St. James Farm: Formerly an equestrian venue, now it's an oasis for visitors

 
Daily Herald report
Posted8/29/2019 6:00 AM

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.

Pat Fullhart of East Geneva with Smokey, left, and Nancy Mores of Wheaton, with Stu, enjoy a ride through St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville.
  Pat Fullhart of East Geneva with Smokey, left, and Nancy Mores of Wheaton, with Stu, enjoy a ride through St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville.
Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
Scott and Jenny Neubert of Carol Stream take a hike through St. James Farm Forest Preserve. "We both just retired and we like to check out different places," Scott Neubert said.
  Scott and Jenny Neubert of Carol Stream take a hike through St. James Farm Forest Preserve. "We both just retired and we like to check out different places," Scott Neubert said.
Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville.
  St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville.
Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
Visitors to St. James Farm can view historic buildings, enjoy sculptures and other artwork, and find plenty of trails and picnic areas.
  Visitors to St. James Farm can view historic buildings, enjoy sculptures and other artwork, and find plenty of trails and picnic areas.
Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
The trails at St. James Farm offer the opportunity to hike, bike and ride horses.
  The trails at St. James Farm offer the opportunity to hike, bike and ride horses.
Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
The preserve offers plenty of quiet places to relax and reflect.
  The preserve offers plenty of quiet places to relax and reflect.
Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
St. James Farm Forest Preserve includes a horse and hound cemetery.
  St. James Farm Forest Preserve includes a horse and hound cemetery.
Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
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