GENEVA – It's not everyday that a local landmark turns 150 years old. But this year, the Geneva Park District is commemorating the historic Peck Farm Park house, which was built by Eli and Jerusha Peck in 1869, with a celebration from 11 a.m to 2 p.m. June 29 at the park, 4038 Kaneville Road, Geneva.
The family-friendly event will include sheep herding, which is a tribute to the Peck family, who made their mark on the area by raising sheep and selling their wool, said Trish Burns, manager of Peck Farm Park.
Eli and Jerusha Peck, who came to Geneva from Vermont, had nine children and built the house to raise their family. They eventually accumulated enough land in Geneva, owning property from the farm all the way east to what is now Eagle Brook Golf Course, Burns said.
"They raised Merino sheep at the farm, and became wealthy by selling their wool, which was a dominant fabric for warm clothing back then," Burns explained. "The demand for wool disappeared in the 1920s with the invention of nylon, and with the Great Depression, the family could no longer afford to keep up with the property taxes on their land and had to sell it."
Eli and Jerusha Peck's grandson, George Peck, lived in the house until 1991. It still has the original exterior, floors and windows. Burns said he didn't want to see it torn down to make room for a subdivision, so he sold the house and land to the Geneva Park District.
The first floor is open to the public, and guests can explore the history gallery to learn more about the Pecks and their contributions to the growth of Geneva.
"The Pecks were a dominant family in town. They were involved in a lot of things and very well-known," Burns said. "Their history is different that most people expect because they made their money from wool, which was uncommon in Illinois. This is such an interesting place with a lot to see and do. A lot of people are attracted to downtown Geneva, but we have a hidden gem on the west side. [Peck Farm Park] is the jewel of the Geneva Park District."
In addition to sheep-herding, the anniversary event will feature children's games from the late 1800s and early 1900s, historical artifacts from the Geneva History Museum and a short ceremony on the home's front steps. The event is free and open to the public.
Peck Farm Park sits on more than 400 acres, has 2.5 miles of paved trails, 8 miles of mowed trails and a nature playground, as well as the butterfly house, which has been open since 2003 and features as many as 350 butterfles representing more than 50 species.