Photo: Captain Charles B. Wells House, ca. 1857, South Third Street, Central Geneva Historic District, Geneva, IL. Photographed by Richard J. Wall, 1935, Historic American Buildings Survey [HABS IL-45], memory.loc.gov, accessed June, 2014.
The Central Geneva Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The Central Geneva Historic District encompasses most of the southern half of the town as it was originally platted. A great deal of consideration was given to the homogeneity of the architecture within this district. The area was originally residential with most commerce taking place on West State Street and, though the area has seen steadily encroaching southward commercial growth, it has kept the character of its original state. The Central Geneva Historic District encompasses most of the Second Ward in central Geneva. The area is bounded on the east by the Fox River and moving west, the district encompasses the lower portion of the blocks from the Fox River to North Fourth Street including those buildings with frontage on West State Street, the exception being a significant building on North Second Street for which the boundary makes a slight northerly jog. At Fourth Street, the boundary moves to the south side of West State Street and continues west to South Sixth Street. A building located on the northwest corner of South Sixth and Fulton Streets has been included in the district because of its historical relationship to other structures. South Street forms the southern border of the district with an outward exception made to include the buildings at the southwest corner of South and South Fourth Streets and the southeast corner of South and South First Streets.
Land use within the district is varied. Public, commercial and private properties can be found here. Commercial properties designed specifically for that use are located, for the most part, on or within a block of West State Street. The other remaining commercial structures are converted former residences. Public buildings include a hospital, public library, city hall, and--most importantly-the courthouse. It is the latter structure that forms the focal point of the Geneva Historic District.
Residential lots are varied, with most houses set back at least 30 feet from the street. "Period shops" are confined primarily to South Third Street, with a few others located on South First and South Second Streets. While these buildings have been altered to meet the needs of a commercial business, the overall architectural integrity still exists. Rather than detract from the district's character these, "period shops" unobtrusively integrate with surrounding historic structures.
South First Street (Illinois Highway 31) and West State Street (Illinois Highway 38) are the only two principal arteries within the district. Geneva's commercial area, located on both sides of West State Street, is the northern boundary. On the south, the district is bounded by South Street. South of this street, the occurrence of intrusions is frequent. The Fox River represents the eastern edge of the district. South Sixth Street forms the western boundary because a well defined shift in architectural quality is evident on South Seventh Street. Buildings within the district are unified by similarity in architectural styles and date, and a sense of place is distinctive here.
The majority of houses in the Geneva Historic District are two-story frame structures which date from 1840 to 1900. Several of these residences, moreover, are among the oldest existing buildings in Geneva. Of the older houses, most are vernacular in style and built of local riverstone. The district is particularly outstanding in the many fine representatives of mid- to late-nineteenth-century architectural styles. The most notable structures within the district include the Greek Revival Unitarian Church; Gothic Revival Loveday House; Italianate Augustus Herrington House, Moore House, and Plato House; Neoclassical Charles B. Wells House; Federal Revival George Patten House and Isaac Wilson House; Prairie School Hoyt House; and vernacular riverstone buildings, Eben Conant House and Walter House. The Kane County Courthouse is the only structure in the district, aside from spires of the three churches, to exceed three stories.
Geneva's reputation as a scenic shopping area has contributed to the maintenance, if not the restoration, of older buildings, especially along South Third Street. Consequently, the dominant atmosphere of the district is tree lined and generally well tended. Intrusions, where they exist, are minimal.
‡ Jeffrey Allen Hallgren, BFA, MA, and Constance Fukuda, Architectural Historian, Central Geneva Historic District, Kane County, IL, nomination document, 1989, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
1st Street South • 2nd Street South • 3rd Street South • 4th Street South • 5th Street South • 6th Street South • Campbell Street • Franklin Street • Fulton Street • James Street • Lincoln Highway • River Lane South • Route 31 • Route 38 • South Street