Kane County History: The Many Iterations of Geneva’s National Food Store
- Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was submitted by Terry Emma, executive director of the Geneva History Museum.
In the early 1950s, the city of Geneva was trying to alleviate the business district’s parking problem. So William Valos, real estate developer and local business owner on North Third Street collaborated with the city to purchase land on the south side of Hamilton between Second and Third Streets for a public parking lot.
To make way for a portion of the parking lot, two homes needed to be removed. In 1953, the home on the corner of Second and Hamilton streets (28 North Second St. ) was moved to 1510 West State St. However, the fate of the home in the middle of the block (216 Hamilton St.) is unknown.
Valos’ interest in this venture was to expand his Third Street property and remodel his motor sales building into a larger facility for a national food chain.
The National Tea Company moved from 217 West State St. and held the grand opening of this new Third Street location in July, 1954.
The building itself was described as “a work of beauty, attractively constructed of stone and brick, with a large pylon reaching towards the sky. The whole building will be lighted at night with mercury vapor lamps, making it as bright as day.”
It featured pre-packaged, weighed and priced meats, a wide variety of nationally-known brands of canned goods, and produce that was kept fresh by modern equipment.
Comfort and convenience were key to the shopping experience National Tea provided for their customers. Air conditioning kept them cool, extra-large chrome shopping carts to fill with store bargains, and checkout was fast with the latest in mechanical devices.
The doors would open automatically when shoppers stepped on a magic mat to exit the building. And, of course, there was plenty of free parking so shoppers “may be spared every effort in their shopping.”
The National Tea Food Store stayed at the north Third Street location until 1965, when it moved to 716 West State St., a larger location on the northeast corner of State and Sixth Streets.
First National Bank
In 1967, First National Bank of Geneva moved from 130 West State St. to the vacated Third Street structure. The building was remodeled into a modern banking facility with drive-up and walk-up windows.
Various banking enterprises were located here until it was purchased by Ashland Ventures, LLC in 2014, and underwent an award-winning major renovation.
The rich history of the property has been honored, and is still alive in the building. Ashland Center’s transformation has received awards for preservation, sustainability and energy efficiency.
May 4 Open House!
In honor of May is Membership Month, the Geneva History Museum is hosting an Open House from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 4, at Ashland Center, 25 North Third St., to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the building .
Follow the teal balloons to several locations inside the building to learn fun facts about the original entrance, the reuse of the former bank drive-through and safe, and view original renderings of the 1960s bank design.
Guests will receive FREE admission to the Geneva History Museum from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day, and while at the museum, you can sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour of the archives and collections. RSVP not required.
For more information visit GenevaHistoryMuseum.org or call 630-232-4951.
Read The Kane County History Series!
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