Friday, November 1, 2019

The History of the Milk Pail Restaurant, Country Tea Room, and Country Stores that were located in unincorporated Dundee Township, Kane County, Illinois.

The Milk Pail, formerly the Country Tea Room, and its grounds are steeped in history. 
The northern Fox River Valley was first settled in the 1830s. Originally profiting from its natural resources, the region eventually expanded into manufacturing, earning connections to the Chicago and North Western Railroad in Carpentersville. Increase C. Bosworth, a wealthy businessman from Chicago, settled in the area in 1837. He purchased a 136-acre property from Mr. Clark in 1860. He constructed a farm by the 1860s that featured a farmhouse, windmill, and creamery. The house was in the gable-front style with Italianate details.
Illinois State Route 25 was to be built in the early 20th century to serve the east side of the Fox River, running from Oswego to Algonquin.

"Pepper" the Ostrich
Bosworth's residence was located on grounds adjacent to the planned highway. Seeing an opportunity for development, Max McGraw, who later formed the Toastmaster Co. and the McGraw Edison Co., purchased the property in 1926. McGraw was beginning to accrue tremendous wealth in manufacturing due to the success of his Toastmasters products.

Not to be confused with the Milk Pail Grocery Store (with Wally's Deli inside) in Lincolnwood, Illinois.

He added a single-story extension later that year. Route 25 was opened in 1929, and the Country Tea Room flourished like many roadside restaurants in its day. The road was an important shipping route for dairy products and provided a route for tourists visiting Wisconsin to the north. Customers enjoyed toasting their bread with McGraw's invention, and some bought Toastmasters for their homes. 

When the restaurant opened, automobile travelers' dining options were limited to picnics or fancy hotels. Roadside restaurants filled travelers' need for other options in the 1920s and 1930s. McGraw also maintained the dairy operations of the farm until 1939.
By the end of the 1930s, roadside eateries were spread throughout most major highways. To stay competitive, restaurants needed to provide variety for their patrons to stand out from other establishments. The Country Tea Room initially struggled with this change. To meet the demands of travelers' changing tastes in the 1930s, the teahouse was converted into a full restaurant featuring a game from McGraw's nearby game preserve. Reinventing itself as the Milk Pail Restaurant, a full restaurant with unique entrees.
Part of the property was converted into the "Fin 'N Feather" catalog, which sold smoked game, some featured on the Milk Pail menu. McGraw bought the surrounding land, named it the McGraw Wildlife Foundation, and opened it as a private game preserve. 
The original building faces east, while the 1926 addition faces south. The barn, creamery, and stable that once served the farm still stand to the southwest, although they have been modified throughout their existence and do not contribute to the site's historical value. A parking lot lies to the main building's north and east. The two-story house is a small one-story addition built before the early 1900s. 
The Country Tea House extension 1926 was built on the west side of the house. The vernacular, wood panel house sits on a stone foundation. A chimney is found on the north side of the building. Windows on the east and south elevations feature wooden pediments, and those on the north do not. Asphalt shingles adorn the roof. 
I usually ordered the Ostrich Steak with a double-baked potato. 
The businesses and the restaurant closed in 1996. The main building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 25, 1999.


  1. We didn't go out to eat much as a family, but going to the Milk Pail was always a special treat. Thanks for the memories!

  2. When visiting my Grandparents back in the 60's, they always took us to Milk Pail to have lunch or dinner. I was wondering if anyone who sees this if there is a recipe book out of old recipes from the past. Inpaticular the square ginger cookis. They were the best.

    1. I have the recipe for the Milk Pail’s Summer Salad made with lime jello, cottage cheese, and whipped cream. They served this with melon balls.

  3. My favorite waitress was Sharon Mazurek, it seemed that her entire family worked there, Mom, Sisters,etc. Breakfast on Sunday's was the place to be. Best Amaretto Stone Sour drink ever, always served with a cinnamon stick. Could have still been thriving as a "Supper Club" with the right management.


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