In the 1830's, settlers from the east coast migrated to northern Illinois andestablished farms and communities, including Big Springs, now known as Geneva. Samuel and Cornelia Lathrop Sterling, of upstate New York, began farming land on both sides of the Fox River around 1835. Their Greek Revival farmhouse, built in 1844, still stands at 815 East Side Drive.
Early settlers included the family of James Clayton Herrington. Herrington established a town called La Fox which, at his prompting, became the seat of the newly founded Kane County in 1836. At that time the town's name was changed to Geneva.
With the Fox River as a major source of power, and a large influx of Yankees and Swedish immigrants, the community grew rapidly. By 1840, a bridge spanned the river, and a courthouse and post office were built. A doctor, one-room school, hotels, stores, taverns, and coffin maker served the needs of the townspeople as well as travelers passing through.
Geneva continued to prosper during the Civil War; numerous industrial enterprises were established, attracting more families to the village with the promise of gainful employment. Swedish settlers clerked in the stores and are still remembered during the city's annual Swedish Days Festival.
Many of Geneva's notable historic buildings homes, churches, and commercial structures were constructed during this time. The Yates Building, in the 100 block of west State Street, was built in 1848 for commercial use; 150 years later, the building still houses business tenants.
In 1867, Geneva became chartered as a town and the Cole Pope house, which now houses the offices of the Kane County Forest Preserve at the Kane County Government Center, was built. During the early half of the century, Geneva established itself as a day-tripper destination, with the opening of The Little Traveler in 1924, followed by other establishments like The Little Owl Restaurant, Erday's, The Merra-Lee Shops, and The Mill Race Inn, all of which are still in operation today, some under the management of the families who started them.
Geneva proudly showcases and preserves its history. Two historic districts pay homage to the past, while the Geneva History Center Museum at Wheeler Park displays furnishings, artifacts, and photos from the city's yesterdays.
Vestiges of Geneva's history are on view on almost every corner; it's these connections to the past that weave a tapestry of old-fashioned character and make Geneva a city of singular substance today.