living history

March 2021 View more

Lindsay Judd, executive director of St. Charles History Museum, remembers the precise moment from her childhood when the native became enchanted with the river city’s storied past.

On a field trip walking the streets of downtown St. Charles in third grade, she was captivated by the story of the Richards’ Riot of 1849. It involved Illinois’s first medical college and, as Judd describes, “grave robbing and séances and gunfights.” To hear more, you’ll have to visit St. Charles yourself to take the museum’s self-guided walking tour. The building that housed the college—now a pizzeria—still remains on the corner of Main Street and First Avenue.

Judd, 32, directed the Mount Prospect Historical Society for six years before joining the St. Charles History Museum (215 E. Main St., 630.584.6967, last spring. Her love for St. Charles history runs so deep that she once brought a high school boyfriend to the museum on a date. “I’m still friends with him to this day and he laughs about it,” Judd says. However, there are plenty of other spots she recommends for a date or family outing.

Downtown St. Charles straddles the Fox River, with Pottawatomie Park (8 North Ave., on the east bank. There are walking paths, a playground, pedal boats for rent and—a Judd family favorite—miniature golf. “I always liked going there [to golf] in middle school and high school, and my parents still go there for my mom’s birthday,” she says. “Right
north of there is the launchpad for the paddle-wheel riverboats run by the park district. That’s a really nice, relaxing thing to do.”

For sustenance, two of Judd’s faves are El Puente (112 E. Main St., 630.377.8884, for Mexican fare and McNally’s
(109 W. Main St., 630.513.6300, for an Irish boxty
or fish and chips.

Other favorite green spaces include Mount St. Mary Park (Prairie Street east of Route 31) and Langum Park (Seventh and Madison Avenues). Mount St. Mary has a skate park and outdoor sculptures on display from May through September. “Langum Park was the former site of Camp Kane, which was a Civil War training camp,” she says. And if a snowy spring is in store, take note: “It has a great sledding hill.”

Anything But Ordinary
Downtown St. Charles will gain a new restaurant this spring with the debut of the Graceful Ordinary (1 E. Main St.) in the former BMO Harris Bank building from husband-and-wife team Chris and Megan Curren, most recently of Chicago’s Fulton Market Kitchen and Bonhomme Hospitality Group, respectively. “In colonial times, another name for your town’s tavern was an ‘ordinary,’” Chris says. In their refined take on a tavern, expect fare cooked on an open hearth and a riverside terrace that will feel like a “sophisticated garden soiree,” he says.

Photos courtesy St. Charles Park District, Lindsay Judd, and D+K Architecture