This cache was placed with permission from the Crystal Lake Park District. The “No Trespassing” sign in the parking lot does not apply to you while seeking this cache.
Happy sesquicentennial Colonel Palmer House! This cache has been placed at the Colonel Palmer House in celebration of its 150th birthday. The house is currently the only building in Crystal Lake listed on the National Register of Historic Places and it was the first building landmarked by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
Colonel Gustavus A. Palmer and his wife Henrietta were early settlers of McHenry County. In 1840, they arrived here after three weeks journey in a covered wagon from Livingston County, New York. Riding along with them were their children, Charlotte age seven and John age four. As land became available following the Blackhawk War of 1832 the Palmers were one of many families that headed west to start a new life. As a pioneer family they carved a farm out of the Illinois prairie and were successful & prosperous.
Colonel Palmer was born in Nunda, N.Y. in 1805. His title of Colonel may have been an honorary award as a member of the local militia in Western New York which was the site of the Patriot War. That conflict was a Canadian rebellion against Britain that spilled over into New York State.
In Crystal Lake, Colonel Palmer was a founding member of the Nunda Masonic Lodge. In fact, meetings were held in his home after their lodge burned down in 1869. He also held the positions of election official and postmaster within the community. Colonel Palmer and his wife Henrietta lived in the Crystal Lake area for over forty years until their deaths in December of 1884. They both died within days of each other from Typhoid Pneumonia. According to their joint obituary, the funeral service was to be preached in the Baptist Church of Crystal Lake, but even before the long procession of sleighs arrived the church was so full they had to move the services to the much larger Congregational Church. The Palmers are buried below a single headstone in the Lake Avenue Cemetery in Crystal Lake.
The Colonel Palmer House is mix of Greek Revival and Federal architecture. It was built by a prolific local mason by the name of Andrew Jackson Simons who likewise came from New York. He brought with him the unique tradition of cobblestone construction that was originally imported to the U.S. by German immigrants hired to build the Erie Canal in the 1820's. Legend has it, Simons had intended to build a masonry home for himself, but he left town to fight in the Civil War and returned to find his materials stolen. Instead he built a simple wooden home and his well-worn masonry trowel is now in the possession of the McHenry County Historical Society.
Early in 1979, as part of an annexation agreement, five acres of land including the Colonel Palmer House and outbuildings were donated to the City of Crystal Lake to build a well and park. At that time, a group of dedicated citizens organized the Colonel Palmer House Restoration Association. This organization worked for many years to raise funds to help restore the house. As an example of the work that had to be done, at one point in its history transients built a fire on the floor of the living room that burned several inches down into the wood. Through the association’s efforts the Colonel Gustavus A. Palmer House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the State of Illinois and the United States Department of the Interior and National Park Service on May 24, 1985.
In 1999, the Crystal Lake Park District entered into an agreement with the City of Crystal Lake. The Park District has leased the property for 100 years at the rate of $2 per year. Today a portion of the Palmer House is the office and archival library of the Crystal Lake Historical Society. The Park District uses the house for some of its scouting, youth, and adult programs.
The Colonel Palmer House has seen tremendous change in its 150 years. With the stewardship of many and the protection of the preservation commission this reminder of our pioneering past should remain here at “Palmer’s Corner” for years to come.