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Neighbors of Kane County

Candlelight at the Inn December 2 & 3

Photo credit: Jean Hess Voice Printz Photography

On December 2 and 3 Saturday and Sunday from 3 – 7 pm Garfield Farm Museum’s oldest special event, Candlelight at the Inn will be held. Of Garfield Farm Museum’s 40-year existence, for at least 37 of those years, a Candlelight Open House has been held in the 171-year-old Garfield Inn.

Nestled amongst 366 acres of rolling fields and oak savannas, just driving the graveled Garfield Road is a portal to the past. Turning north off Illinois Rt. 38, the dried roadside prairie grasses and flower stalks suggest the modern conveyance by car seems out of place. Cresting the hill past the 170-year-old cemetery with the century old archway of black walnut trees overhead, glowing soft yellow spots of light appear out of the evening’s dusk. The light gives form to regular spacing of two stories of windows that define the old inn. 

However, no stage bound travelers experienced this specific view as their approach was from the east along the old St. Charles Chicago Road that forked off to Sycamore or on to Oregon, Illinois. Garfield Road was not established until 1854 when the loss of travelers to the iron horse that had reached St. Charles by 1850 sounded the death knell for county tavern keeping just 15 years after first settlement.

Yet with the candlelight, the sounds of dulcimers coming from the second floor ballroom and rooms filled with modern day visitors sipping on spiced tea and homemade breads, the imagination quickly assumes this must have been what life was like so long ago on the prairies of Illinois. The men and women in historic clothing add to the illusion as the least nip in the air makes the brick walls a welcome refuge on a winter’s eve. For a moment a kinship crosses the expanse of time and the visitor shares relief, warmth and laughter that innkeepers Timothy and Harriet once gave their 1840s wayfarers. 

Just as the inn’s guests fell into conversation with fellow strangers of the open road, the present day traveler is engaged by the volunteer interpreters, coaxing visitors to a relaxing pace to learn of another time when life did not center around instant access and a flood of unceasing information. All the time the infectious strains of dulcimers echo thru out the house, putting the most rhythmically challenged into an irresistible toe-tapping mood.

While Dona and Dan Benkert and friends of the Folklore Center in Naperville perform as the Scantlin’ Reunion both evenings, an additional 3 – 5 pm Saturday performance by Dr. Steven Smunt and The Century Air Minstrels will include traditional American and Irish seasonal music in the Burr House parlor

Veteran visitors make Burr House the first stop before walking the candle lantern path down to the Garfield Inn. They seek first pick of delicious homemade bake goods museum volunteers have donated to the bake sale. Here opportunities to become members of the museum or contribute to the Save Our Barns Campaign fuels the coming new year’s projects. Between the two historic homes, one will find Ann Brack Johnson ready to autograph her book “Angie of Garfield Farm”, an entertaining tale designed to reveal daily life of pioneer Illinois.

Donations are most appreciated to cover the evening’s costs. As an open house, it is a perfect time to learn of the museum’s efforts or to gather again as Candlelight has become a tradition for many families and friends. Garfield Farm & Inn Museum is a 375-acre historically intact former 1840s Illinois prairie farmstead and country inn that is being restored to serve as an 1840s participatory living history museum. The museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off Ill Rt. 38 on Garfield Road in Campton Hills, IL.  For information call 630 584-8485 or e-mail