'Everybody hopes it's the start of a good thing': Gages Lake holding centennial celebration

You can easily envision a time when families headed north from Chicago and its nearest suburbs to their cottages in the country, and kids lived for summers along the north shore of Gages Lake.

Once, all the homes in this unincorporated area of central Lake County were summer cottages, many of which passed from generation to generation. A few still remain in their original state. Most have been converted, with air conditioning and heat, for year-round living, and vary in appearance and upkeep.

But residents still navigate short, narrow streets, which have remained as they always have been, without curbs, sidewalks or garages.

It was curiosity about why her Gages Lake neighborhood was called Allen Farm that led Diana Machado on a dogged journey of discovery and gave birth to her desire to rekindle a sense of community.

Her three-year effort culminates Saturday with the Gages Lake Centennial Celebration, an all-day event that starts with a classic car show at 9 a.m. and features a parade, more than 40 vendors, music and more, all centered on Old Gages Lake Road.

“This is the first time we've ever come together to have a communal, shared experience,” Machado said. “Everybody hopes it's the start of a good thing.”

The compact neighborhoods on the north shore of Gages Lake are part of the Allen Farm, Dady & Decker and Idlewild subdivisions, all created in or about 1922.

Long before then, the general area known for a large picnic grove, which now is occupied by townhouses and part of Grayslake, had been a popular getaway for the masses and the well-to-do.

“I just want to appreciate the community. I feel there are so few places like this,” said Machado, a relative newcomer who bought a yellow cottage on Oak Street in 2002. Her husband-to-be lived across the street and first visited the area as a boy in the 1960s.

Allen Farm was named after Obed and Anna Allen, who until 1921 owned and operated the Allen Farm & Resort Hotel, with a restaurant, orchards and 1,000 feet of lake frontage. The property was sold and subdivided in 1922, but the late-1800s building — long ago converted to an apartment building — still stands.

An insurance underwriter with eye for detail, Machado's curiosity about the past turned into a passion that led to Saturday's big event. Her vision and interest ensnared others. Planning meetings for a centennial celebration began a year ago.

The core group of organizers has included Tami Hultgren Moore, whose home on North Lake Shore Drive has been in the family since the 1930s.

“My dad is 88, and he grew up here as a boy,” she said.

She spent summers at the cottage on the lake, and her fond memories are vivid. In 1984, she and her husband bought and converted the summer house to a full-time residence.

“You can feel the family cottage — the history,” said Moore, who shares Machado's passion.

“The older I get, the more I realize the importance of knowing your neighbor,” she added. “It's a celebration but hopefully it makes a mark.”

Why is it called Gages Lake?

George Gage, a surveyor for the U.S. government, was among the first settlers of Warren Township in the 1830s. Gage's Lake (the apostrophe eventually was dropped) was named for George and his brother Leonard, according to Diana Dretske, curator of the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County.

Another brother, John Gage, sold a flour mill in Chicago and joined them in 1947. John Gage and his wife, Portia Kellogg Gage, were described as “ardent believers in racial, religious, and gender equality,” according to Dretske.

Lake County was among the strongest areas of antislavery sentiment in Illinois, Dretske said. Portia Gage also was a suffragist, advocating for women's right to vote.

  Centennial and U.S. flags are flying on docks at homes along Gages Lake. Paul Valade/
  Old photos of the Gage family and past stories about Gages Lake. Paul Valade/
  Gages Lake residents Tami Moore, left, and Diana Machado look over centennial items collected for this weekend's celebration. Paul Valade/
  Gages Lake resident Tami Moore, second from left, is seen in a family photo with her mom, Joanne Hultgren, her dad, Vern Hultgren, and her brother, Tom. The family was swimming in Gages Lake behind the family home where Tami now lives. Paul Valade/
An old photo of Mogg's General store and other businesses in Gages Lake. Courtesy of Gages Lake centennial committee
A postcard of Allen Farm Beach on Gages Lake. Courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives
A postcard shows a beach scene at the Gages Lake picnic grounds. Courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives
A postcard showing a lagoon on Gages Lake. Courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives
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