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McHenry County Rural Structures Surveys

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About Rural Structures Surveys Generally

Identifying and documenting historic resources must be a high priority when developing an effective historic preservation program. Surveys are undertaken to identify and gather information on prehistoric and historic properties such as buildings, archaeological sites, landscapes, structures, and historic districts. The purpose of a survey is to make well-informed decisions about the relative importance and future preservation of historic resources.

Barn & Silo imageDecisions regarding the future preservation of historic properties in communities are dependent on an in-depth understanding of the historical development of the community. A planning study of a particular resource or related resources (i.e. landscape parks, archaeological mounds,* railroad-related buildings, ethnic housing, etc.) will result in a thorough knowledge of the resources and an assessment of their relative importance in the community as a whole. Thematic studies are useful for threatened properties, resources that are not well understood by the public, and for common resources where evaluation is difficult.

A Rural Intensive Survey is a close and careful look at the geographical area or theme being surveyed, designed to identify precisely all historic resources. It involves a thorough inspection and documentation of all historic properties in the field that are more than 45 years old. Each resource should be inventoried, described, photographed, dated, physical changes noted, historical information given, and evaluated for possible listing on the National Register of Historic Places. All grant-funded survey projects must be conducted by a qualified professional architectural historian, historian, historical archaeologist, or an architect who meets the federal Professional Qualifications Standards issued by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Survey grant-funded programs are based upon the federal Historic Preservation Act of 1966.


Rural Structures Surveys in McHenry County

The State of Illinois conducted Landmarks Survey programs across the state for towns with a population over 500 (1971-1975). First, an Interim Inventory of Historic Structures in McHenry County was published in 1972 by the Illinois Historic Structures Survey. Second, an Interim Inventory of Historic Landmarks in McHenry County was published in 1974 by the Illinois Historic Landmarks Survey. These early surveys identified several historically significant sites — 120 buildings in 1972 and 48 buildings and 14 other sites in 1974. Most buildings were located in municipalities, while many were also found in unincorporated parts of the county.

The Illinois Rural Survey program followed thereafter beginning in the late 1970s to evaluate historic resources for unincorporated areas of individual counties. (Municipalities, on the other hand, conduct landmark surveys within their boundaries.) The McHenry County Rural Survey was conducted in 1986-1987 by the County under an Illinois Historic Preservation Agency grant program, supported with federal funding. During this so-called "windshield" survey 4,867 sites were documented, using standard rural typologies as a guide.  

A few years later, the County Board established the Historic Preservation Study Committee in May of 1990 at the request of the County Planning Commission. The Study Committee's recommendations led to the adoption of the McHenry County Historic Preservation Ordinance and established the Historic Preservation Commission the following year. Over the period between 1991 and 1993 the Historic Preservation Survey and Research Committee toured the county in order to develop a list of potential landmarks. Some thirty properties were identified, some of which were later designated local historic landmarks by County ordinances. The first landmark was designated in 1993.

Following and building upon the 1986-1987 Rural Survey, the County launched into grant-funded Rural Intensive Surveys, taking a closer look at the county's historic resources and at the changes occurring to them and to their surroundings. The first Rural Intensive Survey took place 1989-1999 in four fast-growing southeastern townships (Algonquin, Grafton, McHenry, and Nunda) and was known as Phase I. Phase II followed in 2002-2003 when five more townships were completed (Burton, Coral, Dorr, Greenwood, and Richmond). Due to lack of funds and adequate personnel, no further surveys got off the ground for a decade, when authorization for the third phase was approved in 2013. This survey covered the remaining eight townships in the north/western portions of the county in 2014-2015 (Alden, Chemung, Dunham, Hartland, Hebron, Marengo, Riley, and Seneca).

Future survey work will include updates to the previous surveys and addressing recommendations contained in the survey reports. The County maintains the field data sheets for individual sites for reference purposes. The capstone reports and summaries are presented below in PDF-format documents.


Note: Some documents were not available in an electronic format when this page was created or updated. Additional documents will be added as they become available.

 Unless otherwise noted, all the following documents are in PDF format.

2014-2015 Rural Intensive Survey


2002-2003 Rural Intensive Survey


1998-1999 Rural Intensive Survey

1986-1987 Rural Structures Survey

     1983 County Landmark Survey


    1972 and 1974 Historic Structures and Landmarks Surveys


     * Note: The first comprehensive Archaeological Survey of McHenry County was made during 1973 and 1974 by the Foundation for Illinois Archaeology (later became the Center for American Archaeology). It was prepared for the McHenry County Conservation District (www.mccdistrict.org) and has gone through several updates since the original one.  

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