2017 Day Trip: Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva, Illinois / Fabyan Windmill – Old Dutch Mill.

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2017 Day Trip:  Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva, Illinois .

The idea was to see the Fabyan Windmill – An Old Dutch Mill.

Location: Fabyan Forest Preserve East, 1600 Crissey Ave (IL Rte 25), Geneva, IL 60134.

The 68-foot, 5-story structure is completely refurbished and operational.

It was  originally built by Louis Blackhaus, a German craftsman, between 1850 and 1860. The Windmill originally stood on a site in what is now Lombard, Illinois. In 1914, it was purchased by George Fabyan for about $8,000, and moved here to Riverbank.

The Fabyan windmill is now located  on the eastern bank of the Fox River in Fabyan Forest Preserve, Illinois.  The windmill complements its surroundings in what was once the estate of Colonel George Fabyan. Now part of the Kane County Forest Preserve District, the windmill grove is widely popular and the most visited place in the region.

Across the  Fox River, there is more of Fabyan’s Riverbank Estate, including a restored Frank llyod Wright home which they called the “villa.”  There is a Japanese Garden developed by Taro Otsuka, a hundred years old Lighthouse. They also had award winning livestock, ponds, pools and ornamental garden with arbors and grettos. Not to forget they owned two pet bears named Tom and Jerry.

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Fabyan Windmill

Fabyan Windmill

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Fabyan Windmill: History of the Mill

The Windmill’s Original Location: York Center, which is now part of Lombard. In 1975, two German immigrants Louis Backhaus and his brother-in-law Friedrich Brockmann constructed the windmill on the 10-acre site in York Center, which is now part of Lombard. The site today is known as Knolls Park.

The windmill’s structure was made from a Dutch-built prefabricated kit that included hand-cut cypress beams with hickory and maple gearing. The parts were shipped to Lombard and assembled on site. The mill also had a wing building presumably used for storage (though it may have once housed an auxiliary steam engine).

Apparently, business for the mill was relatively good, as the land value continued to rise over time—probably because the windmill was located near the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin line (now the Illinois Prairie Path), which carried passengers and freight to and from the Loop.

Brockmann sold the farm and the mill to Frederick Runge in 1887 for $4,000. The windmill continued operation under Runge, for about a year, until the sail were damaged from storm and Runge had to cease using them, prompting Runge to find a buyer. Runge passed away before the windmill was sold to  Fabyan in 1914.

On October 15, 1914, Colonel George Fabyan purchased the mill for $8,000 from the widow of Frederick Runge. Though the windmill had deteriorated badly from sitting unused for a little more than a decade, Fabyan had it dismantled in York Center and shipped to its current site in Geneva, the colonel’s estate known as “Riverbank.” The project took about 19 months and $77,000 to complete. Most of the original windmill was discarded during the move from York Center to the Estate, keeping only the basic structure and the mill gearing.

 

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Fabyan Windmill

Fabyan Windmill

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Fabyan’s Touch

After it was assembled at his Riverbank Estate, Fabyan made alterations to his windmill. Probably the most noticeable is the new foundation for the mill creating a basement level. Windmills genereally do not have basements, and since this mill does, it is six floors high and the tallest in Illinois. Other modifications Fabyan made include, windows on the fourth floor, an iron draft shaft and an oven in the basement. Even though the original mill was made almost entirely of wood, he had an iron drive shaft installed (separate from that of the wooden upright shaft) to run the machinery in the basement level which included a sharpening wheel, a corn sheller, and a grain separator. He also installed an oven in the basement, although evidence suggests it was rarely, if ever, used. Because of the oven and the mill’s structure, an exhaust system was built underground, then came up through a chimney disguised in a stone bus shelter, destroyed in the 1950s by a truck.

Some of the other parts of the mill that ought to be wooden—such as the quants—are now iron, but it is not clear whether these alterations were made by Fabyan or by previous owners. The mill stones are designed for wheat, corn, and feed grinding. In addition to being an asset to local farmers, the mill’s products were also used to feed the Colonel’s livestock and two bears, Tom and Jerry. The mill stopped grinding in 1919.

Inside the windmill, visitors can see the clear difference between what is original to the windmill and what Fabyan added. There is a clear coat of varnish on everything that was either new to the mill or remodeled.

 

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Fabyan Windmill

Fabyan Windmill

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Unique Aspects of Riverbank Estate

Though Fabyan’s true motivation for the purchasing the windmill is unknown, some evidence suggests it was a present for his wife.  However, most agree that Fabyan bought the windmill because he was the kind of man who wanted things most people did not have. Before ending all grinding in the mill in 1919, Fabyan used to mill to grind wheat and corn into flour, and use the flour to bake bread in the oven on site. Some say that the bread was used to feed his two bears, Tom and Jerry.

Yes Fabyan had two bears, named Tom and jerry. The windmill was only one of the unique aspects of their Riverbank Estate.  Across the Fox River,  Colonel George Fabyan and his wife, Nelle, owned a restored [in 1907]  Frank Lloyd Wright house which the called “Villa.”  The Villa now serves as a museum full of photographs and memorabilia.  In 1914, landscape architect Taro Otsuka designed Fabyan’s Japanese Garden. The garden was restored in 1971 and again in 1994, and is open to the public. They has award winning livestock, ponds, pools, and ornamental gardens with arbors and grottos.  Fabyan and his wife, first settled on just ten acres land.   Eventually, Fabyan’s estate grew to cover 600 acres.

 

Riverbank Estate becoming a Forest Preserve

 

The Colonel Fabyan died May 17, 1936; his wife died two years later.  The executors of  Nelle’s will sold the 600-acre Riverbank Estate to the Forest Preserve District of Kane County for $70,500, in 1937.  The unique windmill instantly became a local landmark.

 

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Fabyan Windmill

Fabyan Windmill

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Accolades and Renovations

After the Forest Prserve District of Kane County purchased the Riverbank Estate, the windmill sat unsued. The District left the structure open for public tours, and Fabyan Forest Preserve became the most visited of the county’s preserves.

Through the years the windmill received several honors. It was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1979. The U.S. Postal Service honored it in 1980, by selecting it to be one of the five 15-cent stamps in the Windmill USA Booklet.

Kane County considered the windmill’s demolition as early as 1990 when it became structurally unsafe for public inspection. Jack Cook and Jon Duerr, among others, began fighting to keep the mill intact. In 1997, the Kane County Forest Preserve District hired Lucas Verbij, a world-renowned third-generation Dutch millwright, to inspect the Fabyan windmill and compose a condition report. Verbij was discovered by the Preservation Partners of Fox Valley, a non-profit organization dedicated to Riverbank’s care. The initial cost estimate was over $600,000. Although the price was steep for the Forest Preserve, many locals, the Preservation Partners, and Lucas Verbij insisted that the unique mill be preserved. Through fund-raising, private investments, and a grant, the Kane County Forest Preserve voted to preserve the mill.

In 2003, the cap was lifted off the tower (the sails were already taken down some years ago, as they were a structural threat) so that parts could be shipped to Verbij’s company in Holland. Meanwhile, in Illinois, construction crews worked to strengthen the concrete foundation and reinforce the tower. The cracks in the huge wooden support beams were filled with a wood and fiberglass mixture. Other parts of the mill, such as the hoppers, grain elevators, and chutes, were completely rebuilt. In April of 2004, the rebuilt cap was lifted onto the tower.

On October 16, 2004, exactly 90 years and one day after Colonel Fabyan bought the mill, the restoration was complete.  The final cost of restoration was $916,000. The windmill remains mostly as it did during Fabyan’s ownership, except for some modern amenities like fire alarms, track lighting, flood lights.

 

Fabyan Windmill Today

The forest preserve held a grand opening celebration on June 3, 2005, exactly 26 years after it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Local artists displayed their work and a ceremony was held to commemorate those involved in its restoration on a job well done. The mill itself was dressed in red, white, and blue as the volunteer millers managed to get the sails turning despite light winds.

In 2008 work was completed on a small picnic pavilion just to the south of the windmill; historical photographs of the mill were posted throughout the shelter the following year. From a distance—and at just the right angle—the shelter almost looks like the wing building that used to be attached the mill when it was still located in Lombard. New landscaping and sidewalks are among the improvements made at the site since its restoration.

 

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Fabyan Windmill

Fabyan Windmill

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If you are there to seethe Fabyan Windmills..
I highly recommend crossing the Fox River on exploring other highlights of the Fabyan Forest Preserve.
Fabyan Forest Preserve Attractions.. click here..

 

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Bridge over Fox River / Fabyan Forest preserve.

Bridge over Fox River / Fabyan Forest preserve.

 

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Fabyan Japanese Garden

Fabyan Japanese Garden

 

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Fabyan Villa / redesigned by Frank Llyod Wright in 1907.

Fabyan Villa / redesigned by Frank Llyod Wright in 1907.

 

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Fabyan Windmill from the other side of Fox River

Fabyan Windmill from the other side of Fox River

 

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Thank You for visiting the  Forest Preserve of Kane County

Thank You for visiting the Forest Preserve of Kane County

 

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Related Links:

Fabyan Forest Preserve Attractions.. click here..

My Vacations.. click here..
Vacation: USA.. click here..
Vacation: UK.. click here..
Vacation: India.. click here..
UNESCO World Heritage Site.. click here..
Home: Public Art in Chicago..  .. click here..

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