A Little Time and a Keyboard: The Windmills of Batavia, Illinois

The Windmills of Batavia, Illinois

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

 Windmill City of Batavia, Illinois shares a collection of windmills manufactured in the city.

Wandering the Historic Windmills of  "Windmill City" Batavia, Illinois

"Windmill City" Batavia, Illinois piques a bit of curiosity with a trail of windmills along the Fox River. Six windmill manufacturers once called Batavia home. Reclaimed and restored windmills manufactured in Batavia now add authentic character to a stretch of the city's riverwalk.

Windmills stand tall along the riverwalk in Batavia, Illinois.
Windmills stand tall along the riverwalk in Batavia, Illinois.

We love visiting Batavia throughout the year to wander along the Fox River and weave in and out of small businesses. The historic limestone buildings of downtown Batavia quickly charm. While wandering along the river, we enjoy whispers of the past while exploring the city's cache of windmills.

An example of a  Pearl Steel windmill in Batavia, Illinois.
An example of a  Pearl Steel windmill.

I have lost count of how many windmills dot the riverwalk area. Every visit, everything seems so fresh. The remnants of the Challenge Company's windmill factory rise across the river -- a pretty neat view. We saver a nice meander along the Fox River and the windmills add something a little more to observe and learn about.

The remains of the  Challenge Wind Mill & Feed Company

A Little Batavia Windmill History

Batavia's windmill history begins in 1854 when Daniel Halladay started the first windmill factory. U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company would acquire Halladay's business in 1863. The manufacturers eventually located in Batavia included Challenge Wind Mill & Feed Company, Appleton Manufacturing, Batavia Wind Mill Company, Snow Manufacturing Company,  Danforth Windmill Company, and U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company. Several of the companies helped the railroad expand west by supplying watering stations for steam engines along the route west. Additionally, windmills helped make settling the West possible. Batavia provided a central location great for supplying windmills as the country expanded West.

For more on Batavia's windmill history, visit the Batavia Depot Museum.

Challenge Vaneless Model 1913 Windmill in Batavia, IL.
Challenge Vaneless Model 1913 Windmill in Batavia, IL.

Bring 'Em Home

An initiative launched by Bob Popeck and Francine McGuire-Popeck sought to bring windmills manufactured in Batavia back home. Today, we enjoy quite a nice collection of windmills originally manufactured in the city due to the "Bring 'Em Home" initiative. Several structures formerly part of  Batavia windmill manufacturing have been refurbished to house new entities. In fact, the Appleton Manufacturing Company houses the Batavia Civic Center.

A Challenge Company windmill stands tall in Batavia.
A Challenge Company windmill stands tall in Batavia.

Visting the Batavia windmills provides for a uniquely local aside. To extend your day exploring windmills, I recommend also venturing to the Fabyan Windmill in Geneva. Fabyan Windmill is a traditional Dutch-style windmill constructed in 1875-1876. Fabyan Forest Preserve itself is quite fascinating and is home to a Japanese tea garden as well as the historic home of George and Nelle Fabyan which was remodeled by Frank Lloyd Wright. Additionally, Batavia is home to Red Oak Nature Center, another lovely preserve perched on the Fox River area. We are always seeing wildlife there! We really love this region of Illinois and find it to provide a wonderful respite full of nature, history, and small business shopping.

Visiting the Historic Windmills of Batavia, Illinois

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