Since many clubhouses were isolated from reasonable roads, it was easier and faster to move goods and people by water. For example, in 1884 the original Mineola clubhouse was constructed with building materials transported via water.
Water transportation quickly grew into a thriving business by the late 1800s. On Nippersink Point the Stanley Boat Works and the Jacob Larson & Son Boat Company opened their shops as boat builders. These family-owned businesses made custom boats. In later years, these small operations were replaced by large boat manufacturers who mass-produced boats on a large scale.
A plank road from Waukegan to McHenry and the extension of the railroad tracks from Elgin to McHenry (1854) provided easy access for Chicagoans to the Chain. Once they were in McHenry, the visitors needed water transportation to their other shoreline destinations.
The steamboats were very popular early modes of transportation, not only because they could carry large loads, but because they could operate in very shallow water. These small double-decked paddle-wheelers were capable of making landings along the shorelines. Two of the larger steamboats, the Mary Griswold and the Athlete, supposedly had the capacity for more than 100 passengers as far back as 1876.
The water transportation business not only engaged in taxi service, but they were also able to provide excursion boat service to the public, bringing them up close to the famed Lotus beds.
In its prime (which lasted for decades), the unique floating carpets of American Lotus and water lily annually attracted thousands of visitors. It was that way in 1890, as well as in 1930. The impact on the business community was profound. Boat companies provided many local jobs. Lotus-related souvenirs, knick-knacks, perfumes and other products were sold by virtually all of the local businesses—resorts, drug stores, grocery stores, etc. It was definitely a tourist magnet. Today, the Fox Waterway Agency has set up marked buoys around these bedded plants to protect them and allow them to flourish again.
In 1899, railroad tracks were extended to the Washington Street/Rollins Road location (Ingleside). In 1900, the tracks were extended further to Nippersink Point, which did not immediately have an actual station. Train tickets were sold from a tool shed until a depot was built in 1901. It was called Nippersink Point.
In 1902, an open shelter platform named Pistakee Station was constructed by Oak Street by the Nippersink Lake shoreline. It was convenient for the riders to catch the water transportation to their resorts, clubs and cottages. This platform was named Pistakee Station, the Nippersink Point station name was changed to Fox Lake, and the Washington Street station name was changed from Fox Lake to Ingleside.
The new rail links to McHenry, Fox Lake and Lake Villa created a demand for more horse-drawn taxi/livery business. Many prominent names in Fox Lake’s history, such as the Stratton, Scott, Lehman and Sayles families, provided that service.
Because these rail connections were in the vicinity of the lakes, the unique ice harvesting business blossomed. During the late winter, the ice was harvested from the lakes and stored in huge local ice houses until it was shipped by train to Chicago. Some of the stored ice was also used locally during the summer. The Village of Fox Lake had three such ice house operations located near the shores of Fox Lake, Pistakee Lake and Duck Lake. This industry existed until the 1930s, but rapidly disappeared following the invention of artificial freezing equipment.
The railroads changed everything. It made it easier for visitors to come, which created many business opportunities near the railroad stations. The visitors needed goods and services. In a few short years the area transitioned from a hunting and fishing paradise to a more touristy resort community. The downtown business section of Fox Lake developed even before there was an incorporated Village.