After the Potawatomi left this area in the 1830s, most of it was grazed and farmed. Early landowners include Elijah Stanford, Charles Hawkins, and Otto Lehmann. Stanford and Hawkins were both born in New York in 1832. Stanford came to Fox Lake with his parents at the age of 12, left for the California Gold Rush with his wife at the age of 18, moved to Nevada when 32 and returned here to farm this land at age 38.
Hawkins moved here as a 13-year-old and stayed until he was 29, when the Civil War broke out. He joined the infantry and fought in several battles, receiving a bullet wound in his hand. After the war, he returned to his farm here and became a school director.
Otto Lehmann, son of E.J. Lehmann (founder of Chicago’s Fair Department Store and responsible for bringing the railroad to Lake Villa), also owned property in what is now Grant Woods. He and his family helped the area’s economy, employing local residents as horse trainers, carpenters, and grounds keepers on their large estates, including the historic Lehmann Mansion, which is located adjacent to Sun Lake Forest Preserve in Lake Villa.
The Natural Scene
There is a lot of variety in this gently rolling landscape of woodlands, prairie and marsh. One area, designated as a protected Illinois Nature Preserve, was never farmed and thus is rich in rare native plants. It even supports a tamarack bog, a rarity in this region. Bluebirds fill the nest boxes dotting the property, springtime ponds fill to the brim with noisy frogs, summer prairie grasses tower over visitors, and year-round glimpses of deer, hawks and other wildlife abound.
Lake County’s only known stand of wild Kentucky coffee trees grows here. Since their large shiny seeds were used in Native American games and trade, the trees’ presence indicates the possibility that indigenous people frequented this site and perhaps even had a village here.
The south entrance is on Monaville Road between Route 59 and Fairfield Road, in Ingleside. Here you'll find a picnic shelter, pond for fishing, trails and toilets.
The north entrance is on Grand Avenue (Route 132) between Route 59 and Fairfield Road, in Lake Villa. Here you'll find trails and toilets.
A separate parking lot on Cedar Lake Road just south of Grand Avenue provides access to a 1-mile grass trail in the far northeastern section of the preserve. The trail extends to Fairfield Road, across from Lake Villa Township's Caboose Park.
The canoe launch parking area is located between Rollins Road and Lakeshore Drive just west of Fairfield Road, in Ingleside. Trail access to the southern section of Grant Woods, and a connection to the Chain O'Lakes Bike Path is also available from this lot.