Kane County History: St. Charles Remembers Famous Colson’s Christmas Day Fire of 1933
- This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by Tim Kirsininkas, interim marketing manager for the St. Charles History Museum. All photos are credited to the St. Charles History Museum.
When it comes to the holiday season in St. Charles, every local resident is familiar with the annual traditions of Christmas trees adorning the streetlights on Main Street, the “Lighting of the Lights” ceremony, and the Electric Christmas Parade.
But one Christmas in 1933 marked a sad day in St. Charles history, and without it, the St. Charles History Museum may not have existed as you know it today.
For more than 100 years, Colson’s Department Store served as one of St. Charles’ most popular shopping destinations. Located at the corner of Main Street (IL Route 64) and Geneva Road (IL Route 31), it is the current site of Stanbridge Master Saddlers.
To celebrate the centennial of St. Charles’ incorporation as a city, many of the community’s historical items and artifacts were moved into the second floor of the building in 1933 to prepare for a special exhibit celebrating the first 100 years of St. Charles history.
However, on Christmas morning of that year, the city of St. Charles awoke to the tragic news that a fire had broken out and destroyed most of Colson’s. Although there were no injuries or fatalities, most of the community’s historical collection was lost in the fire.
In the aftermath, the St. Charles community banded together to preserve the city’s rich history for years to come.
The St. Charles Historical Society was founded and expanded their efforts, and in 1940 community philanthropists Col. Edward J. Baker and Lester and Dellora Norris arranged to have space for a new historical museum built as part of the new St. Charles Municipal Building at 2 E. Main St., where the museum existed until moving to its current location in 1996.
In essence, from the ashes of the Colson’s Department Store fire of 1933, the St. Charles History Museum was born, and ever since it has been the museum’s goal to protect St. Charles’ vibrant stories and memories for centuries to come.
St. Charles Holiday Traditions
On Dec. 1, the St. Charles History Museum held its final Saturday Speaker Series event of the year, Exploring Holiday Traditions. The discussion, led by Executive Director Alison Costanzo, explores how some favorite holiday traditions, such as Christmas cards, department store decorations, and Santa Claus himself came to be.
You can view the entire presentation on the St. Charles History Museum Facebook page.
Think Local, Shop Local!
When doing your holiday shopping this year, remember to think St. Charles!
At the Curious Fox Gift Shop inside the St. Charles History Museum, you’ll find all kinds of unique and locally-crafted artisan wares and products.
Every week until Christmas, the shop will be featuring another local St. Charles product at 10 percent off regular price. Last week, the Curious Fox featured Sophie’s Scents Candles and 2018 St. Charles-themed ornaments designed by Sandy Rucinski-Livingston of Living Image Solutions!
Check back on the Curious Fox Gift Shop Facebook Page each week to find out what items we’re featuring next.
Thanks for a great 2018, St. Charles! Have a great holiday, and see you in 2019!
Read The Kane County History Series!
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