A little piece of Kane County’s version of Xanadu was taken down Friday, Oct. 24, with the demolition of the footbridge at Fabyan Forest Preserve, but county officials hope that it can someday be replaced.
Thanks to Dave Soderstrom of Geneva for sharing the photos you see here.
As any good Citizen Kane surely knows (and as you can read on the Kane County Forest Preserve District website), Fabyan Forest Preserve was once part of the large country estate of George and Nelle Fabyan. They came to the Fox River Valley in the early 1900s, bought a farmhouse and 10 acres south of Geneva on the west bank of the Fox and during the next 20 years acquired 300-plus acres and developed the property into a fabulous estate they called “Riverbank.”
Riverbank became a showplace in the state with its model farm, extensive greenhouses, windmill, Japanese-style and other ornamental gardens, arbors and grotto, and pools and ponds — a bit like Xanadu in the movie Citizen Kane. In 1907, the Fabyans contracted Frank Lloyd Wright to redesign the farmhouse into a larger and modernized home they called “The Villa.”
While the Fabyans lived on the estate, they employed more than 60 people in positions as maids, gardeners, chauffeurs, scientists and farmers. They even employed a sculptor to create numerous stone and concrete fountains, statues and furniture, as well as cages for the various wild animals the brought to Riverbank.
After the deaths of George Fabyan in 1936 and Nellie in 1939, the Forest Preserve District of Kane County purchased 235 acres of the estate and created the preserve, retaining many of the structures that were part of the Fabyan legacy.
In 2012, a section of the concrete footbridge that crosses over to the island failed. Staff closed the bridge to public use while completing an evaluation of the bridge. The evaluation determined that the bridge was in such poor condition that the section that failed could not be repaired without replacing the entire bridge.
The Forest Preserve District hired an engineer to develop the necessary plans for its removal. Because the bridge was closed to public access, staff requested permission to move forward with the project in two phases: Phase 1 to remove the bridge, while preparing plans for Phase 2, which would be the bridge replacement, causeway removal and shoreline restoration.
Phase 1, the concrete bridge removal was advertised and bid with four vendors responding. Illinois Constructors Corporation from Elburn was the lowest qualified bidder with a total bid of $167,000.
Meanwhile, as you can see in the signs posted on the property, work is under way to restore the lighthouse at Fabyan Forest Preserve, which has been temporarily removed.
Fabyan Forest Preserve is Kane County Forest Preserve District’s most heavily used preserve, owing to its location on the Fox River and its numerous natural and historic features.
SOURCE: Kane County Forest Preserve District website
- Kane County Chronicle: Fabyan Foot Bridge Removal Planned
- Kane County Connects: Where’d That Lighthouse Go? Don’t Worry, Fabyan Icon Will Be Back
- Kane County Forest Preserve District Aug. 1 Minutes