Kane County History: A St. Charles Christmas Story -- The Special Gift For Mr. Baker

Kane County History: A St. Charles Christmas Story — The Special Gift For Mr. Baker

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by Lindsay Judd, executive director of the St. Charles History Museum.

Gift giving is one of the main themes of the holiday season. From toys to family vacations, people all over the world participate in the great gift giving tradition.

St. Charles has witnessed gift giving not just during the holiday season, but all throughout the year by philanthropists like Charles Haines, Lester and Dellora Norris, and of course Colonel E. J. Baker. And these gifts were no small things.

They were land for schools; hospitals for the community and helping out neighbors during the 1930s Depression. It is hard to imagine where St. Charles would be without the endless generosity of these people and others just like them.

Despite all the amazing things that people like Colonel Baker did for St. Charles, there are those special moments when the community gets to give back. One such instance happened on Christmas Day in 1930. A ceremony was planned at Hotel Baker in honor of Colonel Baker to present him with a very special gift: a brick.

Now this wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill brick. In fact, this brick started in 1854 as a mass of clay from the rich soil of St. Charles, baked in a local kiln, and shaped into a brick that would then be used in the construction of the new West Side School.

Located at the corner of West 5th Avenue and Illinois Street, West Side School was built by School District 8 and cost a grand total of $6,000.

The school served the community for 76 years and has remained a cherished building in our memories since. Hundreds of students learned in its classrooms and still remember it with fondness.

One such student was our very own Colonel Baker. When he was a student going to school there, he, like many others, carved his name deep into the surface of the brick.

On Nov. 24, 1930, the old West Side School was torn down to make way for the new Evan Shelby School building. Before the building was torn down, however, they made sure to remove that special brick with Colonel Baker’s inscription on its face.

The inscription read: “E. Baker.”

So on Christmas Day 1930 at the illustrious Hotel Baker, the School District 87’s Board of Education presented this reclaimed brick to Colonel Baker as a memento of the past and a relic of a historic building of early St. Charles.

The brick was presented to Colonel Baker in a lacquered wood box, lined with red velvet. The box was constructed by Frank R. Johnson from the Globe Music Company.

The brick, as well as the luxurious box, can be seen on display at the St. Charles History Museum.

Read The Kane County History Series!

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