1,645 acres | 1 Mile of Trail
Building Open Weekdays
8 a.m.– 4:30 p.m.
Site Open Daily
Sunrise to Sunset
GPS Entrance Coordinates:
N42°21.491; W88°33.354; WGS84
N42°21.332; W88°33.020; WGS84
Paulsen Road parking lot
Closes on first significant snowfall ~ Reopens April 2
Tip: Use our interactive map to locate the site within the county.
Brookdale - Located in the northwestern quadrant of the county, Brookdale offers a serene getaway from daily life. Visitors can enjoy a 1 mile mowed grass trail loop that transverses one side of the 11 acre pond, past a wildlife observation deck overlooking the water and up through a former pine plantation. A picnic shelter and restroom are available on the east side of the pond/Paulson Road entrance, as well as a 1/4 mile paved trail that leads to a handicap accessible fishing pier and small dam where the pond spills into the north branch of the Kishwaukee River.
Picnicking: A reservable picnic shelter with grill is available for up to 80 guests or can be used for free for casual day use individuals and groups less than 15.
Cross Country Ski: Due to the steep incline/decline the 1 mile looped trail is considered an advanced cross country ski trail and is not groomed.
The community of Brookdale was settled along the banks of the Kishwaukee River in the late 1830's by John Quinlan, who was born in County Cork, Ireland. By 1840, Wesley Diggins had built a dam across the Kishwaukee River, which flows through the property, and constructed a sawmill to log the area's abundant timber. During the 1840s the Brookdale Area was said to have nine saloons and not many more houses, and commonly referred to as “Hell’s Half Acre” because "the whiskey and temperaments of Irish settlers and area lumberjacks caused frequent explosions."
The Village of Brookdale was established on February 9, 1848 with the plan to have the Illinois and Wisconsin Railroad Company extend its tracks from Cary, through Brookdale and Chemung, to Janesville, Wisconsin. A disagreement with the railroad company caused the owners to bypass Brookdale. (One account states the argument was between a survey engineer from the railroad and an employee of the S.S. Parker hotel in Chemung over the price of cigars.) On February 15, 1856, only eight years after it was founded, the village was formally abandoned.
One of Brookdale’s earliest buildings served as a combination town hall, tavern and stage stop, which years later would provide the cornerstone for the Willows building. In 1935, Elmer and Helen Pellegrin purchased the property and constructed a home and studio around the original stage stop waiting room of the town hall. The Pelligrins used the black oak timbers from the old mill to construct their brick cottage and the field stone foundations from the town hall building and tavern to create three fireplaces to warm their cozy home circa 1936 – which exists today as the Brookdale Administrative Offices. The Pellegrins' son, George, and his wife constructed a home nearby, now known as the Birches.
Subsequently, the Aaron and Sylvia Scheinfeld Foundation took ownership of the property and opened a center “dedicated to a program for the creative solutions of social problems,” known as the Woodstock Center. In 1987, the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Foundation received the Woodstock Center through a gift agreement with the Scheinfeld Foundation.
McHenry County Conservation District purchased the property in 1998 from the NIU Foundation with grant assistance from the Scheinfeld Foundation. In November of 2000, the District moved its headquarters to the Woodstock site and restored the name “Brookdale” to reflect its storied history.