Batavia to tell the stories of historic sites with sign project

The Batavia Government Center building once housed the Appleton Company windmill factory and later was the site for the design and production of components for the 1969 Moon landing.

BATAVIA – Mayor Jeff Schielke loves to tell stories about Batavia’s history and one of his favorites is the city’s connection to the 1969 moon landing.

It was inside what is now the Batavia City Council chambers that the flexible fuel lines used on the Saturn rocket that carried three astronauts into space were designed and produced.

Famed rocket scientist Wernher von Braun visited the building, which at the time housed D-K Aerospace in the former Appleton Company windmill factory.

Schielke wants that location and other historic sites in Batavia to be marked with historical displays.

The mayor outlined the project at his annual breakfast address to the Batavia Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 2 at the Covenant Living at the Holmstad senior center.

Schielke said the city has obtained a $75,000 grant to install the displays from The Dunham Foundation, the same organization that helped fund Batavia’s recently opened Flag Day Memorial.

The panels will feature narrative text and photographs about the particular location, along with QR codes providing visitors with more information and pictures about the site’s place in history.

The intersection of West Wilson Street and Route 31 was visited by two future presidents and is to be the location for one of the historic signs.

In 1919, U.S. Army Capt. Dwight D. Eisenhower was part of a vehicle convoy on a transcontinental trip across America on the Lincoln Highway, pausing in Batavia.

In 1960, Sen. John F. Kennedy made an impromptu stump speech at Route 31 and Wilson Street during his presidential campaign as his motorcade passed through Batavia on the way to Aurora.

“We’ve got some serious American history at that intersection,” Schielke said.

Another location that will be marked with one of the historical signs is the site of the Shumway Foundry just south of the downtown area. The foundry was noted for producing the statuettes awarded to movie stars at the Oscar ceremonies.

Other potential locations are several downtown church buildings, including the Congregational, Methodist and Episcopal churches, along with the Challenge and U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company windmill factory sites.

The city is working on the project with the Batavia Park District and Batavia Historical Society to research, write, design and install the historic displays.

The Batavia Government Center building now bears Schielke’s name by a vote of the Batavia City Council.