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Posted by The Woodlands on January 15, 2023

In 1835, a small tavern was established near the banks of the beautiful Fox River, which would become the heart of a community. Two years later, a lottery was held to determine who would get to name this quickly growing town; community member Alexander Gardiner won and chose the name “Dundee,” after his hometown of Dundee, Scotland. 

Now, the town of West Dundee, Illinois, has a population of over 7,600 – with its small-town feel and bustling, vivid community, The Woodlands at Canterfield is proud to call this quaint area home! Senior living in West Dundee comes with adventure at every turn, and we want to share our favorite aspects of our local history.

Humble Beginnings to Huge Developments

West Dundee proved to be a natural eden for development, with the Fox River providing the perfect barrier for the town’s eastern side. The foliage and vegetation of the area would prove to be beneficial as well. In 1855, William Hill founded the D. Hill Nursery, which specialized in fruit trees. 

Eventually, the nursery expanded to evergreen tree production, some of which were sent to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893! The Exposition was the first world’s fair held in Chicago, and Congress awarded the city the privilege of hosting over major American cities like New York, Washington, D.C. and St. Louis, Missouri. The millions of visitors who had traveled from around the world left the Exposition with a brand new view of the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois, gaining new ideas in progress, commerce and technology. 

After expanding to over 900 acres, the D. Hill Nursery was able to survive the Great Depression by establishing a cattle feed operation. After World War II, the nursery sold a segment of the land to become the Highlands subdivision, Royal Lane, and the Old World Subdivision. A portion of the land was also developed into the Spring Hill Mall, beginning in 1973 and finishing in 1980.

West Dundee’s Underground Railroad Legacy 

While West Dundee historians have split opinions on the area’s involvement within the Underground Railroad, credible evidence shows that many historic homes and famous townspeople might have played crucial roles. 

Historian Gloria Urch insisted that the Fox River corridor was known as one of the main lines for escaping slaves and has done research regarding several tunnels, homes, and local inns and rest stops that served as hiding places. For example, a letter written by Caroline Quarrle, a woman who made her way to freedom in Canada through the Underground Railroad, wrote of a stagecoach rest stop in Dundee. Quarrle was helped financially by Alan Pinkerton, a West Dundee native who later became the head of the Union Army’s spy corps. 

The Quarrle escape has other ties to the Fox River area: the stagecoach rest stop, located at current Main and Sixth Streets, was called the Dundee House Hotel. A former owner of the stagecoach rest stop served as a foreman of Alan Pinkerton’s barrel-making shop. 

Many historians have disagreed with the details of Quarrle’s story, saying simply that after the abolishment of slavery, many locals were quick to claim that their homes were notable stops on the underground railroad, perhaps as a way to romanticize the town’s actual involvement. 

An Art Empire

In the 1970s and ‘80s, if you owned any glazed, art-deco-style pottery, it might have been inspired by Haeger Pottery which was founded in West Dundee in 1871. Haeger was first established as a brick manufacturing plant but transitioned into creating artful works of pottery in the 1910s.

The “Royal Haeger” period, in which the company began creating pottery with a signature high-gloss finish, began in the 1930s but would continue to bring the company fame for decades to come! The most sought-after aspects of Haeger potteries are the labels, proving that each piece was truly a Haeger original – each label made before 1939 has “Dundee, Ill” written on it!

When you choose senior living in West Dundee, Illinois, you not only become a part of the town’s rich community and fascinating history, you become a part of The Woodlands at Canterfield’s incredible community. Our luxury senior living community is redefining senior living through enrichment and dedication to wellness. To learn more about active senior living in West Dundee, Illinois, visit our website today!

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