And One More Combined Travel Memory and Northern Illinois Destination: Cantigny Park, Wheaton, Illinois

I’m due for another Northern Illinois Destination, and since I have another 1979 travel memories that is also a Northern Illinois Destination, I figured why not?  I don’t think that travel memories and Northern Illinois/South Texas destinations will ever converge like this again. The next Illinois travel memory, from 1980, will be Central Illinois.

The McCormick family were kind of a big deal in Chicago. Cyrus McCormick, Sr. held a patent on a mechanical reaper which changed the face of agriculture forever. The reaper was also the basis for the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, which was later folded into International Harvester Company and is now Navistar International Corporation.

Another founder of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company was Cyrus’s younger brother, Leander McCormick. Leander was something of a real estate magnate.  Leander’s great-grandson, Robert R. McCormick, grew up in the McCormick mansion on Rush Street, a building that was, for most of my life, the Chez Paul restaurant in Chicago.  As an adult Robert was a politician and a soldier, first with the Illinois National Guard, then in the United States Army, where he served during World War I and reached the rank of Colonel.  People referred to him as “Colonel McCormick” for the rest of his life.

After the war, McCormick founded a farm in Wheaton, Illinois, which he named for the Cantigny region of France.  He and both his first and second wives lived there for the rest of their lives, and the farm is now a public park.  Entrance into the park is free, but there is a parking fee.  At the time I write this, the parking fee is $5 during the early hours in the day, but later in the day, the price drops to $2.

We toured the house and probably also the First Division Museum, which documents the history of the First Infantry Division, which had been McCormick’s division when he was in the Army.

The farmlands are now gardens.  As you probably could guess, from my previous comments about being most interested in books and plants, this is what I remember best. The gardens of Cantigny are pretty well-known, apparently, though they have probably changed quite a bit in the 36 years since I was there. One of the most famous is the rose garden.  My parents and I saw the most fascinating rose there.  The petals were white on one side and red on the other.  Years later, I asked my mom where we had seen that rose, and she denied ever having seen such a thing.

And when I was going through the old photograph albums doing the scanning, I found the rose.  It’s an SX-70 photo, so it doesn’t nearly do the rose justice, but nevertheless here it is:

Cantigny rose with red and white petals
Rose with red and white petals from our trip to Cantigny.

The house, museum, and grounds are all handicap accessible.  Additionally, the park has a tram service for those who cannot walk between the attractions.  I do not know if the trams can handle wheelchairs, however.

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