Lake County, Illinois is located on the shores of Lake Michigan between Chicago and Wisconsin. It is home to more than 700,000 residents, some of whom live in highly developed urban centers while others live in beautiful rural communities.
The county, which was primarily unsettled prairie and was still home to its native Potawatomie Indians, was created by the Illinois State Legislature in 1839. Lake County's first permanent settler, Captain Daniel Wright, first came to the area in 1834. At that time, Libertyville, then known as Independence Grove, was the first county seat. In 1841, the county's residents voted to move the county government to Little Fort, now known as Waukegan, where the commissioners had purchased a section of land from the state. Lake County's first courthouse was built on part of that land in 1844 and the remainder was sold to pay for the $4,000 construction cost.
The county's first courthouse was used solely for court sessions and the jail, but in 1853, commissioners constructed a building to accommodate county administration offices and house records. When fire decimated the courthouse on October 19, 1875, the county records were saved because they were in the adjacent building.
After the fire, proposals were made to move the county seat to Highland Park, Libertyville or another site in central Lake County. The county commissioners, however, decided to rebuild in Waukegan. The east half of the building was reconstructed at a cost of $45,000. In 1895, the first jail building was added to the government complex and a west addition was added to the courthouse in 1922. By 1938, county commissioners saw a need for additional space and approved the addition of a 5th Floor. This courthouse was demolished in 1967 to make room for a new high-rise administration building. The new complex included a new jail in 1969 and new courts in 1970.
Shortly thereafter, the Lake County Board commissioned the construction of a multi-faceted justice facility and ground was broken in 1986 for the Robert H. Babcox Justice Center, named in memory of Sheriff Babcox, who served as Lake County Sheriff from 1982-1988. The Babcox Justice Center, which houses the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Lake County Adult Correctional Facility, Community Based Corrections Center and three courtrooms, was completed in 1986 at a cost of $29.6 million.
Additional county government facilities have been built or expanded throughout Lake County, including the Coroner's Office, Health Department/Community Health Center facilities, Division of Transportation, Public Works and Winchester House. Lake County government services extend throughout the county's 470 square miles.
Lake County, Illinois is a montage, with progressive urban areas, as well as picturesque rural communities. Along Lake Michigan's beautiful lake front, which forms the county's eastern border, up to the Wisconsin border in the north and out to the chain-of-lakes in the west, the county's residents have diverse backgrounds and lifestyles.
Lake County government is also a mosaic, which allows it to provide the best possible services to these diverse residents. From addressing traffic congestion and balancing growth to providing elderly care and promoting healthy and safe communities, every Lake County employee specializes in providing customer service to the residents of Lake County. The county's departments and elected officials work daily to increase the quality, timeliness and cost effectiveness of the programs they provide.