Rediscovering Camp McDowell at the Historical Society’s Annual Meeting

Join the Warrenville Historical Society on Monday, September 9, 2013, at 7:00 p.m. for our Annual Members Meeting at the Historical Museum & Art Gallery located at 3S530 Second Street, Warrenville, Illinois. Chris Gingrich, Education Outreach Specialist for the DuPage County Forest Preserve, will present “Rediscovering Camp McDowell” after a short business meeting. McDowell Grove was the original homestead of Daniel and Nancy Warren when they arrived in the area after moving west from the State of New York; their son, Julius Warren, chose a location just up the DuPage River, making a home in our wonderful town which was named after him. Since the time of the Warrens, McDowell Grove has seen much history.

 
Nearly 80 years ago a cluster of wooden barracks were erected along the West Branch of the DuPage River, in the heart of McDowell Grove Forest Preserve.  These buildings were home for hundreds of men who were enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps and from the barracks of Camp McDowell these men worked to construct improvements in several of DuPage County’s forest preserves.  Many of those recreational amenities are still enjoyed by thousands of DuPage County residents each year.

Following the end of the Great Depression and the start of World War II, Camp McDowell found a new purpose as part of a training program to prepare military recruits in radar technology.  Local history includes reports of a top secret facility that was the largest radar facility in the world at the time.  The reality is a little less dramatic but still demonstrates the importance the military placed on education as warfare evolved to include greater levels of technology.

The closure of the radar school, however, did not mark the end of Camp McDowell’s history.  Recent research has revealed that the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA, also utilized the camp as a communications training facility for its agents.

Chris Gingrich, education outreach specialist for the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, has been researching the history of Camp McDowell.  His presentation will include photographs, maps, documents,  and stories compiled from many sources, including:  local newspapers, unpublished memoirs, CCC camp newspapers, the National Archives, Forest Preserve records and others.  Chris has worked for nearly 20 years in the field of local history as an educator at several museums in DuPage County communities.

We hope you will join us to learn more about this historic preserve as well as how the Historical Society’s has been achieving its mission of preserving Warrenville history over the past year. The Museum will be open starting at 6:00 p.m. that night, so please feel free to stop in early to see our updated exhibits and explore our collection. This event is open to our membership and the general public, and free to all. Please contact us at info@warrenvillehistorical.org or 630.393.4215 with any questions.

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