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Garfield Farm Preservation Awards For 2007 to Be Presented April 27

     On Friday, April 27th at 6 pm Garfield Farm Museum will hold its 19th annual awards ceremony and dinner recognizing individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to historic preservation, agricultural preservation/education and environmental conservation at the Dunham Woods Riding Club in Wayne, IL.

      This year, award recipients hail from Aurora, St. Charles, Chicago, Big Rock, Virgil, and Maple Park,IL. The evening will also recognize Garfield Farm Museum?s founding 30 years ago.

      The very existence of Garfield Farm Museum may not have come into being if it weren’t for the founding in 1967 of the Thornapple Chapter of Questers International. The late Iva Storch established the chapter in St. Charles for fellow antique collectors and enthusiasts. Going through their 40 years of minutes, there is hardly a historic preservation entity in the Tri-cities that has not received help from this group. Members of Thornapple started the restoration of the 1843 Bryant Durant House in LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve that was continued by Restorations of Kane County, now renamed Preservation Partners. Members of Thornapple went on to found Garfield Farm Museum. For this long record of inspiring and supporting restoration, the museum is awarding Thornapple a Historic Preservation Award.

     When the museum was founded in 1977, one would be lucky to identify even one historic preservation entity of note in any one year. Today, Garfield Farm Museum is proud to recognize two others for Historic Preservation. Although as a driving force behind the Aurora Firehouse Museum is enough to make David Lewis a worthy recipient, he has personally taken on the restoration of the oldest factory structure in Aurora, IL. The Holbrook Mill, a river stone building, has endured through the years and has sat by itself in a parking lot waiting an uncertain fate. Lewis plans to rehabilitate it and thus recognize the early industry that made the Fox Valley an important industrial center in the 19th century.

     It often takes a person from the outside to help local residents recognize the values of a community. MeJay Azemi and his sons of rural Maple Park, have brought such a perspective to the rural countryside and villages with their old world skills and craftsmanship, giving new life to a number of barns and historic houses in Kane County. They readily recognize the skill that went into making these buildings 100-150 years ago. It has compelled them to bring their carpentry, masonry and building skills to historic structures that few would undertake.  As long time friends of the museum it is an honor to recognize Azemi & Sons Inc. with a Historic Preservation Award.

     It took a few years to realize her desire to preserve her land and the rural heritage of Big Rock, but Marvel Davis has become a great proponent for the preservation of both heritage and the land that feeds a nation. From supporting forest preserve referendums to donating a corncrib for the Big Rock Historical Society to use and most recently selling part of her farm to the forest preserve, Marvel is this year’s winner of the Agricultural Preservation Award.

     What seems wildly impractical can sometimes become reality but in Virgil, IL the impossible happened. When local farm owners are faced with the dilemma of leaving their land, usually only investors and developers can afford to buy it, be it near a metropolitan area. What seemed highly unlikely was that the rural community of Virgil Township could be such a candidate when the nearest town to the east was St. Charles, a good 7-10 miles distant. Yet such a proposal was being put together.  Local citizenry recognized the impact this could have and with ingenuity and persuasiveness came up with an even more pie in the sky scenario.  Take that 1000 acres and make it Virgil Township’s first forest preserve. For their credit, tenacity and audacity, Garfield Farm Museum is pleased to present Preserve Virgil with an Environmental Conservation Award.

     Many of these award winners have contributed time and personal resources that will provide for a better future. Just as important though are those who will at least consider cooperating with non-profit or public agencies to help with the common good. In Campton Township, the home to only the 4th of 5 open space township programs in the state, Garfield Farm Museum recognizes Cooperators for Campton’s Conservation. The Brown Road Investment Group does not sound like an entity that would consider anything but the grandest of development proposals. Yet the Steve Lu family and their partners were willing to listen to the township?s proposal to add their property for open space. Critically located across the street from Campton Township Park, it is with great appreciation that the Brown Road Investment Group was willing to sell its holdings to the township. In the same spirit, Campton Township was most fortunate when the Keith VanderVeen family took the township?s proposal seriously to acquire part of their horse farm thus adding acreage and additional access to the Headwaters Conservation Area.

      It is unusual for the museum to publicly recognize individuals posthumously as it is important to encourage those for deeds done today. In fact, the award for Campton’s Conservation was privately presented to David Bielenberg in December of 2006. In 1960, as an architectural student, David came across the beautiful rolling woods of Mr.& Mrs. Garfield Harley. So taken by it, he convinced his parents to help him acquire these woods to enjoy in future years. His vision was not limited to this sylvan glade as he also was one of the first to recognize the historic architecture and great historic resource of the Pullman Community in Chicago of which he also championed.

      A chance meeting of museum officials in 1986 lead to his considering willing the Harley Woods to the farm. In 2002, a series of grants from the Kane County Riverboat Fund and from the Army Corps of Engineers were received by Garfield Farm Museum’s land preservation agency, Campton Historic Agricultural Lands, to acquire the Garfield Harley Vernal Pond and Woods next to Bielenberg woods. Protecting this special wetland required Bielenberg?s upland woods to be saved. Unfortunately, David’s health prematurely declined and in 2006, he needed funds for healthcare. Upon learning of his situation, CHAL approached the township and the Conservation Foundation for help. Though bedridden and afflicted, David was most willing to talk to find a solution. In December, the Conservation Foundation completed negotiations to save David’s woods and met his needs. David passed away in February in his beloved Pullman home but at least knowing he had found a way to give so much for future generations.

      Garfield Farm Museum is a 370 acre historically intact former 1840s prairie farmstead and teamster inn that is being restored as an 1840s working farm museum. Located in the village of Campton Hills, the farm was first settled in 1836 by the Culverson family who sold their 440 acre claim to the Timothy Garfield family in 1841. Elva Ruth Garfield, the 3rd generation owner of the farm donated it to be a museum in 1977. 

      To make reservations for the $45 dinner, call 630 584-8485 or e-mail

For more information about Garfield Farm send an e-mail message to: or call 630/584-8485.