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Walk on the funky side of Batavia’s history during Preservation Week

Tue April 12, 2022

BATAVIA – A pub crawl, corroded battery jar and bovine bones don’t sound like they would share much in common, but this trio will help Batavia history come alive this weekend for Preservation Week.

Preservation Week is celebrated this year in Batavia from Monday, April 11, through Saturday, April 16. It seeks to inspire members of the community to preserve community, family and personal history, as well as museum and library collections. Preserving our shared history is crucial, now and for future generations.

Batavia Depot Museum staff will host several unique events on Friday and Saturday, beginning with Cheers Through the Years. This festive pub crawl through some of Batavia’s best old gin joints returns this year after a two-year pandemic hiatus. Scheduled for 7-9 p.m. on Friday, April 15, this history-flavored event allows individuals to learn the funky history behind some of Batavia’s old bars and saloons and sample some specials designed just for this event. Participants may join a guided tour or venture out on their own after picking up a map and wristband between 7-8 p.m. at Depot Museum, 155 Houston St.

The guided tour will begin at 7:15 p.m. at Depot Museum and take visitors to four kinds of structures, where a tour guide will discuss the history and adaptive re-uses of those properties.

“Some early structures were built to do whatever the community needed at the time,” Depot Museum Director Kate Garrett said. “With 20th century architecture, you can recognize a Pizza Hut 20 years after it was a Pizza Hut.”

This tour includes an old creamery, where butter was made; a local saloon that survived Prohibition, where participants will hear how Batavia changed during its “dry spell;” Bulldog’s Cellar, which used to house a tin shop, a confectionary and the local headquarters of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union before becoming a tavern with liquor sales; and Gammon Coach House, which was built as the garage for the Gammon family residence before morphing into today’s restaurant and pub.

The Gammon Coach House was designed by John Mills Van Osdel, who is recognized as Chicago’s first professional architect and who designed the governor’s mansion in Springfield, Garrett said.

“This is the perfect Preservation Week event,” she said. “It’s great for local historians; great for folks who like to have a drink in a funky way; and great for local architecture buffs.”

The fee for this event is $10 per person and open to those 21 and older.

If you’ve ever been curious about the unseen portions of Batavia’s century-old buildings, the (sub)urban Adventure Tour is the perfect way to explore some hidden history in areas typically not viewed by the public. This event is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Visitors may pick up a map at Depot Museum and explore on their own, or travel by trolley to these locations. An all-day trolley pass is $20.

For this tour, participants must follow the Urban Explorer Code of Ethics and take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints.

From noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, it’s time to go hands on with Batavia’s history in the Artifact Petting Zoo. Careful planning is implemented while handling artifacts because the oils in a person’s skin can degrade those items. Paper items and other objects are preserved in display cases or by using special archival materials to protect them and ensure they will remain for future generations to enjoy. But during this behind-the-scenes event, a special selection of items can be held or touched to experience the different ways that pieces can degrade through time and improper care.

“I’m showcasing what naturally happens to materials over time and how we can prevent that from happening to your treasures,” Depot Museum Curator Heather Bigeck said.

A very corroded, thoroughly rusted-over battery jar, as well as about half a dozen unidentified bovine bones will be some of the touchable artifacts. Others include 1930s-era coffee tins and 19th century wooden baking bowls.

“Bone is such a unique material. You have to preserve it so very carefully or it can deteriorate quickly,” Bigeck said. “When you see bones at a museum, such as a natural history museum, it’s hands off.”

To register for the pub crawl and adventure tour, just go to bataviaparks.org/special-events and click on “Register Here.” Artifact Petting Zoo is a free event, but monetary donations will be accepted at the Museum.

For more information on Batavia Park District programs and events, call 630-879-5235 or visit bataviaparks.org.