The Batavia Depot Museum opened in 1975 as a cooperative effort between the Batavia Park District and the Batavia Historical Society. The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Depot was the first of its kind built in 1854 and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside, the city's past comes alive through exhibits detailing the history of rail transportation, manufacture of windmills, agriculture, banking, commerce and a brief stay by Mary Todd Lincoln at Bellevue Place.
Saving the Depot in the early 1970s was an effort that involved all Batavians. Though contributions and generous matching funds from Furnas, $31,000 was raised to move the historic structure from its original location at the corner of Van Buren and Webster street to its current location on Houston Street, a total of 9 blocks, one hill, and one bridge! Moving day, October 11, 1973, was such an event, even school children were let out of class to see the Depot traveling to its new home. Over the years, the Depot has increased the number of exhibits and even space with the addition of the Gustafson Research Center in 2000.
Our institutional mission:
Through collecting, preserving, interpreting and exhibiting the history of Batavia, the Batavia Depot Museum forever captures and preserves the accomplishments of Batavians, while enriching public knowledge and creating leisure and educational opportunities for the community.
For current happenings at the Depot, please check out our events page and follow us on social media!
spring exhibit: markets and meals
This exhibit explores the essential role grocers, butchers and bakers have played in the health of Batavia from the city's early days of general stores to today's big box retailers. With intriguing artifacts, an interactive play space, photos and stories, museum visitors from March to July will learn more about the stores that have kept Batavia fed. Visitors will also learn how fragile our food systems cab be and how Batavians have helped each other weather times of want. When America mobilized fort he war effort in the 1940s, ration books and Victory Gardens helped ensure there was enough for all. Small grocers extended credit and churches organized mutual aid. Find out how Batavians today are fighting food insecurity in our own backyard.
1907 Caboose - The 1907 Chicago Burlington and Quincy Caboose has been outfitted to look as it did back when it was in service. Discover why cabooses were necessary to early trains and about the men who worked them!
Coffin Bank - William Coffin used this small shed in the backyard of his grand home for the very first bank in Batavia, opened 1856. Learn more about Batavia's banking history inside!
Batavia's Railroads - Batavia was the home to many railroads, and each has an important place in the civic and industrial life of the community. This exhibit chronicles the early railroads in Batavia and the Depot's early days.
Mary Todd Lincoln and Bellevue Place - After she was legally declared insane, Mary Todd Lincoln was sent to Bellevue Place in Batavia and put in the care of Dr. Richard Patterson. Here you can learn more about the sanitarium, Mary Todd Lincoln, and see the bed she slept in while being treated.
The VanNortwick Room - The VanNortwicks had a strong hand in shaping early Batavia into the town it is today. Take a glimpse into the family's life and discover their many contributions to settling Batavia and bringing prominent industries to town, such as the railroad and several windmill manufacturers.
Little Town in a Big Woods - Based on the synonymous book by Marilyn Robinson, this exhibit chronicles the early days of Batavia, focusing on settlement and industrial growth of the area.
Gustafson Research Center
Our research center houses an extensive archive of Batavia history, including over 10,000 photographs. The public is invited to visit during the center's open hours, make an appointment outside these hours, or email research requests directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Beginning on June 1, the Gustafson Research Center will be open from 2:00-4:00 pm on Mondays and Fridays, or by appointment. Please call 630-406-5274 to schedule an appointment.
There is no charge to use the facility, but there may be additional reproduction fees.
The Batavia Depot Museum offers a variety of programming for all ages throughout the year. Check out fun ways to learn more about the history of Batavia!
Spring EXHIBIT: Markets and Meals
When many Americans adjusted to working remotely during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery store workers adjusted to life as essential workers. If the people who get us our food didn't get to work, the community didn't get to eat.
This exhibit explores the essential role grocers, butchers and bakers have played in the health of Batavia from the city's early days of general stores to today's big box retailers. With intriguing artifacts, an interactive play space, photos and stories, museum visitors from March to July will learn more about the stores that have kept Batavia fed.
Visitors will also learn how fragile our food systems can be and how Batavians have helped each other weather times of want. When Americans mobilized for the war effort in the 1940's, ration books and Victory Gardens helped ensure there was enough for all. Small grocers extended credit and churches organized mutual aid. Find out how Batavians today are fighting food insecurity in our own backyard.
Batavia History Trolley Tours
Rides will start again in Spring 2024
Take a ride on the Park District's historic, open-air trolley for a guided tour of Batavia's history. Tours last 45-60 minutes, depending on traffic and are $20.
Video Series: Unlocking the Vault
Want to learn more about some of our artifacts? Check out our monthly "Unlocking the Vault" video series! The videos go into depth about the objects and provide fun facts about the history behind them. Make sure to check out these videos on The Batavia Park District YouTube page to gain some knowledge about Batavia's rich history!