,40131.1% 53,9470.5% 876
198058.5% 96,35029.3% 48,28712.3% 20,216
197660.3% 92,23137.8% 57,7411.9% 2,922
197265.8% 92,05233.9% 47,4160.3% 344
196856.6% 68,99935.6% 43,4097.8% 9,495
196448.4% 58,84051.6% 62,7850.0% 42
196059.0% 67,80940.9% 46,9410.1% 149
195667.3% 66,78132.5% 32,2790.1% 129
195262.8% 54,92937.0% 32,3530.2% 145
194863.3% 39,45635.6% 22,1921.2% 720
194458.2% 35,67441.5% 25,4530.3% 183
194060.3% 38,24239.3% 24,9650.4% 254
193651.3% 27,54845.7% 24,5243.0% 1,603
193250.9% 23,99444.9% 21,1394.2% 1,989
192867.7% 26,81431.0% 12,2521.3% 521
192475.5% 18,2298.3% 2,00816.2% 3,913
192082.3% 15,71212.2% 2,3215.6% 1,063
191667.0% 12,90528.3% 5,4474.8% 924
191221.6% 2,18324.1% 2,43654.3% 5,494
190868.2% 6,39224.1% 2,2647.7% 723
190477.1% 6,63518.5% 1,5924.4% 378
190067.7% 5,13629.5% 2,2352.9% 217
189672.5% 5,02725.6% 1,7771.9% 133
189257.2% 2,93238.3% 1,9644.5% 233

Notable people

  • Jack Benny (February 14, 1894 – December 26, 1974) – entertainer, comedian, actor and musician, Benny was one of America's greatest stars of radio and television, and also appeared in many films; he was raised in Waukegan, Illinois.
  • Charles Boyce (September 21, 1949) – cartoonist, creator of syndicated comic panel Compu-toon and the telecommunication public affairs image The KeyPad Kid.
  • Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) – fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer. Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury is widely considered one of the greatest and most popular American writers of speculative fiction of the twentieth century. Bradbury was born in Waukegan.
  • Gary Coleman (February 8, 1968 – May 28, 2010) – actor, known for his role as Arnold Jackson in the American sitcom Diff'rent Strokes (1978–1986). Coleman was born in Zion, Illinois.
  • Marlon Brando (April 3, 1924 – July 1, 2004) actor; as a young sex symbol, he is best known for his roles in A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront and Guys and Dolls. Brando and his family moved to Libertyville, Illinois where he lived from 1937 until 1942.
  • Michael Jordan (born February 17, 1963) – retired professional basketball player and active businessman, widely considered one of the greatest players of all time; as of 2015, Jordan had a residence in Highland Park, Illinois.
  • Vince Vaughn (born March 28, 1970) – actor, known for his roles in Swingers and Wedding Crashers; grew up in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, then moved to Lake Forest, Illinois, where he graduated from Lake Forest High School in 1988.
  • Juan Rivera (October 31, 1972) - Waukegan man who was wrongfully convicted of the 1992 murder of 11-year-old Holly Skater. After his exoneration, he was awarded $20 million USD—the largest settlement for a wrongful conviction in US history.
  • Ron Goldman (July 2, 1968 – June 12, 1994), who was killed along with Nicole Brown Simpson grew up in Buffalo Grove.
  • Pete Wilson (born August 23, 1933), Mayor of San Diego (1971-1983); United States Senator from California (1983-1991); and Governor of California (1991-1999), born in Lake Forest.[15]

See also

  • IL-53 extension issue
  • List of school districts in Lake County, Illinois
  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Lake County, Illinois
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