Volume Seven

No. 4 


December, 1966


Prepared by John A. Gustafson


Among the most cherished of a nation's treasures are the monuments of its past. Each contributes to the historic texture of society. We look back with reverence to lasting reminders of a vital past. We look forward with confidence to achievements which enhance our future with accomplishments to match our monumental past. In almost every part of the country citizens are rallying to save landmarks of beauty and history. The Government must also do its share to assist these local efforts.

- Lyndon B. Johnson, President




SUNDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1966 at 3 P.M.






Mr. Elwood J. Willey will direct a chorus of ten students in appropriate songs. There will be two soloists also.


Mrs. Edward (Gracia) Bittner will render several Christmas readings. Mrs. Bittner and John Gustafson will discuss toys and customs around a Christmas tree. The tree will be surrounded with beautiful old toys.


We would appreciate it if all members carne prepared to tell of Christmas customs in their family, today or in times gone by. As an alternate, members could write their memories out on cards.


The Christmas decorating will be done by Mrs. Elaine Cannon, Mrs. George France and Mrs. Clarence Kruger.


Refreshments will be served by the following committee: Mrs. Amos Hartman, Chairman; Mrs. Malcolm Derby; Mrs. Franklin Elwood, Mrs. Philip Carlson and Mrs. Angelo Perna.


The appointed Nominating Committee


Is as follows: William B. Benson, Chairman; Mrs. Mary Williams, Walter Wood and Mrs. Walter Wood. These people will select the candidates for officers for 1967.


Mrs. Betty Madden, Chief Curator of Art at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, gave an excellent illustrated talk on Architecture of the 19th Century at our last meeting. She showed slides of classic types of architecture in Europe, followed by those of interesting buildings in Illinois, and then examples of related types in Batavia.


Construction of houses has changed since the early days.  I don't know how many pioneer Batavia homes had the space between the studs filled with bricks, but I do know of two because the bricks in the walls were exposed when the houses were moved.


Phil Carlson told me that the house in which his folks lived on Van Nortwick Avenue was built like that. This house was moved from First Street where Ernest R. Nelson's home is today,


Another frame house that had its wall space filled with brick was the Fred Larson home which was on the southwest corner of Wilson and Water Streets. I was told that the contractor lost money on moving this house because of the unexpected weight due to the bricks.


Were the bricks added to stiffen the house to make it warmer, or to follow an old New England custom of building? In the book Early Connecticut Houses by Isham and Brown, the authors theorize that many early New England houses were of half-timber construction with plastered brick or clay between the studs following the English type of building. But these houses leaked air and water so badly that the carpenters were driven to cover the exterior walls with clapboards to make the house wind and water proof.


Mrs. Harriet Huggett Jackson's house was built in 1878.  Her father ran the lumberyard at the foot of Houston Street. When he built his home he didn't spare expense or good building practice. His house was built with a partition nailed between the studs halfway between the outside sheathing and the inside plastered walls.


Your Historian's room has become the "Attic of Batavia"


since the beginning of the Batavia Historical Society in 1960, and even before that.  The Society is continually receiving mementos to be stored here. Miss Shumway is storing much of the larger pieces of her home, but we have about reached our limit of capacity. We have cupboards, drawers, boxes and closets full. Obviously we haven't the room nor the equipment to classify this material, excepting the photographs and newspapers. We do keep a loose-leaf record of all items received. These items are classified in this book and the name of the object, date received and name of the donor is recorded. We need storage space so that the material itself can be properly filed and classified. Does anyone have a suggestion?


The Aurora Beacon News called the Bellevue Place Sanitarium, now the Foxhill Home, an "eccentric" old building. The dictionary defines that word as "out of the ordinary; odd; peculiar." Is it? We would say that some of the modern buildings are much more eccentric. It seems to us it is just what it is, a beautiful, well-designed middle nineteenth century building.


After hearing Mrs. Madden's lecture, we were wondering if one could date headstones by their style or type, if the inscriptions were not legible. Were the early stones in our cemeteries made of Batavia limestone?  Who carved the inscriptions? Were any of our stone-workers capable of doing this?  Who knows? Limestone is a stratified stone, much softer than granite, and shales easily. That is why we think all of the old inscriptions on the headstones should be recorded before they get past legibility. Who will volunteer to do this?

May we quote just a small part of Mr. William T. Purdum's letter?  He was the son of Mr. John M. Purdum who was a shoe dealer in town from 1895 to 1905. He says:


"I have many memories of Batavia:


The Chicago-Aurora commuter trains with their yellow cars and open vestibules; the commuters walking up the hill, carrying wooden baskets of peaches covered with red cheese-cloth.


The Aurora-Elgin electric cars, with open cars in summer in which we traveled to picnics in Lord's Park, Elgin and to Oswego (Riverview Park in Montgomery?)


The sprinkling wagons which in summer tried to moisten the dusty streets.


The early automobiles: Dr. Bothwell in his electric carriage and Mr. Fred Beach driving what seemed to me a palatial car.


The cheerful base burner stoves; the glowing anthracite coals visible through the mica. Putting up the stove in the fall and taking it down in the spring were "events."


The trips to Uncle Joe's farm (Josephus Davenport); about three miles on the road to Bald Mound.  He took the milk to "the factory" very early and would pick me up on the return trip. It was" thrilling to me to sit on the high seat beside him and look down on the backs of the horses. We jogged along on the high center road or lane. When horses and buggies approached they would turn into the lower level "passing" road. I was never taken west of the farm. When I was in Batavia in 1947, Mrs. George A. Jackson drove me to Bald Mound and at last I realized my ambition to see beyond the horizon. Nelson's Lake was a landmark near the farm but I believe it has long since been drained."


I remember Josephus Davenport well. He was a tall, rangy man, with a goatee, who reminded me of pictures of Uncle Sam.




Copies or our book, Batavia Past and Present, will make excellent gifts.  Starting with the meeting on December 4th they may be purchased for $1.50.  They are available at the Batavia Insurance Agency, Rachielles' Pharmacy, the Public Library, Johnson's Pharmacy, and the Polly Anne Beauty Shop.