Interesting Stories

Grays Lake

Below is a 1939 Aerial Photograph of Grays Lake. Note the area of Jones Island appears to be a marsh with short trees around the western end of the marsh. Core samples of the sediments in 2009 at the entrance of the current channels reveal a layer of peat below 8" of black sediment. Also note the area around the west end of the lake. It appears to be sandy. Today this entire area is under water.  Note the area north of Jones Island covered by trees. Burr and white oaks are found in this area today that are 100 - 200 years old. These are the same trees seen here. Present day Harvey avenue appears to end at the base of the hill where these trees grow. Traces of May, Cecilia, and Burton are apparent here. Also interesting is the bright white line bisecting Lake Street and reaching the lake. This is present day Center Street. It actually cut through present day Hawley Court and to a sandy beach that is still there today but is now privately owned. Then the beach was a place to swim and rent boats. This area also has the lowest terrain and flooded when the lake overflowed.

1946 Aerial Photograph of Grays Lake. Jones island is still a wetland area and many of the trees, especially along Harvey Avenue and where Center Street meets the lake, have matured.

Jones Island

At the northwest end of Grays Lake is Jones Island. Many years ago, the perimeter of a marshy area adjacent to the west end of the lake was dredged out. The dredging soils were used as fill to create Jones Island.As seen in the aerial photographs below, Jones Island was once a wetland adjacent to the northwest corner of an oval shaped kettle lake.


Except for maturing trees, Grays Lake looks much the same in 1946 as it did in 1939.


In the 1950's Jones Island was added to the lake and the northwest end of the lake was dredged out. Here one can see the extension of several roads including Harvey Avenue and Alleghany.


Though unsubstantiated, this is the story I was told by an old
neighbor who lived on May street next to Mr. Jones, the Island's namesake.

Mr. Jones made his fortune in the electronics business during World War II. His company, located in Chicago, manufactured a new electronic component at that time, the transistor. Mr. Jones lived on May street which used to mark the end of Harvey Avenue. Wanting to improve the marshland adjacent to May street, Mr. Jones hired laborers to dig out the channel. Supposedly, these guys dug the channel by hand. On the private property side of the channel, old sidewalk sections from town were stacked up to make a retaining wall. On the island side, sheet pile was driven into the ground. Mr. Jones' workshop is now the park district building at the entrance to the island.

Subpages (1): Improvements