Nearly from its beginning, Batavia was an industrial city. Farm implement and windmill factories provided employment for many. The first products manufactured in Batavia (flour, ice, lumber, paper, stone) found markets in Chicago.
Batavia’s significant industries are identified with the following Categories. Click any category from the menu above for the history and involvement of companies from Batavia.
The enterprising VanNortwicks added paper making to their other ventures. In the last quarter of the 19th Century, it was a major industry in Batavia.
John VanNortwick bought a structure of cut stone covering 30,760 square feet that had been built in 1851 on Water Street between First and Main by the Fox River Manufacturing Co. to construct box cars.
The company made very little rolling stock. Because of their location, it was necessary for them to haul finished cars pulled by horses half a mile uphill to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad tracks. The idea was so impractical that the plant was closed.
Howland and Company bought the property and started a paper mill which they in turn sold to the Chicago Fiber and Paper Company. In less than a year, the company was bankrupt. In 1870, the Van Nortwicks bought it and turned it into a viable industry.
The mills were equipped with the latest machinery. In addition to the waterpower from the Fox River, it had a complete steam engine plant so that the mills could be operated by steam alone when necessary.
For many years the company furnished all the paper used by the Chicago Tribune.
Eventually, it turned to the production of manila paper and acquired the Western Paper Bag Company. This concern turned out 2,000,000 bags of every kind daily. Some sources say that the flat-bottomed bag was developed in this factory.
The company closed in the late 1890s. The buildings occupied by the paper mill are now owned by Batavia Enterprises and occupied by various businesses. In the former bag factory are the bowling alley, a tavern, and a wellness center.