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History and Culture

Known as the Windmill City, Batavia has a rich and vibrant history, dating to its first settlement by Christopher Payne in 1833. In 1840, the new settlement was given the name Batavia by a resident, Judge Isaac Wilson, in honor of his former hometown, Batavia, New York.

Located on the banks of the Fox River, Batavia was home to six windmill companies in the mid-1800s, shipping hundreds of windmills annually. By the late 1860s the number of windmills manufactured in Batavia numbered in the thousands. Batavia is proud to have played a part in the westward expansion, with Batavia Windmills providing the watering stations needed to power the steam engines that carried people to new frontiers. Batavia was also known for its paper mill industry with Batavia being a major supplier of paper to the city of Chicago, including the Chicago Tribune.

Much of the quarry stone for the area’s stone homes and buildings came from Batavia’s quarries, including Bellevue, the sanitarium that provided respite for Mary Todd Lincoln after the death of her husband.

By the 1930s, Batavia was a thriving city with many industries.

One company, Campana Corporation, became a major employer. It received nationwide recognition when one of its products, Italian Balm, became the first lotion marketed to women to improve the softness of the skin.

The magnificent art deco building that housed Campana still stands.

Batavia cherishes its history. Although the windmill industry no longer exists in Batavia, windmills have been erected around the city to welcome visitors. A windmill park at the Riverwalk preserves this important part of Batavia’s history. Other important artifacts and historical treasures are housed at the Depot Museum.

The Riverwalk is a beautiful park in the middle of town that provides the space for concerts and community events including Windmill City Fest and the Art in Your Eye art show. The city has made a commitment to the arts with sculptures at the Riverwalk, on the Donovan Bridge, and in the Sculpture Garden. Water Street Studios offers studio space, classes in fine arts and a showcase for artists to display their works.

A recent development has made the River Street area a lively entertainment district with outstanding restaurants. It is also home to the Farmers Market, a popular gathering spot for Batavians on Saturday mornings.

Batavia is the “City of Energy,” a name that not only references the windmills; but also, the spirit that runs through the friendly river town.

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