Batavia is the oldest city in Kane County, Illinois - founded in 1833 on the Fox River. The city became an early manufacturing center, specializing in farm implements and windmills. The city was also home to a limestone quarry, whose stones were used to construct many of the early buildings in town, as well as to rebuild Chicago after the great fire of 1871.
Batavia earned its nickname "The Windmill City" because of the many windmills made in Batavia. It was the windmill manufacturing center of the world at the end of the nineteenth century. Nelson Burr came to Batavia in 1857, building the first pump factory in Illinois, called Challenge Wind Mill and Feed Mill Company. The United States Wind Engine and Pump Company was founded in 1863 by John VanNortwick, Smith Mallory and Daniel Halladay to make wooden wind mills invented by Mr. Halladay. It was the largest factory of its kind in the world. There was also the Appleton Co. making windmills and farm equipment. The building of wind mills ended in the early 1940's. There are many historic windmills in the city today, especially at the downtown Riverwalk.
The Challenge plant, located on the east side of the Fox River, is the most prominent of the remaining plants, and the most picturesque. Part of the Appleton Company is used as the City and Township Government Center at 100 North Island Avenue.
Most of the older buildings were constructed of native limestone and bricks between the 1860's and 1900. Fortunately, many (but not enough!) of these old buildings remain. One of the older buildings, the "Batavia Bowl" bowling alley, which I believe was originally part of the Appleton Manufacturing complex,, was torn down only a year ago.
The photographs in this volume are a selection of some of the many photographs I have taken over the last few years, highlighting the interesting architecture and architectural elements of these old factories and warehouses, most of which are now offices, used for storage or vacant.