Women’s Work Wednesday: Barbara Jeffery Natzke

As we often say around the Historical Society, we owe our existence to the work of Leone Schmidt and the Natzkes!

Barbara Natzke and her husband, Peter, produced and published the Warrenville Digest for over 30 years, at the time providing a robust news source of the happenings of town, and to us historians, providing a detailed history of the more recent past. The Digests get frequent use around the Museum when preparing for programs, exhibits and when helping researchers.

A 1988 front page from the popular Warrenville Digest.

During this last week of Women’s History Month, we honor all the hard work Barbara put into not only the Warrenville Digest, but also the Warrenville community through her work with the Library and the Historical Society. Please enjoy reading a little more about Barbara as told through a 1996 column by our late City Historian Leone Schmidt:

There was a lot more to the editor of the Warrenville Digest, Barbara Natzke, than met the eye.

As she rode her bike dispatching her errands, her headset was usually tuned in to her favorite symphonic recordings. She gardened and took care of her home and family. An embroidered map of the city, a product of her design and needlework skill, hangs in City Hall.

Before co-founding the Digest with her husband Peter in 1964, Natzke’s byline appeared regularly on the pages of its predecessor, the Warrenville News, and eventually, she succeed Joyce Nilles as its Bulletin Board columnist.

Warrenville’s very own telephone directory was pioneered by Natzke in 1961. Convinced of a genuine need, even though informed by Illinois Bell that the listings in its directory could not be used in preparing a Warrenville book, she laboriously started from scratch, calling each resident. The annual directory thereafter, through 1988, was the result of her foresightedness and tenacity.

Holding a master’s degree in library science, Natzke was an avid reader and felt a special devotion to the library. She served on its board as secretary continuously from July 1979 until her retirement last November because of her ill health.

Barbara Natzke working with the Historical Society’s Historic Sites Committee placing a plaque on a historic 4th Street home. Bob Chase is securing the plaque, while Barbara (far left) and other members make the presentation.

Her interest and contributions to Warrenville’s heritage were significant, starting with the publishing of the booklet, “The Living Past of Warrenville,” which was based on extensive interviews with local historian John Player. She recorded the organizational minutes of the Warrenville Historical Society in 1980, become a life member and was active on the Historic Sites Committee. Until last year she faithfully took her turn staffing the desk at the Warrenville Museum on Sundays.

Barbara Natzke went about unpretentiously “making a difference,” and Warrenville will long reap what she sowed.

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Women of Warrenville: The Cenacle Property

As we celebrate Women’s History month, we tell the story of two groups of women who occupied the property most commonly known as the Cenacle. Please enjoy this post adapted from Leone Schmidt’s “A Page of Warrenville History” about the Chicago Telephone Company operators who took rest at Macklin Hall and the nuns who created the Warrenville retreat Our Lady of the Cenacle.

The beautiful estate on Batavia Road that was once identified at its entrance as the Cenacle was put together by the Chicago Telephone Company (forerunner of Illinois Bell) which began purchasing acreage from the Morris brothers in 1913. The company wanted another (its fourth) rest home for its “hello girls” who seemed prone to collapse from their demanding duties. A telephone operator’s life in those days was nerve-racking and there were numerous casualties. Rehabilitation was considered cheaper than hiring and training new operators.

In three years a glorious paradise of 44 wooded acres, enhanced with lovely gardens, was ready for luxury living. The sparkling DuPage River, spanned by a steel-concrete arch bridge, was dammed to maintain a water depth of four and one-half feet for boating and bathing facilities, and a cement pool was also available for swimming. A spring brook wandering through the property was dammed and stocked with trout.

The two-story Colonial-style residence 240 feet long could accommodate about 30 guests. Each two-story bedroom was designed for two girls, with two sleeping porches—the occupants could sleep either inside or outdoors as she preferred. The great living room (80 by 100 feet) with an immense gas fireplace and clusters of electric lights in the beamed ceiling was the pride of its builder. Macadamized driveways ribboning the grounds were also illuminated with electric decorative lamps.

Dedicated as the Margaret Macklin Hall in August 1916 in honor of a particularly distinguished telephone operator, truly this resort was unique not only to Warrenville but to the entire countryside. The average stay of an operator was two to three weeks, and they were paid $4 a week to “rest.”

A large staff was required to maintain the plant, which included a diary, a herd of sheep, and an automobile to transport the girls back and forth to from the CA&E depot. A Mrs. Ruess headed the establishment from her office in Chicago, and on the local payroll was a superintendent and an assistant, a resident nurse, two cooks, a dining room girl, housekeepers, laundress, maintenance man, gardener, and handyman. The caretaker and his family—for many years the James Rohrbaughs—lived in the small white house at the entrance.

As the strain of manning (or personing, if you insist) the switchboard lessened, the need for rehabilitation centers disappeared and the Warrenville rest home was put on the market. The chance of a “white elephant” emerging in the neighborhood was averted when Our Lady of the Cenacle (a Catholic religious order) acquired the property and in February 1939 opened it was a weekend retreat for its nuns from Chicago.

In 1962 construction of a new novitiate to adjoin the original house was commenced. The handsome addition of brick, concrete, and steel, capped with copper overhang included a chapel, infirmary, offices, sewing and recreation rooms, besides the two wings of bedrooms—all prepared for the novitiates being moved from Long Island, New York. The extensive building was completed and opened for inspection to hundreds of visitors on September 28 and 29, 1963.

A fine example of creativity in “moving with the times” was demonstrated after the dwindling group of novitiates was transferred to Pittsburgh. The Cenacle continued conducting retreats and programs—dispensing spiritual and practical guidance (in a most conducive environment)—to people of all faiths and from all parts of the country at the property until it was sold to the DuPage County Forest Preserve in 2008. The building was torn down and the land is now part of the Blackwell Forest Preserve Property.

 

Fashion Friday featuring the Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville, 2017 Cemetery Walk Edition

It’s Fashion Friday again at the Historical Society! If you missed the 2017 Cemetery Walk, you can enjoy some of the stories featured of Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville from local artist Mildred Baldwin’s popular column in the Warrenville Digests here. It was a wonderful night celebrating some of the women who came to call Warrenville home.

Thank you to all of our volunteers who helped make the Cemetery Walk a success!

If you’d like to learn more about Mildred Baldwin, the local artist whose column featured many women of Warrenville, see our earlier blog post here https://warrenvillehistorical.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/womens-history-month-mildred-baldwin/.

Fashion Friday featuring the Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville, Celebrating 50 Edition Part 2

It’s Fashion Friday again at the Historical Society! Enjoy these Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville from local artist Mildred Baldwin’s popular column from the Warrenville Digests.

These women were featured during 1967, the year that Warrenville incorporated as a city. Our feature includes the wife of newly elected Mayor Bill Stafford! This month we have also left the full page of the Digest by request, as we know many of you love reading through those!

If you’d like to learn more about Mildred Baldwin, the local artist whose column featured many women of Warrenville, see our earlier blog post here https://warrenvillehistorical.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/womens-history-month-mildred-baldwin/. You can also join us on the evening of Sunday, October 15th for our Annual Cemetery Walk which will feature some Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville!

Fashion Friday featuring the Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville, Celebrating 50 Edition

It’s Fashion Friday again at the Historical Society! Enjoy these Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville from local artist Mildred Baldwin’s popular column from the Warrenville Digests.

These women were featured during 1967, the year that Warrenville incorporated as a city. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the City of Warrenville this year, these women of 1967 are also part of our celebration of Women’s History Month! Read all about these ladies, their families, work and volunteerism in our community!

If you’d like to learn more about Mildred Baldwin, the local artist whose column featured many women of Warrenville, see our earlier blog post here https://warrenvillehistorical.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/womens-history-month-mildred-baldwin/.

Fashion Friday featuring the Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville, Holiday Edition

It’s Fashion Friday again at the Historical Society! Enjoy these Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville from local artist Mildred Baldwin’s popular column from the Warrenville Digests.

These women were featured around the holiday season in their finest fashions. They surely enjoyed their New Years and we hope you all have a wonderful New Year as well!

If you’d like to learn more about Mildred, see our earlier blog post here https://warrenvillehistorical.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/womens-history-month-mildred-baldwin/.

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Published in: on December 30, 2016 at 8:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Fashion Friday featuring the Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville, Summer Heat Wave Edition

It’s Fashion Friday again at the Historical Society! Enjoy these Well-Dressed Mothers of Warrenville from local artist Mildred Baldwin’s popular column from the Warrenville Digests. These appeared in the summer of 1968, perfect for the heat we are expecting in the next few days.  If you’d like to learn more about Mildred, see our earlier blog post here https://warrenvillehistorical.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/womens-history-month-mildred-baldwin/.

You can stop into the Museum during our summer open hours of Wednesdays and Sundays from 1-4pm and see all the Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville! We are easily accessible off of Winfield Road during construction on Warrenville Road.

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Fashion Friday featuring the Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville, Mother’s Day Edition

It’s Fashion Friday again at the Historical Society! Enjoy these Well-Dressed Mothers of Warrenville from local artist Mildred Baldwin’s popular column from the Warrenville Digests. These appeared in 1967.  If you’d like to learn more about Mildred, see our earlier blog post here https://warrenvillehistorical.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/womens-history-month-mildred-baldwin/.

We hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend! The Museum will be closed for the holiday, but we will reopen for our regular Sunday hours on Sunday, May 17th from 1-4pm.

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Women’s History Month Feature: Fay Reavill Mount 1892-1986

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“My own personal, most memorable woman in Warrenville is my former next-door neighbor.

“The first day we moved into our home on Batavia Road, Fay Mount’s genuinely cordial welcome made my parents and me feel as if we already belonged. Within a day or two, she invited us over to get acquainted and gave us a tour of her house-every room. With the passage of time, in small, thoughtful ways she daily exemplified a true neighbor.

“She was a small-town girl from downstate Flat Rock until her marriage to schoolmate Glen Mount in 1912. After a few years’ residency in Chicago, a co-worker of Glen’s introduced them to Warrenville, and they moved to a house on Third Street on April 1, 1919.

“On Easter of the following year, Mount’s first local business venture opened-a confectionary store on Aurora Road with living quarters in the rear.

“While Glen continued to hold down his job in Chicago, Fay minded the store and cared for the children, John and Betty. She sold candy and ice cream, and from the first gas pumps in town (which Glen soon installed in front of the store), she dispensed fuel from the glass-domed pumps for the area’s earliest motorists. She was put on the social committee of the struggling Baptist Church, and became a key member of the newly organized Worth While Circle.

“Then for 50 years, Fay Mount happily filled her roles as devoted homemaker, active participant in church and women’s groups, staunch supporter of her husband’s varied enterprises and never-failing booster of her hometown’s progress. As long as she lived, she kept up her subscription of the Warrenville Digest, and from her home in Phoenix, Ariz., avidly followed the news from ‘back home.’”

Taken from Leone Schmidt’s Memorable Warrenville Women

Fashion Friday featuring the Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville

It’s Fashion Friday at the Historical Society! Enjoy these Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville from local artist Mildred Baldwin’s popular column from the Warrenville Digests from February 1969.  If you’d like to learn more about Mildred, see our earlier blog post here https://warrenvillehistorical.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/womens-history-month-mildred-baldwin/.  You can also stop into the museum during our open Sunday hours from 1-4pm to see the full collection of the Well-Dressed Women of Warrenville and other work by Mildred.

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