Established in 1836, McHenry is located in east-central McHenry County, 55 miles northwest of the Chicago Loop and 35 miles from O’Hare International Airport. The City is centered on two major State highways – Illinois Route 31, which runs north/south from Wisconsin to South Elgin; and, Illinois Route 120, which runs east/west from Woodstock to Park City. The City consists of approximately 13 square miles in land area.
Legislation creating McHenry County was passed in 1837, and the village served as county seat until 1844. The village incorporated in 1872. Though there were fewer than 800 inhabitants, commerce flourished.
Over the next 50 years McHenry grew slowly. During the 1920’s the town became known as a resort destination because of the Fox River, surrounding lakes, and easy accessibility from Chicago. Bands played at local pavilions, trainloads of visitors arrived to tour the famous lotus beds, and summer cottages proliferated along the Fox River. A boat-building industry flourished; marine recreation still remains important. For decades, McHenry took very seriously its title as the “Gateway to the Chain-of-Lakes” and this is still evidenced today in the city’s motto “Heart of the Fox River.”
The advent of the automobiles effectively relocated the city’s commercial center to Route 120, and had the unintended side effect of isolating the original business districts (West Main, Riverside Drive, and Green Street).
In spite of its beauty and strong attraction to tourists, McHenry owed her growth to the stability provided by the many farmers who worked the fertile land as well as the establishment of industry. The Fox River helped facilitate the import and export of lumber, cigars, clay, food products and brewing which all helped draw new residents to the area. The drainage of a large 60-acre pond that previously divided the community in half, contributed to increased development and improved roadways, while the railroad allowed commuters to find this area the perfect place to settle with their families.
A new wave of industry, including automotive components, electronics, and metalworking, swept into town after World War II. The Northern Illinois Medical Center, begun in 1956 as a 23-bed community hospital, evolved into a regional trauma center serving two states. Beginning in the late 1940s, subdivisions were annexed on all sides of the city. By this time, many residents were commuting to work in other localities, including Chicago. McHenry’s population tripled from 2,080 in 1950 to 6,772 in 1970, and tripled again to 21,501 in 2000.
McHenry’s current population is approximately 27,000, including 10,075 households, an average household size of 2.66, and median household income of $68,024. Of the 10,075 households, approximately 7,719 are owner-occupied and 2,356 are renter occupied. The median resident age is 37.1. The City’s 2017 EAV was $638,080,968. The City currently has more than 2,000 approved unplatted lots and platted vacant lots.
Total number of businesses in the City is 1,473 and total employment is approximately 19,661, with an employee/residential population ratio of 73:1. The City’s three largest employment sectors, by number of employees, are: Healthcare and Social Assistance: 5,136 employees/26%; Retail Trade: 3,139 employees/16% and Manufacturing: 2,418 employees/12.3%.
Source: U.S. Census data