Kane County History: Celebrate 185 Years of Kane County in Special Webinar Thursday, May 6!

Kane County History: Celebrate 185 Years of Kane County in Special Webinar Thursday, May 6!

Kane County’s first courthouse building

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

Celebrate the 185th anniversary of the formation of Kane County, Illinois with the Geneva History Museum as part of the museum’s May is Membership Month.

Register today for this free virtual program that takes place at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 6. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes video of the 1892 courthouse building on South Third Street, stories and photos of the former courthouse buildings and a special message from Kane County Board Chairperson, Corrine Pierog.

1836 Proclamation by Judge of 6th Judicial Circuit, Thomas Ford, May 1836

In 1836, Geneva was chosen as the administrative center for newly established Kane County government, thanks to James and Charity Herrington, some of Geneva’s first permanent settlers. Through his political connections, Herrington managed to get Geneva chosen as the county seat and their log house served all county activities.

In 1837, County offices moved to a frame log courthouse located on a public square fronting State Street. By 1844, the countyʼs growth led to the construction of a new courthouse made of quarry stone and built on the site of the present City Hall between James and State Streets.

1856 Courthouse on South Third Street

By 1856, Kane County again needed larger facilities and a new courthouse was constructed and designed by John M. Van Osdel, one of Chicagoʼs leading architects, for $125,000. The ornate, three story limestone building was placed on South Third Street at the present-day courthouse site and was capped with a large cupola.

On the night of March 13, 1890, the Courthouse burned to the ground. All that remained was the buildingʼs frame. Fortunately, the records were salvaged and stored in the Patten House on Second Street until a new courthouse could be built.

Soon after the fire, Kane County commissioned architects W. J. Edbrooke and Frank P. Burnham to design the courthouse and jail. The red brick, limestone and iron frame courthouse was completed on Sept. 30, 1892 at a cost of $195,000 (roughly $5 million dollars today).

The massive four-story courthouse which still stands today, is regarded as one of the finest in Illinois. Inside the 46-foot high rotunda are murals of scenes from 11 of the 16 townships in Kane County. The murals were commissioned for $19,000 and painted by Aurora native Albert Holschlag in 1909.

After serving Kane County for over 75 years, the fate of the iconic courthouse building was in question several times. Fortunately, in 1969, the Board of Supervisors voted to save the Kane County Courthouse.  Future proposals to construct a new judiciary building continued through the 1970s.

By 1972, county building expansion was made possible by purchasing and adapting the Sacred Heart Seminary located on Route 31 in Geneva. All county administrative offices moved to the site, which became the Kane County Government Center.

In 1975, the Public Building Commission refurbished the courthouse and converted the vacant offices into space for the circuit clerk and court to resolve further spatial issues.

Kane County Government Center, South Batavia Avenue

However, the county seat continued to outgrow these two facilities and in 1989, the County Board acquired a 145.6 acre site on Route 38 in St. Charles to prepare for its future growth. By 1993, the new Kane County Judicial Center building was completed and thus resolved years of spatial constraints.

The Geneva History Museum chooses an anniversary to celebrate each year in May in honor of May is Membership Month.  Join or renew a membership to the Geneva History Museum during the month of May to be entered into a drawing to win a $100 Gift Card that can be used in the Museum’s Gift Shop, for research services and for any upcoming Museum event or program.

For more information visit GenevaHistoryMuseum.org or call 630-232-4951.

Read The Kane County History Series!

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