• Blarney Island history goes back over 100 years

1901 ground is broken

It all started back in 1901, before the Dam was built in Mchenry and Grass Lake was nothing more than a swamp. It attracted some hunters, but when the water was high the lake was known for it's Lotus flower blooms. A bar/viewing area was built called Rohemia, also known as "Shorty's Place" because of then owner Shorty Shobin.

The Dam gets Built in 1908

1908 the Fox River has a damn built, and Rohemia is now on a peninsula jutting out into Grass Lake. It is an even better platform for viewing of the lotus beds, and visitors start to flock. This is when Jack O'Connor brought a houseboat name "Blarney Island" to the Lakes and decided to capitalize on the tourists visiting the lotus beds. Making him Shorty's top competition. The long standing feud came to a head one night over a high stakes game of poker. In the last hand Shorty and Jack wagered their businesses and Shorty came up, well... short. Folklore has it that Shorty, having lost his business, left the poker table and took his life in the backroom of the bar. Others say he slipped out the back door never to be seen again.

Blarney moves to it's current location

One night not long after Shorty's death/disappearance, Jack O'Connor's house boat burned down under what people called strange circumstances. This forced Jack O'Connor to move the "Blarney Island" operation over to Shorty's place. That is the first time the current location was called Blarney Island.

Business is Booming... or Blooming

Jack O'Connor continued to run the business into the 30's when he sold to Jack Pigensor. In 1939 William Stratton Dam was built and the peninsula "Blarney Island" was on actually became an island! Pigensor owned the Island into the 50's when it was bought out by Ed Walters.

The Ice causes a Rebuild

The spring thaw in 1952 did significant damage to the existing building. Instead of pulling out, they rebuilt and expanded. This is what became known as the "lower bar" and remained standing for over 60 years. It was well known for having ladies undergarments and other various random items attached to the ceiling over the years.

The Haley's move in, 1971

The Haley family began the process of expanding the business to accommodate more people and more activities. To make the Island more successful, the Haley's started a shuttle service to and from shore in 1972. In 1975 "Nancy K. and the Associates" became the first band to ever play at Blarney Island. Then another tradition was born in 1978 when Blarney Island held it's very first Boat Races. Over the years that the family owned the business, many members have held the role of General Manager/Owner. In 1988, one of the younger brothers, John Haley, bought out his remaining family members.

2003 to Present

In 2003, John Haley and close friend/business partner Rob Hardman formed Blarney Enterprises, LLC, to bring in investors to help the expanding business. Through this the enterprise has expanded the Island into one of the largest draws in Northern Illinois. Although John has since sold out and moved out of state, he is still a major part of the culture at Blarney Island. Rob expanded the business further with a major remodel from 2014 through 2016 and the entertainment venue has never been better. All this with the promise to keep the history and the legend of the Island alive for generations to come!