"A two-hour tour ..."
Two pontoon boats full of history buffs left Famous Freddie's Roadhouse at 1 p.m. Sept. 10 for a two-hour, sun-bathed trip – from the Manning Hotel where the remnants of George "Bugs" Moran's gang were killed following the St. Valentine's Massacre in Chicago, to estates of the rich and famous. The latter included the George Sayer/Billy Skidmore mansion and boathouse.
But Pistakee Lake was more than an secluded enclave for the well-heeled. As late as 1949, a family with a very modest summer cottage or fishing shack could hop the train from Chicago and back for $2.60; putting Pistakee Bay within reach for virtually anyone. Among the attractions were the famed lotus beds, pockets of which still remain in the Chain. The blooming period occurs during mid- to late summer for about six weeks. Through the 1930s one could see vast carpets of yellow, white and pink blossoms. Trainloads of resorters came to McHenry in order view this phenomenon and to relax and enjoy life at a number of resort hotels and cottages.
Special thanks to narrator Craig Pfannkuche, the folks at Ala Carte Entertainment who worked to secure and wire the necessary sound equipment and to those who went on this maiden voyage, often sharing their knowledge of the chain with their fellow passengers and historical society staff.