THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Fifty-Nine

No. 1

Spring 2017


 

 

There are Voices of the Past, Links of a broken chain, Wings that can bear me back to Times Which
cannot come again; Yet God forbid that I should lose The echoes that remain!
–Adelaide Anne Proctor



PRESERVING THE PAST

 

The passenger station (depot) at Van Buren Street and Webster had been serving Batavia since 1855. The station
closed and Batavian’s speculated about the fate of the building since the Aurora Park District wanted it. In 1963
a group of 22 local businessmen and businesses quickly formed and each gave $50 to raise the money for the
purchase of the building. They then donated it to the Batavia Park District who had plans to house the history
of Batavia (in collaboration with the Historical Society) in a permanent building located by the “pond” in the
downtown district.


They now faced the task of moving the building from Van Buren and Webster to Houston and Water Streets.
The big day came on Wednesday, October 10, 1973 when, with foreman Fred Schroeder of the City’s Electrical
Department riding the roof, the Depot was moved to its new location. Many people took the day off work, and
teachers took their classes to Wilson Street so they could witness this historic event.


By the time the Depot Museum was dedicated in 1975, almost half the people in town had contributed to the
project through their dollars, artifacts, skills or other talents. Furnas Electric Company generously matched the
donations. 

 

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The Past


In 1960, the Batavia Historical Society was formed to discover, preserve and disseminate knowledge about the
history of Batavia Township, Kane County Illinois. The mission was to collect and preserve books, pamphlets,
papers, photographs, artifacts, and other historical objects that may be received by gift, grant, bequest, devise
or purchase of books, moneys, real estate and other property.
A real treasure for the city of Batavia, the Depot Museum was listed on the National Register of Historic Places
in 1979.


The Present


The Depot Museum, sits as the cornerstone of Batavia’s downtown Riverwalk, a place where the community
gathers for events and celebrations. The Museum is a cooperative effort between the Batavia Park District and
the Batavia Historical Society. Volunteers donate more than 1400 hours annually to help in the operation of the
museum. The Museum has over 4000 visitors every year including more than 400 third graders who come to the
museum while participating in the Batavia Report, a cooperative program between the Batavia Public Schools
and the Depot Museum.


The Project


Land for the addition to the Depot Museum has been acquired and the Batavia Park District has allocated funding
for site development and architectural drawings. The preliminary design was done by St. Charles architect, Mike
Dixon. The final design is being done by Bruce Dahlquist of DLA Architects, Ltd. in Itasca. The expansion will add
more than 5,000 square feet of space, split equally between two floors. The main floor will include the lobby, the
“Welcome to Batavia” reception area, gift shop, special exhibition space, restrooms and an elevator for access
to the lower level. The lower floor addition provides a curatorial workroom, collection storage, offices, a staff
restroom and space for mechanical requirements. The addition will be located on the north side of the present
Depot Museum and the north wall of the existing museum will be opened to allow a flow between the current
museum and the new addition. Because of the Depot Museum’s proximity to the bike path, the expansion will
include the Welcome Center that will showcase all that Batavia has to offer.


The Plan


The Batavia Historical Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, plans to raise $2.0 million to fund the expansion
of the Depot Museum. Through the efforts of its dedicated volunteers, the Batavia Historical Society plans to
raise the funds through corporate gifts, grants from foundations, personal donations, local businesses, civic
organizations, and other fund-raising activities.

 

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BUILDING THE FUTURE

 

The Promotion


“Preserving the Past-Building the Future” is the theme of the fundraising campaign. It was announced to the
media in January 2017 with a feature scheduled for the January/February issue of the Neighbors of Batavia
magazine. A media campaign also began in January with promotion to newspapers, radio and BATV. A social
media campaign is also planned.


A public Kick-off was held at the Batavia Public Library in March. Throughout 2017, fundraisers will be held
beginning with “Antiques on Main”, a garage sale held at the King house in conjunction with the city-wide garage
sale. An antiques appraisal fair is also being planned. Collection boxes will be placed at Batavia businesses to
gather money for the project. There will also be a Depot Days Sticker Event in the summer. People who donate
will get a train engine sticker that says, “On track with the Depot.” A train themed sign in front of the Depot
Museum will track donations until the $2.0 million goal is achieved. The Capital Campaign Committee is also
considering naming rights, from the bricks outside the depot to individual display areas within the museum.


The Projections

 

More than 4,000 people visit the Batavia Depot Museum annually. That number increases each year as more
and more visitors come to Batavia and more events take place at the Riverwalk and bring people downtown.
Incorporation of the Welcome Center into the Museum and expansion of the display spaces are expected to
significantly increase number of visitors each year.


With a 41 year history, the Batavia Depot Museum is the oldest city museum in the tri-cities
area. According to projections, this addition should be able to provide the community with a
museum that will be able to serve the community for many years to come.

 

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The Batavia Historical Society is planning an antiques and vintage items sale to be held at the home of Sammi
and Gary King, 1117 Main Street, Batavia, during the citywide garage sale in May. Please consider donating
old costume jewelry, records (LP’s and 45’s), small furniture items, Americana collectibles, retro toys in good
condition, antique dishware, seasonal items, etc. No clothing.


Now is the time to go through your home and see what you might have that would sell well. All proceeds to
benefit the Depot Expansion project.


We will also need volunteers to set up the sale and work a few hours that weekend on Friday and Saturday. Do
you have access to a pick-up truck in case someone needs something to be picked up?

To volunteer or donate: Email Carla Hill at carlah@hilltek.com or Sammi King at king6051@aol.com


Gone But Not Forgotten
Reprinted from the Batavia Historian 1988

 

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1908 PHOTO


Photo shows the east side of Batavia Avenue between First and Main Street in 1908.
Identification of businesses in photo (left to right):
Use Unknown. Previously had been a saloon and became the Andrew Matson saloon in 1910. However, in 1908-
09 Batavia was voted “dry”.
John Larson’s Shoe Store. Walter Johnson recalls how narrow it was – a person could barely get through! Mr.
Larson also did shoe repairs.
Sing Lee’s Laundry.
Korte & Opperman Garage on street level. Upstairs was the Norden Soner Hall and the Bricklayers’ Hall. The
garage was operated later by a Mr. Null, a Mr. Foster and Mr. Anderson, Bob Guy, Ray Johnson, and Larry Favoright.
Charles Pomp’s Blacksmith Shop.
Artlip & Gilliksen’s Livery. A few years later it changed to Wheelock & Sons Avenue Livery.
Knights of Pythias Building with the meeting hall upstairs. In the same building were Henry Tincknell, tailor; and
the Exchange (a second-hand store) operated by Albert Davis. The basement may have had Schneider’s bowling
alley as it was located there a few years later.
Henry Wenberg’s home and his Batavia Greenhouse Company.

 

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2016 PHOTO


This is a photo of that same block today – more than a century later. The landscape has changed dramatically,
but perhaps this article has sparked a memory or two for some of our members.

 


 

Museum News
By Chris Winter
 

Spring is just around the corner and the Depot Museum will open to the public beginning March 6. Stop by to
see the new exhibit “A Century of Batavia Business” featuring artifacts & photos of downtown Batavia businesses
from 1870-1970. We also have added a few new items to the museum gift shop.


The museum is always in need of volunteers to act as docents, assist with research, or help with special events.
If you love history and would like to become a part of our volunteer community, we would be happy to talk with
you and provide training in your area of interest. The time commitment is only 2 hours per month and your
efforts benefit the museum and the community greatly! For more information, please contact Chris Winter at
630-406-5274 or chrisw@bataviaparks.org.

 

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Research Center


Did you know that the Gustafson Research Center at the Batavia Depot Museum is visited by hundreds of
researchers every year? It’s a great place to learn about Batavia history, research your home, spend hours
updating your family genealogy, or browsing through our photo collections.


Some of the resources available at the research center are:
Biographical Files and Family Genealogies, Scrapbooks, Obituaries, Batavia City Directories, Kane County
Probate Records 1860-1960, Photographs, and Maps. Our library has books relating to the history of windmill
manufacturing, Lincoln, Civil War, local railroads, Kane County and the State of Illinois. Many of our research
indexes can be found at www.BataviaHistory.org.


Research Assistants are available to help you on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 2-4 p.m. or by appointment.
For more information contact the museum at 630-406-5274 or chrisw@bataviaparks.org.

 


 

I WORKED AS A “JERK” IN BATAVIA
By Denese Clark Leaderbrand
 

My wonderful and exciting work experience in Batavia started when I was just sixteen. I was hired by Mr.
Bigelow to work part-time in his drugstore. It wasn’t long before Mr. Bigelow sold the store to Mr. Lindeman, so
I became a clerk and soda jerk at Lindeman’s Pharmacy. Mr. Lindeman was a jewel of a boss. He taught me so
much, and every time I had time off from school, I’d work for him. This amounted to two years in high school and
summers during the four years when I was attending Illinois State Normal University. Mr. Lindeman eventually
sold the drugstore to Mr. Remsnyder.


The experience was especially good because of the many people who frequented the drugstore. I made lunch
for some and ice cream snacks of all kinds for others. There were no fast-food restaurants in Batavia at that time,
so we had lots of noon business. There were lawyers and doctors who had offices upstairs, so it was convenient
to just slip downstairs for a break. People from the post office, the Body Company across the street, and many
others were frequent visitors. I learned from all of them. Tony Donat was one of these special friends. He
became my mother’s lawyer and did my dad’s will. Dr’s. Shirer, West, Baxter, and the others came down, too,
but they were very busy and didn’t have much time to spend with us. My work companions were Rosemary
Dibenardo, Jean McDonald, and a couple of older women, Betty and Jean Hansford who were sisters-in-law.
(They were also good teachers!)

 

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In my college days, I would come back home to Batavia every summer and work at Lindeman’s. By the time
my six years (1952 – 57) were up, I had a well-rounded education. My four years in college were just a start. I
learned so much more from my part-time employment!


Denese Clark Leadabrand


 

Nancy Gill: Bellevue Place in Batavia once had an underground tunnel that led down to other homes on Rt. 31
and to the river, where slaves could run for freedom. I worked there as a nurse’s aide and in the kitchen setting
up trays of food to send up to the 1st floor for the patients and staff. In 1959, there were only patients on the first
floor. We took washed laundry to the second floor to hang on clotheslines to dry. When on break from kitchen
duty, I’d snoop around in the other rooms in the basement. I found where the tunnel was, but it was sealed off
with bricks and concrete. There was also furniture and trunks of old clothes, presumably from former patients.
Working there was an experience. There were quite a few teens who worked there, so we had a lot of fun. We
delivered meals to the patients, some we had to feed. We helped bath them on Saturday mornings and get them
dressed for the day. We changed the bedding. In the evenings, we brought their dinner trays, helped them
change for bed, and gathered their false teeth and cleaned them. Some patients were mean, but most were
docile and friendly.

 

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Bill Skea, BHS Class of 1960: I have certainly enjoyed receiving and reading the Batavia Historian. While just
recently reading my latest edition, I thought about the Peterson brothers, Harold and Bob. Here’s the reason.
As a young boy, I lived at 23 South Mallory Ave. Across the street from my house was a small manufacturing
building and a large open field owned by the Peterson’s. That open space was a boy’s dream. As I grew up, there
were six to ten boys who played football and baseball on that lot. A neighbor, who I believe was Mr. Traxel, was
the best — he came and pitched to us for what seemed two to three hours at a time. This helped us all improve
our batting and fielding. It also proved to be a great introduction to team sports which prepared us for school
athletics.


We played a lot of softball and baseball over the years as well as football. …And we broke numerous windows
during that time but Harold and Bob never asked us to pay for or replace a broken window. I am convinced that
being allowed to play on the Peterson field, as I did, made a significant difference in my life.

 


 

Remembering and Paying Tribute to the 1950s High School Band and Orchestra
By Bill Buchanan, BHS Class of 1956
 

I have many fond memories of growing up in Batavia, such as swimming in the quarry during the hot humid days
of summer, and as a much younger child, walking down all the limestone steps leading to the quarry with my
Grandma Wolcott.


One particularly memorable and rewarding experience was my four years of high school participating in band
and orchestra. During that time, I played in the percussion section and remember how long and hard the
orchestra rehearsed under the direction of Mr. Peebles. He always wanted us to strive for excellence! The
orchestra took first place at the state contest for five straight previous years. Several of us in the orchestra also
participated in the Fox Valley Music Festival held in Elgin on April 30, 1956. We had plenty of fun going to these
events in addition to increasing our musical knowledge, appreciation, and skills.


Batavia, as a relatively small Midwest town at the time, was proud of our achievements. We were very fortunate
in having a band and orchestra experience in Batavia High. I continued playing both in college and in the Redlands
Fourth of July Band.

 

THIS “N” THAT


Another city tradition of sorts drew to a close in March 1972 when the long-held practice of blowing the city’s
fire whistle for two blasts at the stroke of noon was ended by a vote of the city council. The news brought about
some good-natured complaining from residents who said that with the whistle no longer marking the noon hour,
no one would know when it was lunch time. From John Gustafson’s “Historic Batavia”


In the late 1920s and early 1930s, a social group for men named the Green Pheasants met in an old stone building
that stood behind Abe and Doc’s on Rt. 31. The men would gather there to listen to music of the day, news, and
weather on the radio. No women or alcohol were permitted on their premises. From John Gustafson’s “Historic
Batavia”

 

SAVE THE DATE


The summer quarterly meeting of the Batavia Historical Society will be held on June 11th at the Batavia Library.
After a short business meeting and an update on the Museum Expansion Project, Mark Harrington will share the
history and stories about the different flags that have flown over Batavia. We are sharing the afternoon with the
ice-cream social and flag day celebration and are encouraging attendees to walk down to the Peg Bond Center
when the meeting ends.

 


WRITINGS FROM THE PAST

 

April 6th, 1973 by Robert V. Brown, Mayor, City of Batavia


In 1833 enough people resided in Batavia to consider themselves a town. I’m sure they were happy having
found a nice place to live, and it’s likely they had high hopes for the future of their community. I’m also sure that
there were problems then as there are now. History shows they busied themselves solving these problems, as
optimistic people do in every community. After all, isn’t life just a long series of solving problems, hoping your
solutions leave things a little better than you found them.


Throughout the entire process of Batavia’s growth, when people came to our town from other states and other
countries, they sought a place to settle, a place to raise a family, a place to enjoy. They understood, and that
understanding has consistently been reflected in the decisions of the community, that the basic function of a
community is to provide a good place to live.


What makes a town a good place to live? It takes people who want to live together. It takes people who own
their own homes, who are proud of their homes and take care of them. It takes some apartments, so our young
people don’t have to leave town, and our elderly don’t have to mow the lawn or shovel snow during their golden
years if they prefer not to. It takes industry. Industry that enhances the community as a place to live, rather
than detracting from it. It takes business to provide goods and services to the community, the plumbers and
T.V. repairmen, and merchants that make a town function. It takes schools, to give our children an education,
and churches to provide the impetus and guidance we all need to be better people. It takes a fire and police
department, street sweepers and snow plows, and hundreds of other things that add up to the quality of life in
a town. These are really basic things, the important things that make a community a good place to live.
Sociologists will tell us that one of the aspects of a town being considered a good place to live is a “sense of
community”. They define a “sense of community” as a “feeling of belonging”, of people knowing each other, of
being a real participant, of having an identity in the community.


Conversely, the biggest deterrents to a “sense of community” are sheer bigness, town boundaries that are not
discernible from that of another town, and public and private services that tend to sectionalize a community.
In Batavia we have been quite fortunate to have a single high school, where youth from all parts of town can
meet and learn to get along, a single library, a single swimming pool, a single place to skate. Someday we may be
forced by sheer size to duplicate these facilities in other parts of the community. If this does happen, I am sure
we will lose something that is hard to identify, but very worthwhile.

 


 

SNIPPETS FROM “HISTORIC BATAVIA”


1891: On June 9 Batavia took its last step in political government, for on that day it was incorporated as a city,
having advanced a long way since it became a village in 1856. At the time, it had a population of 1,800, now
it has 3,543. A new generation had come into authority, although some of the new men were sons of the old.
Some of the names were John VanNortwick, Langdon Miller, Peter Young, C.B. Conde, A.W. Bull, Nathan Young,
E.H. Gammon, and William Coffin.


1900: The first automobile was owned by A.D. Mallory. He drove it home from Detroit. By 1910 there was one
garage in town on South Batavia Avenue owned by James Null, who was also a car dealer. By 1936 one could buy
a Chevrolet Sedan for $495 at 6% interest on the installment plan.


1947: In August the City Council passed an ordinance changing the house numbering system to the modern-block
system of 0-99, 100-199, 200-299, etc. Until now, buildings were numbered in consecutive order, disregarding
cross streets and blocks.


1947: On October 4th the town celebrated the completion of the installation of new mercury vapor lights on
Wilson Street.


1955: The disease polio (poliomyelitis) of eight years has become increasingly malignant. Several children
and older people are permanently crippled by it. Recently Dr. Jonas Salk has, by long experimentation, found a
vaccine that, if taken in time, will render a person immune to the horrible disease. April 28, 1955, this vaccine
was used for the first time here, being administered to first and second graders.


1956: This was the year the scourge, Dutch Elm Disease, first struck our beautiful, stately American elms. It was
introduced into Eastern United States from Europe in 1930 and gradually spread north, south, and west. Sprays
to kill the elm beetle that carries the virus from one tree to another have only been partially successful. Up to
the end of 1961, Batavia has lost 1794 of her original 4000 trees. Fortunately, new trees of other varieties have
been planted to take the place of the lost trees.


1959: On November 1st, the Illinois Bell Telephone Company started using dial telephones in this area. In
December extended area service was started allowing Batavia users to call Aurora, Elgin, and other nearby towns
toll free.

Share your memories and others will smile with you!
email: historicalsocietynewsletter@gmail.com
 

 

From the Museum Curator – Chris Winter

 

Research Center


Did you know that the Gustafson Research Center at the Batavia Depot Museum is visited by71559 Spring 2017 Newsletter.pdf - Adobe Acrobat Pro.jpg
hundreds of researchers every year? It’s a great place to learn about Batavia history, research your
home, spend hours updating your family genealogy, or browsing through our photo collections.


Some of the resources available at the research center are:
Biographical Files and Family Genealogies, Scrapbooks, Obituaries, Batavia City Directories, Kane County
Probate Records 1860-1960, Photographs, and Maps. Our library has books relating to the history of windmill
manufacturing, Lincoln, Civil War, local railroads, Kane County and the State of Illinois. Many of our research
indexes can be found at www.BataviaHistory.org.


Research Assistants are available to help you on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 2-4 p.m. or by appointment.
For more information contact the museum at 630-406-5274 or chrisw@bataviaparks.org.


Museum Volunteer Opportunities


The museum is always in need of volunteers to act as docents, assist with research, or help with special events.
If you love history and would like to become a part of our volunteer community, we would be happy to talk with
you and provide training in your area of interest. The time commitment is only 2 hours per month and your
efforts benefit the museum and the community greatly! For more information, please contact Chris Winter at
630-406-5274 or chrisw@bataviaparks.org.

 


 

From the President –Bob Peterson

 

These are exciting days for The Batavia Historical Society and the Depot Museum. Under the71559 Spring 2017 Newsletter.pdf - Adobe Acrobat Pro.jpg
leadership of chairman Dan Hoefler, the Depot expansion committee is actively working on fund
raising ideas for the $2,000,000 expansion of the museum. The 5,000 square foot area will display
our collections, provide office space for our executive director, and storage area for our artifacts.


At our quarterly meeting on March 12th, with over a hundred people in attendance, we had a fantastic kick-off
presentation for our Depot expansion project. Thanks to all of those who helped make the program so great.
We hope to see you at the many activities planned for the summer.


Donations to the Expansion Fund in Memory of Bob Popeck:


Chis & Anthony Winter                     Bob & Judy Stran                       Francine Popeck
Bill Harris                                       Bill & Mary Chidester                  Batavia Rotary Club
Tim & Susan Wolff                          Geoffrey & Diane Upton              John & Joni O’Conner
Renee, Norm & Chris Marks              Joyce Currie                              Mary Straskel
Leanne & Bob Kennard                    Terry & Kathy Popeck                  Bob Clever & Bonnie Barrett

 



 

REMINDER TO RENEW YOUR DUES

 


MEMBERSHIP UPDATE: Please check status of your membership on the mailing panel below the officers and
directors. “Life” members never have to renew. Dates prior to 2017 need to renew as soon as possible so your
name will not be removed. Dates of 2017 or a future year needs to be renewed during that year. Thank you!

 


 

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