The first to claim land within the area known as Lake Bluff, arrived in 1836 with their son Henry. They laid claim to 100 acres of land fronting on the lake and going west to the Green Bay Trail. In 1849, John Cloes and two neighbors left to seek their fortune in the California gold rush. He died in Sacramento leaving his wife, Catherine, to raise their seven children and manage the homestead. In 1837, William and Mary Dwyer claimed the land just north of the former Central School. They opened and operated a stage coach stop and tavern along the Green Bay Trail. Some of the other early settlers were Henry and Angeline Ostrander, James Cole and William Whitnell.
In 1855, the first railroad through Lake County was completed, running from Chicago through Waukegan, to the county line. Henry Ostrander owned the land where the depot was to be placed, and he agreed to donate the site if the depot were called "Rockland." Therefore, this area, known previously as the Dwyer Settlement and Oak Hill, became Rockland, the only stop between Highland Park and Waukegan. Rockland had a post office and general store on Mawman Avenue with a small school and church located west of the tracks near Green Bay Road.
In 1875, a group of Methodist ministers led by Solomon Thatcher of River Forest purchased 100 acres of lakefront property from Ben Cloes, the youngest son of the first settlers. The Lake Bluff Camp Meeting Association was formed and the little settlement of Rockland was renamed "Lake Bluff." The Association planned a resort similar to the Chautauqua movement in the east, one that would provide not only religious activities but also social, cultural, educational and recreational programs. From the beginning, the Camp Meeting was successful at bringing in well-known personalities of the time, such as Frances Willard and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes. Summer visitors were attracted to Lake Bluff to enjoy the beach and ravines and participate in the Camp Meeting activities. A 10-acre lake in the center of town, Artesian Lake, provided additional recreational opportunities.
Land was divided into 25-foot lots on which a cottage "could be erected within 20 days of purchase for $250." The first hotel, the Bluff Lodge, was opened in 1876. By the mid 1880s there were more than 30 hotels and boarding houses, plus a large tabernacle with seating for more than 2, 000 people.
In 1895, Lake Bluff ensured its future as a suburb and incorporated as a village. Charles Trusdell, the first Village President, built his home at 115 East Center Avenue. The East School opened in September 1895. In 1904, the brick railroad station was erected, and in 1905 the present Village Hall was built. During the First World War, Lake Bluff was proclaimed the "most patriotic small town in America" for the efforts of the residents in supporting the Red Cross and purchasing an ambulance to send to France.
In the 1920s, Lake Bluff made great plans to join the other North Shore suburbs in the race to attract new homes and growing families. New brick stores were added in the business block, and a large addition to East School was constructed. However, 1929 brought the Great Depression, and the plans for expansion never materialized.
Growth did come in the "Baby Boom" era after the Second World War. Many new subdivisions opened along Green Bay Road, and three new schools were built by the end of the 1960s. Now a full-fledged suburb, Lake Bluff has never relinquished its small-town flavor and friendly spirit.
Lake Bluff is located in the North Shore area at 42°17′N 87°51′W (42.281, -87.849).
According to the 2010 census, Lake Bluff has a total area of 4.057 square miles (10.51 km2), of which 4.05 square miles (10.49 km2) (or 99.83%) is land and 0.007 square miles (0.02 km2) (or 0.17%) is water. It is bordered by Lake Michigan on the east, Naval Station Great Lakes to the north, Lake Forest to the south, and Libertyville to the west.
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,056 people, 2,118 households, and 1,743 families residing in the village. The population density was 1,492.0 people per square mile (575.9/km²). There were 2,202 housing units at an average density of 542.5 per square mile (209.4/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 95.29% White, 0.51% African American, 0.03% Native American, 3.30% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.23% from other races, and 0.59% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.19% of the population.
There were 2,118 households out of which 45.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 74.3% were married couples living together, 6.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 17.7% were non-families. 15.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.86 and the average family size was 3.21.
In the village, the population was spread out with 32.9% under the age of 18, 2.9% from 18 to 24, 24.7% from 25 to 44, 27.4% from 45 to 64, and 12.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 93.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.7 males.
The median income for a household in the village was $114,521, and the median income for a family was $124,674. Males had a median income of $92,233 versus $50,352 for females. The per capita income for the village was $54,824. About 0.7% of families and 1.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 0.6% of those under the age of 18 and 0.0% ages 65 or older.
U.S. Route 41 passes through the western portion of the village, and directly west of Lake Bluff is Interstate 94, both highways providing access for commuters to Chicago or Milwaukee.
During the summer of 2010, a wild turkey began to inhabit the corner of Green Bay and Route 176, capturing the hearts of the local residents and inspiring a book called The Town Turkey. The following year, another wild turkey was spotted on Route 176.
Until its bankruptcy in 1964, the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee electric interurban railroad between Chicago's "Loop" and Milwaukee had a stop in Lake Bluff. As of 2007, the Union Pacific Railroad (formerly the Chicago and North Western Railway and later the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company) still runs through Lake Bluff. This line, now a part of Chicago's Metra commuter rail agency, provides access to Chicago and to Kenosha, Wisconsin (but no longer to Racine and Milwaukee as did the Milwaukee Division of the "Northwestern" in earlier times).
Although not a passenger rail line, the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway "Outer Belt Line" also has trackage in Lake Bluff.
Lake Bluff East Elementary School, originally known as "Lake Bluff School", was the first school in Lake Bluff. In 1963, Lake Bluff West Elementary School was built for children living in west Lake Bluff (unincorporated Knollwood). In 1967, Lake Bluff Central Elementary School was constructed for students in north Lake Bluff. In the 1970s, West School was shut down, and held many other titles, and the whole system moved from geographic centers to grade/specific attendance centers. In April 2007, a referendum passed by only 22 votes to build a new school. In a land swap with the park district, District 65 acquired land adjacent to the old Central School and gave up land adjacent to the old West School. West School was sold in May 2007 for approximately 1 million dollars, which was also the minimum bid for the property. The new Lake Bluff Elementary School (grades K-5) opened on September 28, 2009. Additions and remodeling were also made to the Lake Bluff Middle School (grades 6-8). East School held its final classes through September 2009. The cost of the new Lake Bluff Elementary School was approximately $20 million and is 82,000 square feet (7,600 m2). Lake Bluff Middle School will soon be renovated in 2016 with two new classroom wings, a new library, cafeteria, and a Makerspace.Public schools
Lake Bluff Elementary School (Kindergarten through 5th grade)
Lake Bluff Middle School (6th grade through 8th grade)
Lake Bluff high school students attend eitherLake Forest High School in Lake Forest, or Libertyville High School in Libertyville, Illinois, depending on their address.
Forest Bluff School (Montessori; Ages 18 months through 8th grade)
Lake Bluff West Elementary School (closed in 1994, now serves as rental office space)
Lake Bluff Central Elementary School (closed and demolished in 2008)
Lake Bluff East Elementary School (closed in 2009, demolished in 2010)
The Lake Bluff History Museum provides a place to learn about Lake Bluff's past. Their mission is to keep Lake Bluff history alive by researching and preserving historical information, creating interest in and sharing knowledge of local history, inspiring broad participation in events supporting this mission and embodying the spirit and pride characteristic of Lake Bluff. The museum sponsors a variety of programs and fundraisers that support its mission. Every alternating year the Lake Bluff History Museum organizes a "Ghost Walk" around Halloween to celebrate their haunted history. This includes group tours of the town led by residents dressed as ghouls who tell stories about creepy occurrences in the past.
Every year there are many cultural events on the Village Green including a Veterans Day ceremony, Gazebo lighting (Christmas), and a farmers market every Friday in the summer.
Every summer Lake Bluff is the host of the Bluffinia concerts on the village green. Bands from all over the United States come downtown to rock out. Music styles range from 1920s Classical, to 1950s Rock N' Roll, to 1980s Pop music. Residents listen to the music on the village green, eat food from local restaurants on Scranton Avenue, and drink in bars like the Mavery Public House and the Inovasi casual. The Bluffinia concert is the second most attended and noted concert series in Lake County, Illinois behind the Ravinia Festival.
Each year Lake Bluff organizes a notable parade on Independence Day sponsored by the Lake Bluff July 4 Committee with assistance from American Legion Post 510. The parade features many organizations and entertainers, including a satirical performance by synchronized lawnmowers.Bay Darnell, racing driver
Rebecca Makkai, author
Richard Marx, singer-songwriter
Mark Morettini, actor
David Pasquesi, actor
Rob Pelinka, former University of Michigan basketball player and sports agent for Kobe Bryant
Cynthia Rhodes, dancer and actress
Phil Rosenthal, columnist for the Chicago Tribune
Martha Sleeper, silent film and Broadway actress
Casey Urlacher, brother of Brian Urlacher and Arena Football League player
Andrew Bird, musician