The country cousin to Lake County's more affluent suburbs, Lindenhurst is a village nestled among the lakes, forest preserves and parks that its residents cherish.
Except for the families who farmed this area for generations, people settled in "Lindy" within the last 50 years, mostly during the homebuilding boom of the 1980s and '90s. Thirty-two percent of the population is younger than 18, so it is a young town in more ways than one.
A 1952 brochure that lured homebuyers to Lindenhurst promised "clean healthful country air without the hazards of dangerous city traffic" and "the enjoyment of gardening, fishing, hunting or just plain loafin' in the country." Today's lifestyle doesn't allow much time for loafin', but otherwise this still rings true.
"People come here to raise their families away from the city. Then their kids stay to raise theirs," said Mayor Susan Lahr, who oversees this village of 14,500 people, 42 miles northwest of the Loop.
Lindenhurst is too small to have its own library or school district; it shares with Lake Villa. But it's large enough to generate community spirit for hosting the annual Miss Lindenhurst pageant, cheering on a lengthy schedule of baseball and hockey games and planting so many bulbs that the state proclaimed it the daffodil capital of Illinois.
"You get more for your money here than you do in other Lake County towns," said Nancy Brandes, as her daughter Abby, 3, twirled on tiptoe in her ballet class. Brandes and her husband, Ryan, moved here 14 years ago.
"It's seven miles to a Jewel or a shopping center, but you can fish or paddle-boat right in our neighborhood," Brandes said. "The kids can walk to school. It's a small-town feel."
Safety is a priority, Lahr said. A recent police log was typical, reporting a case of beer swiped from a garage and change taken from a car. Lahr said she supports the Police Department's SEND (Strong Enough to say No to Drugs) program because the officers get to know the kids.
Like many towns, Lindenhurst has tightened its belt to survive the recession. The hot-button issue now is whether to tap into Lake Michigan water to compensate for the village's spent wells.
"Meantime, we've learned to conserve water, and that's OK," Lahr said. In a town that supports efforts like its phosphorous ban, this fits.
Lindenhurst is not like other suburbs, said Lahr. "Here, we're all about our lakes and forest preserves. We walk our dogs, bike, boat, fish. People who move here have family values and help each other raise the kids. The moms play bunco. And we all show up at the Halloween bonfire. All corny, I know, but it's good clean fun."
Lindenhurst was a collection of farms, ice harvesters and lakeside resorts until developers arrived in the 1950s, and the village incorporated in 1956. The 1842 Bonner Heritage Farm was preserved by the Lake County Forest Preserve District as testament to Lindenhurst's rural roots.
The name "Lindenhurst" comes from the linden trees on a 600-acre farm owned by wealthy landowner Ernst Lehmann, an heir to retailer E.J. Lehmann. Known as the Lindenhurst farm, the land was developed into the village of Lindenhurst.
Just outside the village is the Millburn Historic District, a blast-from-the-past enclave of storefronts that hasn't changed since farmers drove their wagons here to pick up mail and buy bottles of Coca-Cola a century ago.
Things to do
The "Cheddar Curtain" into Wisconsin is four miles away, which is reflected in the outdoor activities for families, including snowmobiling, hunting, fishing and biking. A weekend getaway would more likely mean heading to a North Woods cabin instead of the theater in Chicago.
Volunteers run the village's big annual event, the four-day Lindenfest, when three age levels of Miss Lindenhurst queens are crowned.
The Lindenhurst Park District hosts an annual tree-lighting ceremony, Easter egg hunt and musical festivals. The district includes a community center, beaches, ballfields, playgrounds, conservation areas and miles of trails.
There's a smattering of restaurants, and the closest Starbucks is in Round Lake Beach. The mayor recommends the Twisted Cow's cow pies and RJ's Eatery's BLT pizzas.
For shopping, folks head to Gurnee Mills in Gurnee.
Lindenhurst is the type of village where Realtors carry "S" hooks to attach "lakefront" tags to their listings' signs. Most neighborhoods surround lakes, some natural and some man-made.
Most homes are two-story, four-bedroom houses that were standard issue during the building boom. A handful of custom-home neighborhoods include more costly houses with brick exteriors. Condos and town houses are few, and rentals are scarce.
"Recent single-family house sales range from a 1970s, three-bedroom, ranch fixer-upper without a basement that sold for $125,000, to a two-story, 3,500-square-foot, 2007 cedar-sided home that sold for $500,000," said Ilene Perdue, real estate agent with Century 21 Roberts & Andrews in Lindenhurst.
Town house sales, she said, have ranged from $80,000 to $200,000.
"The most affordable houses now are those in the original Lindenhurst Estates neighborhood," Perdue said. "Some are updated, some not."
Eleven home sites remain for new, semi-custom single-family houses at William Ryan Homes' Preserve at McDonald Woods. Prices start at $261,990 for two-story homes that range from 1,941 to 3,192 square feet.
Lindenhurst is a lengthy commute to Chicago, so many locals work in Lake County or Wisconsin. The nearest Metra train station is in Lake Villa, where the express train to Chicago takes a little more than an hour.
U.S. Highway 45 and Illinois Highway 83 link residents to larger suburbs with employment centers.
Pace buses do not serve the area.
The village is split into two elementary school districts: Lake Villa School District 41 and Millburn District 24. Within the village are Hooper Elementary School (K-6) and Millburn West School (K-8).
High school students who live north of Grand Avenue/Sand Lake Road attend Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa, while those on the south side go to Grayslake North High School in Grayslake.
Lindenhurst has no Catholic schools, but there are several in neighboring towns.