The Roundhouse is the oldest building in Aurora that I will write about.
On February 12, 1849 Lorenzo D. Brady, member of the Illinois legislature of Kane County, established the Aurora Branch Rail Road. A. C. Gibson, Benjamin Hackney, Charles Hoyt and Stephen Gale helped him and they became the first management team.
The limestone roundhouse was designed by Levi Hull Waterhouse, with limestone from Batavia, Illinois.
The first report about the construction of the Roundhouse was made on September 14, 1855 in the Aurora Beacon. In 1857 the complex for the Chicago and Aurora Rail Road was completed. It has costed about $150,000 and consisted of 7 buildings:
- Roundhouse (22 stalls)
- Machine Shop
- Blacksmith Shop
- Car Shop
- Paint Shop
- Carpenter Shop
- Engine Room
In 1857 about 350 people worked at the Roundhouse and the surrounding buildings. In 1858 58 locomotives were based in Aurora. In 1872 that number had grown to 165. The production of steam locomotives started in 1860. About 250 locomotives were produced there, from 1871-1910.
Around 1859 8 stalls were added to the Roundhouse.
Important people in the field of engineering technology were: C. F. Allen; Superintendent of Wood Work and Car Repairs, James Clark; Master Mechanic, Charles Jauriet; Superintendent of Motive Power and Machinery and J.R. Coulter, Master Mason.
Charles Jauriet is famous for his invention: the special compatible firebox. This invention made it possible to replace wood for coal.
In 1865 10 stalls were added to the Roundhouse and that made the Roundhouse truely round (or a tetracontagon) with a total of 40 stalls.
The Pullman hotel car, called 'The City of New York' was built in Aurora in 1866. As well as 'The Delmonico', the first American Diner in 1868.
The Chicago and Aurora Railroad merged with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Rail Road in 1868. In 1869 an additional Roundhouse was built to the Southwest of the original. In 1870 Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Rail Road officially became the largest Rail Road operater in Illinois. In 1871 they kept building and added 25 stalls to the 2nd Roundhouse.
A fire caused structures to be damaged or ruined in 1880. In 1921 a new coaling station was built. In 1922 they added an electric powerhouse to that. In 1923 a new depot and freight station began operating. In 1924 they started focussing more on building passenger cars. A large tower to control the yard area was built.
In 1925 a new Roundhouse replaced the 2nd Roundhouse at the same spot. The last engine pits were closed and they also removed the turntable. In 1930 Zephyrs (diesel engines) were developed. Aurora took care of the wheel and axle work. Airconditioning was added to the passenger cars. The also built smoking and bagage cars in Aurora.
In 1932 Aurora was responsable for all the air compressors and air brake systems.
In 1960 there was a major decline in Rail Road service.
In 1974 the Aurora shops closed. In 1976 all the buildings except for the first Roundhouse and the connecting shops were taken down.
Pictures from the late 70's:
On February 16 of 1978 the Roundhouse was added to the National Register of Historic places. In May 1988 the American Society of Mechanical Engineers recognized the roundhouse as a landmark in mechanical engineering.
Video about the Roundhouse made in 1995:
In 1995 the Roundhouse was bought by an investment group, led by former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton. They turned the Roundhouse into the Walter Paytons Roundhouse Complex, including: America's Brewing Company, America's Brewpub, America's Banquets, the Walter Payton Museum and an open air entertainment place.
On October 22, 1999 they received a National Preservation Award a few days before Walter Payton's death.
On May 2nd of 2011 the Two Brothers Brewing Company took over the Roundhouse.
It now consists of:
- The Tap House: a full service brewpub restaurant.
We love to eat there. The ambiance is super. We love the fireplace and the way it breathes history. My husband finally found a beer that he really loves: Domaine Du Page. That has been quite a challenge in the USA if you are used to the very tasty Belgium beers, such as PALM. I am not a beer connaiseur, but I do know my husband thinks a lot of USA beers are a mess. It seems as if brewers here throw far to many ingredients all together. I must admit I think the same about a lot of restaurants menu's here. I like it plain, I like to really taste what I eat. In the Tap House they cook the way I like it: fresh, with not too much fuss. We love to order small dished like the mussels in beer, the shrimps, the hummus on naanbread and the meatplatter. My oldest son loves the bacon meatloaf and our youngest son loves the wings.
- The Roundhouse Café: opened in August 2013. It is a coffee bar by day and a beer bar by night. I haven't tried their coffee yet. It also includes a artisan bakery, which I haven't tried yet either.
- Banquets:for weddings to corporate events.
- Entertainment: live entertainment with a wide range of musical styles, but also brunches for Easter and Mother's Day and a Summer Festival from June 26-28. We haven't been there yet, with live music. That would be a great night out with the two of us, I think!
Pictures I took at the Roundhouse a few months ago:
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