Gurnee is a village in Lake County, Illinois, United States. The population was 31,295 at the 2010 census. The village borders the city of Waukegan and is considered a part of the Chicago metropolitan area. Gurnee is perhaps best known for being the location of Six Flags Great America, a major regional theme park, and Gurnee Mills mall, together drawing in over 26 Million visitors annually.
Early settlers in the Gurnee area came by foot horseback and by "Prairie Schooners" drawn by oxen or via the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes. They came from the town of Warren, New York, which was named in honor of Major General Joseph Warren, killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Warren Township, formed in 1850, was also named after him. The first settlement of Warren Township commenced in 1835 in the vicinity of the Aux Plaines River (now the Des Plaines River).
In 1835-36, a land company from New York State erected a Community House (site of the old Gurnee Grade School) to accommodate families while they were locating and getting government land grants to their farms. Near the Community House there was a ford used by the Potowatomi Indians for crossing the river. A floating log bridge was built there in about 1842. Later a stationary wooden bridge was constructed, and still later an iron bridge was erected.
With the erection of a permanent bridge, roads were established and this area became the hub of the township. It was at this junction that the Milwaukee Road crossed the river from west to east and then continued in a northeasterly direction to eventually join Chicago to Milwaukee. This road was "laid out" in 1836 by three early settlers, Thomas McClure, Mark Noble, and Richard Steele. The east-west road, now known as Grand Avenue, was a main route from McHenry County to the port of Waukegan. Stage coaches ran on this route as late as 1870.
Just east of the bridge, at the junction of Milwaukee Road and Grand Avenue, was the Mutaw Tavern, earlier known as "Marm Rudd's Tavern" and more recently as the Mother Rudd House. This was a stage coach stop between Chicago and Milwaukee and was a stopover for farmers from the west traveling to Little Fort (now known as Waukegan) to barter their crops for supplies and to ship out from the ports. It also served as a stop during the underground railroad. This building was acquired by the Village of Gurnee in 1984, has been restored, and now houses the Warren Township Historical Society.
In May 2004, Gurnee received major rainfall, causing the worst flooding in 100 years. The flood forced several schools to close and caused building damage to dozens of homes and businesses.