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DuPage County Historical Museum tour to showcase architecture in downtown Wheaton

WHEATONDuPage County Historical Museum manager and educator Michelle Podkowa believes architecture can reveal a lot about a community.

"It reflects not only the physical history of a place, but also the ideals, the cultures, the challenges and the growth of the area," she said.

Podkowa will lead an architectural walking tour through downtown Wheaton from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 18. The tour will start at the museum at 102 E. Wesley St. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for children, available by calling 630-510-4941 or visiting

The tour will cover two miles, and participants are advised to dress for the elements. The museum's building, which first opened in October 1891 as the Adams Memorial Library, is one of the buildings that will be featured in the tour.

The building was built by Wheaton resident John Quincy Adams in memory of his late wife, Marilla Phipps Adams. John, a descendant of the Adams line that produced two presidents, was born in 1824 in Massachusetts and came to Chicago in 1851.

The Adams Memorial Library was the first public library and cultural facility in Wheaton, as well as one of the first libraries in Illinois to adopt the Dewey Decimal System. The library's current building opened in 1965, just a block east of the Adams Memorial Library.

In 1967, the building opened as the DuPage County Historical Museum under the operation of DuPage County and the DuPage County Historical Society. The museum currently exists as a facility of the Wheaton Park District.

John Quincy Adams hired architect Charles Sumner Frost to design the Adams Memorial Library. Frost is one of five architects featured in the museum's newest exhibit, "DuPage Architects," which will run through February.

Frost also designed two train stations in downtown Wheaton, including a station on Front Street that currently houses Naperville Running Co. In addition, he designed a station currently at Cosley Zoo in Wheaton, where it houses administrative offices, concessions and the zoo store.

The former Wheaton Grand Theater building on North Hale Street also is included on the tour. Originally opened in 1925, the theater hosted live drama, silent films and vaudeville performances. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Building owner Jim Atten recently told Wheaton City Council members that plans are moving ahead to turn the building into a performing arts venue.

The tour also will stop at the old DuPage County Courthouse building and the courthouse's annex building. The courthouse annex building, which was built in 1938, was designed by R. Harold Zook.

"Architecturally, it's Georgian style, which is very symmetrical," Podkowa said. "A lot of government buildings are built in that style. It's usually very horizontal in appearance, with classical elements involved. This building has a cupola, and it also has a recessed door. That's something that Zook often did, was deeply recessed doors."

Zook also liked to put unique elements in his buildings, she said.

"The annex building actually has an upside pineapple above the door," Podkowa said. "He sometimes puts in interesting things like spider webs... Sometimes his spider web design would end up in his brick work or in other ways."


If you go

WHAT: Architectural walking tour

WHEN: 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 18

WHERE: Downtown Wheaton

COST: $6 for adults, $4 for children


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