Did you know that a train once ran off the tracks in downtown St. Charles?
Or that the Bakers and Norris families funded construction of the St. Charles Municipal Center, completed in 1940?
Those with an eye for local history or who simply wonder what different parts of town looked like 50 or 100 years ago have a new stop to make to learn a thing or two about St. Charles’ past.
The new Downtown St. Charles Historical Markers Project recently installed its first of three planned historical markers, according to a release issued Tuesday by the Downtown St. Charles Partnership.
Geneva officials have talked about adding historical markers and plaques throughout the community. The city already has at least one kiosk and a sign that marks the Lincoln Highwa, and the there are markers in some downtown sidewalks that mention historic places. St. Charles got its marker project started by securing a grant from the Kane County Riverboat Fund.
QUIZ: Can you name some of the various historical markers in Geneva? Let us know in the comments section.
The first St. Charles marker has been placed on the St. Charles Municipal Center Plaza, 2 E. Main St., and displays chronological accounts of the center’s history, the release states.
The next two signs, pending final approval, will be located on the Freedom Trail and near the foot bridge and installed in the spring with more info about industry and historic sites along the Fox River.
A designated landmark, the St. Charles Municipal Center is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1836, the area of the Municipal Center was a sawmill, which was turned into a flourmill in 1866. Beginning in 1908, the St. Charles Fixture Co., which manufactured gas and electric light fixtures, operated on site for 21 years before it was destroyed by fire in 1929.
Highlighted among the Municipal Center marker is the story of the 1913 train accident on Main Street. Great Western Engine No. 214 ran off the end of the track on the riverfront spur line, crashing into the St. Charles Fruit & Confectionary Shop. There were no injuries, and the shop was only slightly damaged.
Designed by notable local architect R. Harold Zook and nephew D. Taylor Cody, the St. Charles Municipal Center was completed in 1940, funded by St. Charles residents Col. and Mrs. Edward J. Baker and Mr. and Mrs. Lester J. Norris.
A one-of-a-kind masterpiece, the St. Charles Municipal Center is covered with Georgian marble and reflects the Art Moderne style, which is identifiable by the combination of “modern” machine-age technology and the artistic expression of the late 1930s, according to the release. Zook’s buildings are creative, reflective of the era, constructed of natural materials and exhibit high-quality craftsmanship.
The Downtown St. Charles Partnership’s Design Committee worked with the city of St. Charles and the St. Charles Heritage Center to begin the Downtown St. Charles Historical Markers Project, which according to the release is intended to be a high-impact educational and economic development tool for St. Charles.
The historical markers are intended to provide the city and its visitors with a greater understanding of St. Charles’ history, its unique natural assets and its resources. The goal is to educate residents and visitors about the city’s history while attracting more people to support and protect the historic downtown