A Little Time and a Keyboard: Beyond the Railroad: Learning Batavia, Illinois History Inside the Batavia Depot Museum

Beyond the Railroad: Learning Batavia, Illinois History Inside the Batavia Depot Museum

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

 

Beyond the Railroad: Learning Batavia, Illinois History Inside the Batavia Depot Museum

Batavia Depot Museum is quite the treasure tucked away near the Fox River in Batavia. On a recent day off, we found ourselves looking for something a little different to do. We love walking along the riverwalk in Batavia. We noticed that the Batavia Depot Museum was nearby, so a perfect little afternoon formed.


An afternoon learning about Batavia History at the Batavia Depot Museum.
An afternoon learning about Batavia History at the Batavia Depot Museum.

Batavia Depot Museum is housed in a depot constructed in 1854. The museum contains an incredible two floors detailing Batavia's history through artifacts. Also, a caboose and the Coffin Bank on the museum grounds add additional learning opportunities.

Learn about the early railroad at the Batavia Depot Museum
Fun ticket counter display at the Batavia Depot Museum.

In the first exhibits, we studied detailed railroad history in Batavia. The first train station in Batavia was constructed in 1850. The depot housing the museum was constructed in 1854 and is the oldest Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad depot in the USA. Photos and artifacts told the story of the railroad in Batavia.

Learning about Mary Todd Lincoln's Tie to Batavia

This was Mary Todd Lincoln's bed while she stayed at Bellevue Place.
This was Mary Todd Lincoln's bed while she stayed at Bellevue Place.

While exploring exhibits inside Batavia Depot, I learned that Mary Todd Lincoln was sent to Bellevue Place in Batavia after being declared insane. I knew about her diagnosis but I did not know that she was sent to Batavia. The museum contains artifacts from Mrs. Lincoln's room in the sanitarium. Pretty interesting!

VanNortwick Artifacts

The VanNortwicks were instrumental in the growth of  industry in Batavia. William VanNortwick originally came from New York in 1835 and encouraged his son to speculate in the area. The VanNortwicks would become important in the building of the railroad, windmill manufacturing, and paper-making. My favorite artifact in this collection is an extraordinarily large music box that still works!

Gorgeous large 1870s music box that still plays at the Batavia Depot Museum.
Gorgeous large 1870s music box that still plays at the Batavia Depot Museum.

Wandering Through Batavia History and the Arts

Studying artifacts found at the site of Christopher Columbus Payne cabin.
Studying artifacts found at the site of Christopher Columbus Payne cabin.

Downstairs, we learned about the history of the Batavia area starting with early Native American residents. We then learned about others that settled in the region starting with Christopher Columbus Payne from Pennsylvania who originally settled in Naperville in 1831. In 1833, he built a cabin in Batavia. He would live there until too many settlers came to the region. Then, he and his wife moved to Belvidere and eventually moved to Wisconsin. An exhibit displays artifacts discovered at his cabin site. I love studying items found in archaeological digs!

A range of milk cans, jugs and bottles reflect the dairy heritage of Batavia.
A range of milk cans, jugs and bottles reflect the dairy heritage of Batavia.

Exhibits also detailed the industries in Batavia including the dairy industry and windmill manufacturers. Additionally, war materials were produced in Batavia during WWII. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia is a hub of crucial scientific research.

Grocery store miniature crafted by Batavia artist Elaine Cannon.
Grocery store miniature crafted by Batavia artist Elaine Cannon.

Other exhibits presented interesting works of art from Batavia artists including miniaturist Elaine Cannon. Cannon was friends with and collaborated with miniaturist Narcissa Thorne known for the famous Thorne Rooms displayed at the Art Institute.

Exploring Outside

1912 dictaphone used at Batavia National Bank.
1912 dictaphone used at Batavia National Bank.

Outside, we found the Coffin Bank which holds an interesting dictaphone! Bosses would make a recording that secretaries would replay on a different machine to transcribe.

Climbing into the caboose at Batavia Depot Museum.
Climbing into the caboose at Batavia Depot Museum.

Who can resist climbing into the caboose before leaving? Such a fun way to close our visit!

We found our trip to Batavia Depot Museum to be a fascinating adventure. We learned so much! Admission to the museum is free, so an added bonus! When you visit, you will also be near the Batavia Riverwalk and the Batavia Windmills. For another adventure in Batavia, we love hiking at the Red Oak Nature Center.

Beyond the Railroad: Learning Batavia, Illinois History Inside the Batavia Depot Museum



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