Introduction to St. James Farm I: Buildings

by Carl Strang

During the first several years of this blog I reported the results of my monitoring activities at Mayslake Forest Preserve. I also took occasional looks back at previous preserve monitoring at Fullersburg Woods and Willowbrook. Those three sites are the ones where my office was located for different segments of my career with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. The idea is to take regular walks through a site and to sketch its ongoing story as comprehensively as the observer’s limitations will allow.

Now that I have retired, I wish to continue the satisfying process of preserve monitoring, and am shifting to St. James Farm Forest Preserve. That site is close to my home, and is a relatively recent and relatively little known addition to the county’s preserves (though it became better understood in late spring 2015 thanks to the Centennial Bioblitz). Finally, this preserve holds the largest block of forest in the western half of the county that has persisted from the early 1800’s to the present day.

Today I begin reporting on St. James Farm by highlighting some of the architecture that has made it an attractive site for events and for public visitation. St. James Farm originally was acquired in 1920 by Chauncey and Marion McCormick, whose family co-founded International Harvester. Their interests included equestrian and dairy operations. Their son Brooks continued and expanded the equestrian facilities and events, especially after he retired. He also was interested in conservation, and in 2000 he sold the property to the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County but retained the right to live there until his death. The District took possession in 2007 and gradually has been converting the site to make it amenable to year-round public use. A photo gallery follows.

Stables and a magnificent horse sculpture immediately draw the eye from the viewpoint of the parking lot.

Stables and a magnificent horse sculpture immediately draw the eye from the viewpoint of the parking lot.

The stables and farm buildings form an impressive array.

The stables and farm buildings form an impressive array.

Artifacts from International Harvester’s history were transported to the farm and are preserved there.

Artifacts from International Harvester’s history were transported to the farm and are preserved there.

Beautiful details reward a close study of the buildings.

Beautiful details reward a close study of the buildings.

This dolphin fountain is part of an area that once was a center for equestrian events.

This dolphin fountain is part of an area that once was a center for equestrian events.

Brooks McCormick stipulated that his house be torn down before the District opened the farm to the public, and further forbade staff to take photographs of it. I saw the building before it was demolished, and frankly it was not much to look at. This gate remains at the house’s former location.

Brooks McCormick stipulated that his house be torn down before the District opened the farm to the public, and further forbade staff to take photographs of it. I saw the building before it was demolished, and frankly it was not much to look at. This gate remains at the house’s former location.

The horse and hound cemetery respectfully is preserved.

The horse and hound cemetery respectfully is preserved.

This caboose is an incongruous presence, testimony to a wealthy collector’s interests.

This caboose is an incongruous presence, testimony to a wealthy collector’s interests.

The landscape architecture of the grounds, and the wilder portions of the preserve, will be subjects of the next posts.

 

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