St. James Farm: Formerly an equestrian venue, now it's an oasis for visitors
The 595-acre St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville once was a haven for horses.
Now it's a haven for visitors who want to check out its historic buildings, enjoy the sculptures and artwork that dot the grounds, hike the many trails, take in the wildlife, picnic or even fish for largemouth bass, bluegill and catfish.
Operated by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, the original farm was the retreat of the McCormick family.
According to the district's website, Chauncey and Marion McCormick acquired the initial 203 acres in 1920.
"Chauncey was the great nephew of Cyrus McCormick, who invented the first commercially successful mechanical reaper and in 1851 co-founded the McCormick Reaper Works, which merged with the Deering Harvester Company in 1906 to become International Harvester Corporation," the website says.
"In the late 1950s, the property passed to the McCormicks' son, Brooks, who managed the estate with his wife, Hope. After his retirement from International Harvester in 1980, Brooks began to aggressively develop the estate's renowned equestrian facility, which grew to include a 62-stall stable for competitors' horses, a 1.5-mile steeplechase track, a 200-seat concession area and dressage and jumping arenas.
"St. James Farm hosted several international eventing and dressage competitions and an annual steeplechase race, which drew up to 14,000 spectators and raised funds for the Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital" in Wheaton.
McCormick sold the site to the forest preserve district in 2000 in an agreement that allowed him to live on the property until he died in 2006. The district officially took possession in 2007.
Today the preserve, with a main entrance off Winfield Road just north of Butterfield Road, features more than 100 acres of woodlands, prairies and wetlands that are home to great blue heron, red-bellied woodpeckers, coyotes and white-tailed deer.