Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Meandering at St. James Farm in Winfield, Illinois

Meandering at St. James Farm in Winfield, Illinois


On a sunny day beckoning for a meander, we wandered the stunning country property of St. James Farm in Winfield, Illinois. When we arrived, we had little concept of the fascinating history of the property. As we walked, the history of the property unfolded while we enjoyed the natural surroundings full of summer blooms.

Sizable dairy barn with complex of adjacent buildings at St. James Farm.
Sizable dairy barn with complex of adjacent buildings at St. James Farm.
As we parked, the historic buildings of St. James Farm came into view. Erastus Gary, one of Winfield's earliest settlers, settled here in the 1830's. Many of the buildings on the property were constructed in the late 1800's - early 1900's.

Historic milk house on the St. James Farm Property in Winfield, IL
Historic milk house on the St. James Farm Property.

Some points allow you a peek inside buildings. We had fun wandering around and taking a little peek:

A peek inside the milk house at St. James Farm.
A peek inside the milk house at St. James Farm.
The property became a retreat for the McCormick family for decades. Chauncey and Marion McCormick acquired the property in 1920 and developed it to fit their love for horseback riding. Additionally, they constructed a state-of-the-art dairy barn and outbuildings to accommodate their award-winning Guernsey cow herd. In the late 1950's, the property would be passed down to Brooks McCormick, Chauncey and Marion's son. Brooks sold the property to the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County in 2000 and lived there until 2006. The property is adjacent to another noted McCormick property: Cantigny Park.

Inspirational and stunning views abound throughout St. James Farm.
Inspirational and stunning views abound throughout St. James Farm.
Chauncey was a trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago and the chairman of the art committee for the 1933 World's Fair. Marion was a noted patron of the arts and the daughter of Charles Deering founder of the Deering Harvester Company. Chauncey was the great-nephew of Cyrus McCormick who invented the first commercially successful mechanical reaper. Deering Harvester Company and McCormick Reaper Works merged in 1906 to form the International Harvester Corporation. Elements of both agricultural history and the McCormick's love of art and horseback riding are throughout the preserve.

Stable with lovely oil mural above the door at St. James Farm in Winfield, Illinois
Stable with lovely oil mural above the door.

The stables are under restoration but I could not help but admire the stable mural above the door. Some artistic elements are present in the square but are currently blocked off due to the restoration. I can't wait to return and explore them in the future. The mural dates to the 1930's.


Soon, we began to wind through the property enjoying a mix of trees and wildflowers. At one point, we discovered a pond dotted with lily pads. Beautiful!


Allées represent an element of French gardens where parallel rows of trees have a passage between them. Several were created on the St. James Farm property representing Brooks McCormick's influence on the property providing areas where he enjoyed beautiful views while on horseback.

Allée inviting an adventure at St. James Farm
Allée inviting an adventure.
Art is present at different points of the property. Additionally, we enjoyed viewing charming iron railing and gates throughout. Overall, the artistic nature of the property surprised me.



Upon arriving at St. James Farm, a replica of British artist John R. Skeaping's bronze sculpture of champion horse Chamoissaire welcomed us. As you can see, we had reason for pause even upon arrival!

Chamoissaire Sculpture impresses at St. James Farm in Winfield, IL
Chamoissaire Sculpture impresses.

Another favorite artistic element is Fiona and Something Special Relief which is a relief by Fiorė de Henriquez commissioned by Brooks McCormick of his daughter and her horse. Picturesque!

Fiona and Something Special Relief  poised perfectly in a natural setting.
Fiona and Something Special Relief  poised perfectly in a natural setting.
A number other artistic elements exist throughout the property as well as historic structures. Additionally, there is an indoor riding center put in by Brooks and his wife Hope which you can rent out. Picnicking, horse riding, fishing and cross country skiing are all uses for the property today. The preserve is adjacent to Cantigny Park, Blackwell Forest Preserve and Warrenville Grove Forest Preserve. So, you can easily make quite a wonderful nature adventure of the area!

Meandering at St. James Farm in Winfield, Illinois enjoying nature and history.

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