The area that encompasses the Village of Lake Zurich was, like much of northern Illinois, initially inhabited by Native Americans. In Lake Zurich's case, the original inhabitants were Potawatomi Indians and other tribes.
The land was acquired from those tribes through a treaty signed in August 1829 at Prairie du Chien. Lake Zurich was founded in 1836 and incorporated in 1896. The area's earliest settlers were George Ela, the namesake of Ela Township, and Seth Paine, namesake of Seth Paine Elementary School. One early resident, Henry Seip, owned a general store at Route 22 and Old Rand Road. He also served in the Civil War.
According to Lake Zurich Centennial: One Hundred Years of a Midwestern Village, "A trip to Chicago was a four-day journey and each man took his turn collecting produce from all the farms in the area and driving it to the city."
Ron Frank, vice president of the Ela Historical Society, said Lake Zurich was originally called Cedar Lake.
"Seth Paine renamed it Lake Zurich," said Frank.
The building - and the land it sits on - not only houses the village's history but is itself a treasure.
An old photo of the building states that on Feb. 7, 1865, Isaac Willard Fox and his wife Eleanor sold the land at 95 E. Main St. to the District 13 Trustees of Schools to be used as a schoolhouse site. The land was sold for just $5.
The building that houses the Ela Historical Society was built about 138 years ago, said Frank. Originally located on South Old Rand Road, the building had a livery stable on the main floor with village hall meeting rooms on the second floor. The bell tower that once stood atop the building was used to summon help to fight fires, Frank said.
That building, known as Ela Town Hall, later served as a school until 1914.
"May Whitney was one of the teachers who taught all eight elementary school grades at Ela Town Hall," it states in the Lake Zurich Centennial book. "The privy at the back was the boys' outhouse. The girls' was on the other side."
Like Paine, schools are also named after Isaac Fox and May Whitney.
The building has also served as a meeting place for various groups, including Girl Scouts and the Lions Club. Church services have also been held there.
Now home to the , the building houses the history of Lake Zurich. Its collections include everything from books to military uniforms. The historical society is open every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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