AN EXAMINATION OF VOLKENING LAKE

“Is Volkening Lake a natural lake or is it man-made?”

This question was recently asked at the Reference Desk.  In checking the aerial photographs that were covered on a blog posting a few weeks ago, you can see it on this circa 1967 image.  Double click on the photo and locate the large black blob of Sarah’s Grove in the back, center of the photo.  Follow that a little to the left and down and you can see the Florida-like shape of Volkening Lake.

4956

The lake is in the middle of what was formerly the Volkening farm property.  You can make out the long lane that leads off of Schaumburg Road to the farmhouse and buildings.  This was the home of Fred and Carrie Volkening. They were brother and sister who were born in Kansas but, in 1903, moved with their parents and other siblings to Schaumburg Township.  Their parents, Henry and Emma, eventually purchased this farm near what is today the northwest corner of Schaumburg Road and Salem Drive.

After their parents’ death, Fred and Carrie continued living there until, “[Fred Volkening] in 1971 sold 159 acres of his farm to Campanelli Builders, leaving himself one acre at the corner of Schaumburg and Salem roads.”  (Daily Herald, undated)  They then built and lived in the custom ranch that is still on the northwest corner of Salem Drive and Schaumburg Road.  ‘The police station was (the location of) our home and barn,’ he said, as he pointed out the kitchen window.”  (Daily Herald, undated) 

Given the fact that the 1967 photo above shows not only the lake, but also the farm before development encroached on the north side of Schaumburg Road, it seemed safe to assume that the lake was always there.  To try and confirm this, I pulled out the topographical map from 1935.

Topographical map 1935You can see the intersection of Schaumburg and Roselle Roads, Sarah’s Grove to the west of it and, then, just where the “H” of “Schaumberg” is, a blue portion that indicates a low-lying, marshy area that looks to be the early formation of Volkening Lake.   But, it’s not a lake according to the map legend of topographical maps.  It’s simply a low area that is not easily drained.

I then turned to a series of aerial photos that belong to the library and started with 1949.  There was no lake.  Through the following years, in each of the photos, there was a big dark spot in the area that looked like the Volkenings were trying their best to grow crops despite the wetness of the soil.

I moved through to the 1960’s and, in 1963, could definitely make out low ground in that area in the shape of the state of Florida–just like Volkening Lake.  The photos then jump to 1970 and the lake is suddenly there.  The farm is still there too.  So, somewhere in the late 60’s-and towards the end of their farming days–the Volkenings stopped fighting Mother Nature and allowed water to fill in the area.

In addition, I found the following information in the Illinois Fishing and Floating Guide Book for Chicago Cook County in Northeastern Illinois:  “Volkening Lake is a large Schaumburg lake located off of Schaumburg Road next to the police station and it is the premier place to fish in Schaumburg.  This lake is between 10 and 12 acres in size and formed by damming up an unnamed tributary of the West Bank of the DuPage River…”

It is probable that the Volkenings used drain tile in this low area for years to maximize their farm land to the greatest extent possible.  By the time the Campanellis purchased the property it was probably fairly clear to them and village engineers that it wasn’t worth fighting drainage problems so they allowed the low area to be.

The area around the lake was eventually developed by Campanelli into Weathersfield Commons quad homes and the lake was named Weathersfield Lake.  You can see that name on this Village of Schaumburg map from 1979.

Village of Schaumburg map 1979

In 1980, Schaumburg Park District obtained $190,225 from the federally funded Land & Water Conservation Fund to help with the development of the lake.  The work was completed in 1985 and, somewhere along the line, the lake was renamed Volkening Lake.  It is used in a multitude of ways but the surrounding path has to be the most popular.  It’s almost impossible to drive by in any type of weather and not see someone walking or running around the lake!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

The aerial photo was used with the permission of  UTC Aerospace Systems.  

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2 Responses to “AN EXAMINATION OF VOLKENING LAKE”

  1. Fred Luft Says:

    My buddies and I would play hockey on the frozen “lake” on the SW corner of Salem and Schaumburg Rd circa 1969 in January when it was very, very cold and windy. We never tried to skate in the NW corner. Don’t remember why.

    • jrozek Says:

      Hello Fred,

      This is interesting first-hand data. It sounds like, by 1969, the lake had, indeed, been allowed to fill in and was large enough to support your hockey group. It is interesting that you say you avoided the northwest corner. Judging by other early village maps and by looking at that area with Google satellite, the stream that feeds the lake originates in the NW corner and curves into the deeper pool where you skated and where most of the activity is today.

      Thank you for your input!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

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