Tour of Historical Churches Provides a Walk through History

Thu July 5, 2018

Batavia, Illinois- Churches in downtown Batavia will open their doors for visitors to take a walk through history on September 9th. The participating churches are all historic places and represent many firsts for the community as well as their denominations. While each church is proud of its individual history and historical buildings, the goal of the tour is to highlight the beautiful, architecturally significant interiors and the impact these institutions have had on the Batavia community for more than 150 years.

The participating churches are Bethany Lutheran Church, Batavia United Methodist Church, Calvary Episcopal, and Congregational Church of Batavia.

The Historic Church Walk is organized this year as a benefit for the Depot Museum Expansion Project and in conjunction with the Depot Museum’s “Gather and Praise: A History of Batavia Churches” exhibit.  This special exhibit opens July 25th.

The tour is self-guided and both maps and tickets ($15 each) can be picked up at any of the participating churches before September 9th. The tour maps will also be available on the day of the tour or at the Depot Museum during open hours. The tour times are from 1:00– 4:00 pm and docents will also be present at each church to point out historic features. See the tour guide for specific times for each church, as well as details about refreshments being served at the Depot Museum.

The Depot Museum Expansion Project is to increase the size and functionality of the museum and when completed the museum will have more exhibit and storage space to educate the community about Batavia’s rich history.  The Depot Museum is a cooperative effort of the Batavia Historical Society and Batavia Park District.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit BataviaHistoricalSociety.org or stop by the Depot Museum and Batavia Park District offices located at 327 W. Wilson Street or 14 N. Van Buren Street.

Bethany Lutheran Church at 8 S. Lincoln Street is the youngest example of church architecture on the tour.  The Swedish Bethany Lutheran church was organized in 1872.  This is sometimes called the year of the "Great Migration" in which many Swedes came to Batavia to cut stone to be used in the rebuilding of Chicago after the great fire of the previous year. 

 Batavia United Methodist Church at 8 N. Batavia Avenue is celebrated its 175th Anniversary in 2011.  The first services were held in 1836 in the home of William Van Nortwick.  The first building constructed by the Methodists in 1852 is still standing on First Street.  It was also later used as a school called the McWayne annex.  The current sanctuary was built in 1887, a gift of Captain Newton and Reverend Gammon, whose homes still stand opposite one another at the corner of Batavia Avenue and Wilson Street. 

Calvary Episcopal Church at 222 S. Batavia Avenue was first organized in the home of Mrs. James C. Derby in 1842.  The first church building was constructed on land donated by Joseph McKee in 1855.  That building was destroyed by a tornado.  The first service in the current building in 1880 was in a Batavia limestone building donated by John VanNortwick.

Congregational Church of Batavia at 21 S. Batavia Avenue celebrated its 175th Anniversary 2010.  Founded as the Church of the Big and Little Woods in August 1835 in the cabin of Thompson Paxton, this church was founded first as a Presbyterian church.  The congregation constructed a building in 1840 on Batavia Avenue.  The current sanctuary was constructed in 1856.  It is an example of colonial New England architecture fashioned in Batavia limestone.  

For more information: Jennifer Putzier, Director of the Depot Museum, jenniferp@bataviaparks.org or Dan Hoefler, Batavia Historical Society Board Member, dhoefler1408@comcast.net 630.406.7884