The Town and Country Garden Club of Libertyville this summer teamed with a local Boy Scout to raise awareness of the old Lake County courthouse bell displayed on Milwaukee Avenue just north of Winchester House in Libertyville.
Sam Marlinga of Libertyville Troop 71 volunteered to help and has earned an Eagle Scout badge by working with the members of the club. In August, he organized troop members and friends to improve the landscaping of the bell. He researched the bell's history and created and installed an informational sign that is now on display. It is hoped that those who pass the bell will now stop to learn its history.
The club wanted to improve the landscaping and provide some information about its significance to Libertyville. The original plantings around the bell were installed in 1976 as part of the town's bicentennial celebration and the club has been tending to them since.
But club members contend the existence of the bell and its historic significance to Libertyville is not well known. Research from sources at the Cook Park Library, Libertyville Historical Society, Waukegan Historical Society and the Lake County Museum and old scrapbooks and club records were reviewed.
Lake County was created in 1839 by an act of the state legislature. Libertyville, which was known then as Burlington, was chosen as the county seat based on its central location and population. In 1841, a special election to move the county seat to Waukegan, then known as Little Fort, was successful.
A new courthouse there was completed in 1844 and became a community focal point. A fire destroyed the building in 1875. A new courthouse was completed in 1878 with a clock and belfry tower including the bell that is now in Libertyville. While repairs were being done, the courthouse tower was gutted in a fire in 1955 and the historic bell was moved to the Lake County General Hospital (now the county health department headquarters) on Grand Avenue for storage.
Prompted by what was then the Town and Country Garden Club of Libertyville/Lake Forest and the cooperation of local officials, the bell was moved to Libertyville in honor of its role as the original county seat.
The garden club, which does plantings at various locations including the Adler House, Civic Center, Cook Mansion, and the Winchester House, also has continued to plant flowers in the urns next to the bell. Club members suggested planting roses and addressing the urns that were starting to fall apart, and using Scouts to help. Marlinga, a senior at Libertyville High School, took on the project.
In August, he and friends and fellow Scouts removed two bushes, a stump and the deteriorating urns. The path stones leading to the bell were raised and roses planted. Marlinga made sure the roses were watered the rest of the summer.
Marlinga is taking graphic design at LHS and created the informational sign that now is in place. The club will continue to care for the roses and likely plant more flowers around the sign next spring.
For information about the club, contact Joyce Geib at (847) 362-8357.