Batavia Historical Society ...  
 
   
 
   
 
Depot Museum
155 Houston St.
Batavia, IL. 60510
630-406-5274
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday
2 - 4 p.m.
March through Thanksgiving

Museum Visitors

Ticket Agent Office

Little Town in a Big Woods

Visitor using telegraph

Inside Coffin Bank

Office Equipment Display

Gunzenhauser/Smith Gazebo

 

 

 

 

DEPOT MUSEUM

One of the society founders' dreams came true with the acquisition, moving, and renovation of the Depot Museum which was the abandoned Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Depot at Webster and Van Buren Streets erected in 1854.

A committee accomplished this with donations and wide community support. Furnas Electric Company donated nearly half the amount needed. Other volunteers painted the building, the city waved permit fees, and the old depot journeyed through downtown Batavia, "nine blocks, one hill, and a bridge away" to its destination on Houston Street on October 12, 1973. In December 1973, Patricia Verderbar was named curator, and the museum was dedicated April 13, 1975. The Batavia Park District became the owner of the real estate, land, and building. See also Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.

The operation of the museum is a cooperative effort between the park district and the society. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Today, nearly 100 volunteers keep the museum staffed, acting as docents, catalogers, and helpers with the many activities of the society and the museum. Other members assist researchers at the Gustafson Research Center.

Batavia railroad history comes alive in a permanent exhibit about the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (est. 1850), the Chicago & North Western Railroad (est. 1872) and the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Electric Line (est. 1902).  Three railroad lines served Batavia freight and passenger service until the mid-1900’s when the automobile became the transportation of choice.  On display are many railroad artifacts, photos and ticket agent office.  A detailed section on the telegraph system and it’s role in railroad history includes live telegraph keys where visitors can try their hand at sending messages using Morse Code

MUSEUM EXHIBITS

The interior of the Depot is preserved much as it looked when passengers stopped at the window to seek information or to buy a ticket for a ride to a nearby town.

Batavia railroad history comes alive in a permanent exhibit about the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (est. 1850), the Chicago & North Western Railroad (est. 1872) and the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Electric Line (est. 1902).  Three railroad lines served Batavia freight and passenger service until the mid-1900’s when the automobile became the transportation of choice.  On display are many railroad artifacts, photos and ticket agent office.  A detailed section on the telegraph system and it’s role in railroad history includes live telegraph keys where visitors can try their hand at sending messages using Morse Code.

This Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad Caboose #14662 was built in the Aurora shops in 1907 and was retired in 1973. Moved to the museum campus in 1974, it was opened for viewing in 1994 with exhibits about the way men lived on the road. For more about this life, see Caboose.

In October 1995, a small water tank manufactured by the United States Wind Engine and Pump Company was moved from a farm in Elburn to the museum site. It is 10-feet tall and 8-feet wide. These tanks were designed for farm use and received water pumped from a windmill through a stand pipe under the structure. Similar tanks were placed along railroad tracks so that early trains had a source of water for making steam to run their locomotives.

The bed and the dresser on display in the Lincoln Room are from the bedroom to which Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the slain president, was assigned when she was a patient at Bellevue Place from May 20 to September 11, 1875. Other pieces of the period complete the room. For more on Mrs. Lincoln's stay in Batavia, see Mrs. Lincoln and Bellevue Place.

Nearly all the items in this room were in the Batavia home of John VanNortwick or his descendants. The room was opened for viewing in 1992. See also VanNortwick Industrial Empire.

A life-sized statue of a Early Woodlands Indian startles many visitors as they descend the stairs to the lover level exhibit entitled Little Town in a Big Woods. Several Indian tribes inhabited Illinois before it became a state. By 1818 when the area won statehood, most of the Native Americans had moved away. Four tribes remained in northern Illinois. One of these, the Pottawatomies had a camp south of Batavia and another camp several miles to the west. During the Black Hawk War, Chief Black Hawk tried to unite these Native Americans against the white settlers. Pottawatomie Chiefs Waubonsie and Shabbona, convinced their tribe to side with the whites.

The chiefs and their followers were still in the area when Christopher Payne, the first settler came to Batavia. They were friendly to the settlers and had even warned them of attacks from other tribes during the war. Archibald Clybourne and C. B. Dodson built a trading post south of Batavia and traded with the Native Americans there. Dodson was given a contract from the federal government to escort the remaining natives west of the Mississippi River after the war ended. They went although reluctantly.

Christopher Payne was the first settler in Batavia and Kane County. This display shows what the interior of his 14 x 16 foot cabin might have looked like. For more on Payne, see Christopher Payne.

Many immigrants of Swedish descent came to Batavia in the 1870s. See also immigrants.

There were as many as ten quarries operating in Batavia between the 1840s and the early 1900s supplying work for many immigrants from around the world and stone for a number of construction projects in northern Illinois. For more on the quarries, see quarrying industry.

The Newton Wagon Company was the first major industry established in Batavia. It evolved into the Batavia Body Company that closed in 1973.

The wagon on display belonged to the Feldott Farm Company on East Wilson Street. See also Newton Wagon Company.

Salesmen carried samples of windmills as they toured the west by train, wagon, and later trucks, visiting farmers and extolling the virtues of windmills made in Batavia. The salesman took an order and telegraphed it back to Batavia. After the mill was manufactured, it was shipped in pieces by train to the customer. It would have to be assembled on the farmer's land.

A side room in the lower-level exhibit contains a gallery of photographs of old Batavia.

William Coffin built the first bank in Batavia in 1856. An 1857 directory shows the bank was called Batavia Bank and was located on First Street near Batavia Avenue. Later the bank was moved to his home on South Batavia Avenue. This "shed" in Coffin's backyard contained the office of the bank, but the safe was in the basement of his home. Coffin sold the bank in 1880. Now called the Coffin Bank, it was placed just north of the Depot Museum in 1990. Local banking history and artifacts are displayed inside. A diorama in the exhibit shows Coffin's home with the bank in the yard.

The Gunzenhauser/Smith Gazebo was donated to the Park District in 1988 and moved to a site next to the Depot Museum. It is just outside the entrance to the Gustafson Research Center now. The copper-topped gazebo stood on a hill overlooking North Batavia Avenue and the Fox River. It was given to the museum by a developer who cleared the land to make room to build a house. The building was dedicated in 1990. It is thought that the structure was imported from Germany. Legend says that Mr. Gunzenhauser liked to play his violin more than his wife liked to hear it, so he acquired the gazebo so he'd have a place to indulge his music. Mrs. Gunzenhauser also preferred that he smoke his cigars in the gazebo rather than in their home.

Windmills originally made in Batavia's factories have been found and returned and placed along the Riverwalk in downtown Batavia. See Windmills along the Riverwalk.

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