Kane County History: Amazing Stories Behind Geneva’s Extraordinary Parks

Kane County History: Amazing Stories Behind Geneva’s Extraordinary Parks

Herrington Island postcard hand-dated 1906. (CREDIT: All photos courtesy of the Geneva History Museum.)

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was contributed by Terry Emma, director of the Geneva History Museum.

One of the things that draws people to Geneva, whether for a visit or as a place to live, is the charm of the parks and recreational areas.

The Geneva Park District has grown to consist of more than 50 parks, since the opening of Geneva’s first park in 1914.

Island Park

Island Park circa 1915.

An Illinois state law, enacted in 1911, provided for the appointment of municipal park boards. Under this law, Geneva formed a Board of Township Park Commissioners that was responsible for establishing Herrington Island as the city’s first public park.

Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Richards sold the property to the city in 1914, with the stipulation that it be used as a park, even though it had been used as an unofficial park for years, with temporary bridges put up each summer.

By 1915 a field house had been built, a permanent foot bridge was in place, and Herrington’s Island had become Island Park.

By 1950, there were four parks in Geneva: Island, McKinley, Dryden and Wheeler. Island Park was still controlled by the Township Park District, but the others were under the jurisdiction of different city authorities.

McKinley Park — Later GHS

Geneva Community High School and Civic Center dedication program cover, Nov. 9, 1958.

McKinley Park was a four-acre parcel lying between McKinley and Logan Avenues south of Center Street that was purchased by the city in 1937.

It eventually became part of the 15-acre campus of the new Geneva Community High School and Civic Center that opened in 1958.

Dryden Park

Dryden Park was a five-acre meadow located south of the railroad tracks, at the northeast corner of Cheever and Western Avenues.

It was given to the city in 1948 by Mr. and Mrs. Perry Dryden.

Wheeler Park

Wheeler gravel pit operation, circa 1903.

One of the larger parks to be developed in Geneva was Wheeler Park.

The 53 acres at the north edge of town along North First Street was, at one time, the site of a quarry. In 1950, the last of four deeds to the land was given to the city by Mr. and Mrs. Leon Wheeler.

The four parks were finally consolidated under one jurisdiction in 1953 when a general park district for Geneva was voted into place. The referendum created a separate municipal governing and taxing agency for the purpose of providing parks, facilities and recreational programs for the citizens of Geneva.

Peck Farm Park

Peck Farm house, circa 1959.

Peck Farm Park was added to the roster of Geneva parks in 1994. It is 385 acres on the west side of Geneva along Kaneville Road.

Peck Farm silo, circa 1994.

Originally part of a farm owned by Eli Peck dating back to the 1860s, the property was acquired by the Geneva Park District from the Peck family with the intention of it being used as an educational center.

Join us at the Geneva History Museum at noon on Tuesday, Sept. 10, for our Brown Bag Program with Trish Burns, manager of Geneva Park District’s Peck Farm Park, to celebrate the Peck Farm House’s 150th anniversary with an in-depth look at the Peck Family and their legacy.

To register for this event, please visit www.GenevaHistoryMuseum.org or call 630-232-4951.

Read The Kane County History Series!