I f walls could talk, the walls in Kane County would have a lot to say. The area is brimming with historically significant structures that are tied to both local and national history. Together, these buildings bring the story of Kane County’s rich legacy to life.
“Historic preservation is incredibly important,” says Allison Costanzo, executive director of the St. Charles History Museum. “We don’t want to forget the past. It defines the community. It’s ingrained in the everyday and in the fabric of the community.”
While the stories of some local landmarks are common knowledge, other spots have lesser known, but equally fascinating, tales.
Here are a few hidden gems that played an integral role in the shaping of the Tri-Cities:
Franklin Medical College
in St. Charles
The first medical school in the state was housed at 102 E. Main St. in St. Charles. The downtown building was built in 1836 and became the Franklin Medical College in 1840. The school, founded by established doctor George W. Richards, taught anatomy, surgery and obstetrics to eager students.
It wasn’t long before the medical school and its founder became the target of public outrage. Two young students had robbed the grave of a recently deceased young woman from a nearby town. When the empty grave was discovered, a group of angry townspeople stormed Dr. Richard’s home.
The riot escalated and culminated with the mob firing gunshots into the home. One of the students responsible was killed and Dr. Richards was injured. The young woman’s body was returned and the school was promptly closed. Since then, the building has housed a dry goods store, a hardware store, and a law firm. Today, it’s occupied by Riverside Pizza & Pub (102 E. Main St.).
Elizabeth Place in Geneva
The Henry Bond Fargo residence, often called Elizabeth Place, is nestled near historic downtown Geneva. Henry Bond Fargo, a prominent local businessman, built the house in 1900. Fargo served two terms as mayor of Geneva and one term as an Illinois State Representative. He also was a driving force in the economic development of the area and spearheaded the creation of many local institutions.
The home is named after Fargo’s first wife who died while the home was still being constructed. In 1919, he successfully petitioned the city to rename the street Elizabeth, as well. The house is the embodiment of Mission Style architecture, from its red tile roof to its baroque parapets.
A privately owned residence, the house has undergone several restoration efforts, including the reconstruction of a porch that had been removed decades earlier. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Campana Factory in Batavia
Much of Batavia’s early growth was due to a manufacturing boom during the turn of the 20th century, and the Campana Factory is a relic of that era. Many have driven by the striking factory at Route 31 and Fabyan Parkway, but less have heard the history of Batavia’s only landmark building.
Ernest Oswalt founded Campana Co. in 1927 and eventually became famous for its Italian Balm, a popular hand cream. The company changed the name of the product to Campana Balm during World War II due to growing animosity toward Italians. The product was a leading hand lotion by 1936, and Oswalt commissioned the construction of the Campana factory a year later. The company also began making lipstick, cologne, perfumes and more.
The factory included many innovations that were ahead of its time. The art deco style included long strips of glass on the exterior that let more light into the building. Another innovation was forgoing mechanical devices and using gravity to move lotion from the third floor lab to the bottling area below. The Campana Factory was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.