Kane County History: What Is That Thing in Downtown St. Charles?

Kane County History: What Is That Thing in Downtown St. Charles?

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by Tim Kirsininkas, marketing manager for the St. Charles History Museum. Images are courtesy of the St. Charles History Museum.

When in St. Charles and traveling on Riverside Avenue just south of Main Street, you may have noticed what appears to be a strange sculpture behind the BMO Harris Bank building. This is no artist’s work, but rather an important historical piece of St. Charles’ history. So … what exactly is that … thing?

In this photo, St. Charles Mayor Fred Norris speaks at the dedication ceremony for the waterwheel in 1965.

This large metal object standing on a concrete pedestal next to the bank’s parking lot is a mill waterwheel that dates back to 1884. The wheel was uncovered during the foundation work on the building, which opened in 1965.

The wheel once belonged to one of St. Charles first mills, and was used to generate power for a paper mill that stood on the same piece of land that the bank now occupies.

Mills in St. Charles and its surrounding communities played an important role in the growth and development of the Fox River valley, and the close proximity of the river allowed factories to easily harness the power of the river’s flow, especially following the construction of the community dams in the early 1900s.

Rather than dispose of this historic piece of our city’s history, the decision was made to put the wheel on display as a nod to the community’s humble beginnings. The salvaging of this piece of history highlight the importance of places and objects in telling the story of our collective past.

St. Charles Preservation Month Events and Programs

May has been designated as National Historic Preservation Month, a time for communities to come together and celebrate our collective pasts and the objects and buildings that help tell St. Charles’ story.

Whether it’s an old waterwheel, a precious family heirloom, or a historic building, the fact of the matter is that these things and places matter when looking to the past.

In recognition of Preservation Month, the St. Charles History Museum has teamed up with community partners to host several educational events to celebrate our community’s vast and rich 185-year history.

May 11 — Historic Landscapes with Carol Yetken

Carol Yetken, Landscape Architect and Historian of CYLA Design will host a presentation on the History of St. Charles Parks at 10 a.m. Satuday, May 11, at the Pottawatomie Community Center, 8 North Ave. The program is organized by Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley.

May 18 —Historic House Walk with the St. Charles Park District

On. Saturday, May 18, the History Museum and Park District will partner to hold a Historic House Walk through the Pottawatomie neighborhood. The walking tours begin at 11 a.m. in Pottwatomie Park, with tours departing every half hour until 3 p.m. Light refreshments will be provided, courtesy of Nothing Bundt Cakes in Geneva.

May 25 — Civil War Re-enactors

On Saturday, May 25, during the St. Charles Fine Arts show, the St. Charles History Museum will hold a living history presentation at the museum, 215 E. Main St., with Civil War re-enactors who will provide information on the 8th Illinois Cavalry, which trained in St. Charles.

For more information and to register for these events, visit www.stcmuseum.org/events or contact the St. Charles History Museum at 630-584-6967.

Read The Kane County History Series!