Batavian John Gustafson and his brothers and sisters were first to see the vision of a viable Batavia Historical Society when they began gathering and cataloging Batavia artifacts in 1959. By 1960, the Batavia Historical Society was established and its mission remains to collect, preserve, study, interpret, and exhibit materials in the Depot Museum.
In 1969, twenty local businessmen donated $50 each to purchase the abandoned C.B. & Q. passenger depot on South Van Buren Street to house historical society collections. In 1973, the Depot was moved from Van Buren Street to its present home on Houston Street. The C.B. & Q. caboose was moved to the Museum campus two years later.
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. By 1979, the Depot Museum was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Museum is a cooperative effort between the Batavia Park District and the Batavia Historical Society. Volunteers donate more than 1800 hours each year and the Museum has over 4000 visitors every year including residents, students, and visitors.
As the community has grown, the collection of historical materials has grown and the needs of the community have evolved. The Gustafson Research Center opened in 2000. It is aptly named in honor of John Gustafson and his family who helped establish the Batavia Historical Society. The Center was added to the Museum to provide a dedicated space for the large collection of historical documents and to make these documents accessible to researchers.
The Depot Museum is ideally located close to cultural and civic landmarks, galleries, and outdoor activities.
1. Depot Museum
2. Proposed Flag Day Monument
3. City Hall / Appleton Mfg. Building
5. Water Street Studios
6. Depot Pond
7. North Point Pavilion / Dam
8. River Street District
9. Wilson Street Bridge
10. Clark Island
11. Peg Bond Center/Performing Arts Pavilion
12. Harold Hall Quarry Beach
* Dining opportunities
* Bicycle and pedestrian trails
Two generations have passed since the Museum opened and its been nearly 20 years since the Gustafson Research Center was added. While the Museum continues to add more digital content to its website and social media, there is still nothing that compares to seeing something with your own eyes such as a historical object.
The Depot Museum Expansion will open new, up-to-date opportunities and experiences for people to engage with our rich history and provide an expanded cultural and social hub for the community and its visitors.
An important change will be the moving of the caboose, water tower, signal arm, and The Coffin Bank to the west side of the bike path which runs in front of the Museum.
While most of our visitors come from the immediate area, over 35% of them are from out of state or other countries. How will a 5,000 square foot expansion serve this diverse group of visitors?
• The ability to host traveling programs from national museums.
• The “Welcome to Batavia Center” will be the cornerstone of the Batavia Riverwalk.
• An enhanced set of educational opportunities for interns and advanced study students.
• We’ll fulfill our commitment to meet the needs of the growing and evolving community.
With this expansion, we will continue our mission and ensure relevance for future generations.
In the spring of 1998, the last major addition to the museum was made. The Board of Directors of the Historical Society recognized that one of the greatest needs was a place in which the large collection of historical documents could be stored and made accessible to researchers. Today, the Gustafson Research Center continues to welcome both local and national researchers to our collections.
Funding from the following agencies supported the completion of the addition to house the new research center: Department of Natural Resources Capital Project Grant, Batavia Historical Society, Batavia Park District and the Kane County Victoria Riverboat Fund. The research center was dedicated in June 2000.
The name Gustafson Research Center was chosen to honor John Gustafson and his brothers and sisters who were the first to see the vision of a viable historical society and who began gathering artifacts and cataloging them to preserve Batavia’s heritage.
Photos provided by The Batavia Depot Museum appear in the National Archives “Rod Ross Memorial Day” video. Having spoken at the museum’s dedication, I knew it was the place to go for the images we needed to complete our project. Another link to the museum is the marble-topped dresser, donated by my family, presumably used by Mary Lincoln in Bellevue during her residence in Batavia’s Bellevue Place Sanitarium. I’ve left Batavia, but Batavia has never left me. Good luck with the campaign.
Rodney Ross – Retired Archivist, Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives
The Batavia Historical Society and Batavia Park District invite you to join in the effort to enrich, strengthen, and better serve the Batavia Community with an expansion of the Batavia Depot Museum.
The cost of acquiring the land, preparing the area, architect fees, legal and permit fees for consolidating the land parcels, and surveyor costs have been covered by the Batavia Park District. The Batavia Historical Society volunteers are raising the remaining $2 million to cover the costs for construction of the expansion through corporate gifts, grants from foundations, personal donations, local businesses, civic organizations, and other fund-raising activities.
The Batavia Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
It is with great respect and honor that I write endorsing the expansion of the Depot Museum. I teach a Dual Credit American History Course at Batavia High School through Waubonsee Community College. The course culminates with students collaborating to design and produce bids for a History Museum Exhibit. As part of this process we visit the Chicago History Museum and the Batavia Depot Museum. Students learn what goes into the presentation of the best displays. The Depot Museum has been an essential resource for Batavia Students. The expansion of this great community Institution would be a benefit to Batavians, young and old.
Matt Holm – Batavia High School American History
The Batavia Depot Museum has been a wonderful resource during my research on my multiple Mary Lincoln books and articles. They have always shared information and photographs freely, and they have items — and a perspective — that no one else has. I have told countless people to go to Batavia and see the museum that interprets Mary’s time in the sanitarium and the town of Batavia. Any project that expands a great museum and allows the public more access to a museum’s collections, is a worthy endeavor — I hope you make your goal!
Jason Emerson – author of The Madness of Mary Lincoln, Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert Lincoln, and the upcoming Mary Lincoln for the Ages.
Growing up in Batavia, I loved exploring the Depot Museum. The exhibits, staff, and volunteers instilled in me a deep appreciation for preserving and understanding the past. A Depot Museum internship during college gave me the behind-the-scenes experience I needed to get my first job at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Twelve years later, I’m still with the Denver Museum and have the Depot to thank for launching me on a career I love!
Julia Spalding-Beegles – Manager of Adult & Children’s Programs, Denver Museum of Nature & Science
The Batavia Chamber of Commerce is proud to support the efforts of the Batavia Historical Society in their endeavor to expand the depot. Economic Development in our Community often hinges upon the preservation of the history of our community. With the expansion comes a larger space to welcome people from inside of and outside of our community. When more people come to visit, more people have an opportunity to solicit one of our great local merchants.
With over 65 years of community development projects, the Batavia Chamber of Commerce is proud to support the efforts that the Batavia Historical Society in expanding the Depot Museum.
Best wishes in all of your endeavors to fundraise for this project. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for additional assistance from the Batavia Chamber of Commerce.
Holly Deitchman, President & CEO, Batavia Chamber of Commerce