Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
91 Cora Ave., Fox Lake
This historic building on the shores of Fox Lake was built in 1884 by four Chicago Board of Trade members as an elite private club, when the Chain O’ Lakes was a popular getaway for the Windy City’s wealthy.
It was converted in 1891 to a public hotel that had hot and cold running water, lakefront access and many modern amenities for its time. The 225-foot, four-story structure still has its original 100 hotel rooms, a full bar, a ballroom, beautiful woodwork, hardwood floors and marble fireplaces, all on 10 acres that include a full-service marina.
By the turn of the century, the area was known for gambling and drinking, and during Prohibition, the Mineola was reputed to be a hangout for Al Capone and other Chicago mobsters.
Since 1943, the property has been owned by the Jakstas family, who operated the hotel, dining room, bar and marina until the 1960s, when a decline in tourism made owners Peter and Emma Jakstas consider razing the structure. Dissuaded by son Peter, now the current owner, they instead closed off the hotel and continued to run the first-floor bar and dining room and second-floor ballroom banquet facility. The structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Jakstas is still working to save the Mineola from the wrecking ball, including a recent attempt by Village officials to have it condemned. Attempts to sell the property have fallen through.
A grassroots effort is now underway to save “The Lady of the Lakes.” Local residents have formed The Mineola Preservation Project, working to raise funds to maintain the building until it can be restored. In 2013, Landmarks Illinois named the Mineola one of the top 10 endangered historic places in the state.
Star Worlds Arcade
1234 E. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, (815) 787-4599, starworldsarcade.com
Those of us in high school or college during the 1980s most likely passed many happy hours at the local arcade, trying to rescue the Princess in Donkey Kong or reach the next level on Ms. Pac-Man.
Owner Patrick O’Malley – aka “Pac-Man Pat” – has actually made his living at it. The business grew out of his teenage hobby of collecting video games, and when the collection outgrew his parents’ home, they opened an arcade. The business has been around for almost three decades, but O’Malley has been at his second location on the city’s main drag for nine years.
Visitors will find retro video games like Q*bert, Zaxxon, Galaga and Pole Position; classic pinball machines such as Hook, Black Hole and Haunted House; and even some newer video and pinball games. Titles can come and go, however, because O’Malley leases games to a variety of businesses in Illinois and Wisconsin. O’Malley says he has such a large collection that customers can count on seeing something new whenever they visit. Quarters are no longer standard for arcades. Instead, you can purchase 30 tokens for $5.
In 2011, Star Worlds Arcade was placed on the International Register of Historic Video Game Arcades by Twin Galaxies, an American organization that catalogues high scores on video games worldwide and has been the official source of video game world records for Guinness World Records since 2008.
Hours: Tues.-Thu. 3-10 p.m., Fri. 3-11 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. noon-8 p.m.
Pure Oil Building/Geneva Bank & Trust
514 W. State St., Geneva
The Pure Oil Co. started as the Ohio Cities Gas Co. in 1914, changed its name to Pure Oil in 1920 and moved its headquarters to Chicago in 1926. To distinguish themselves from other oil companies, Pure built hundreds of gas and service stations across the country in the English Cottage architectural style, with white brick and a blue roof and trim.
By mid-century, with annual sales in excess of $700 million, it ranked among the largest industrial corporations in the U.S. It was purchased in 1965 by Union Oil Company of California (Unocal), and the stations were renamed Union 76.
Now owned by Geneva Bank & Trust, this building was slated for demolition early in 2012, to make way for a drive-through bank facility and parking, but a grassroots effort saved the historic landmark. The bank, assisted by Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley (PPFV), Landmarks Illinois and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, was able to repurpose the building to use as a drive-through teller area.
In 2012, PPFV won an advocacy award from Landmarks Illinois, for its successful campaign to preserve the 1937 Pure Oil Station in Geneva.
According to the PPFV petition, this building along the historic Lincoln Highway is one of only a few remaining Pure Oil locations in the country, and is in the most original condition among the seven in Illinois. The bank has now listed the property on the National Register of Historic Places. On display inside is an original Pure Oil gas pump and the round ceramic Pure Oil sign on which the drive-through bank sign is modeled.