Newspaper Clippings for
from the Lake Villa - Lindenhurst Review 22 July 2004
Bonner farm museum taking shape
BY KORRINA GROM
Nestled along Sand Lake Road amongst subdivisions and a
community park is a piece of Lake County history.
Looking beyond the two white farmhouses that sit near the
road, passers-by see large, red barns. Two concrete silos
tower above the main barn, which is one of the oldest of
its kind in the county.
This property, known as the Bonner Heritage Farm, was
donated to the Lake County Forest Preserve by the Bonner
family in 1995. It was homesteaded in 1842 by Scottish
immigrants William and Margaret Bonner, who operated it as
a dairy farm.
Soon, area residents will get a glimpse of Lake County's
rich farming history, and the Bonner family's past, thanks
to the efforts of the Forest Preserve. The now-defunct farm
will reopen to the public Oct. 10 as a farming museum,
featuring exhibits about the farm's history targeted to
young Lake County residents.
"After several years of working on it, it's exciting to see
it coming to fruition," said Project Manager Andrew
When Howard "Shorty" Bonner, great-grandson of the farm's
original owners, donated eight acres of the farm in 1995,
forest preserve officials immediately started looking for
ways to utilize the property.
During a master planning process, which included a citizen
advisory committee, officials decided to preserve the
buildings and the farm's history through family-friendly
exhibits and activities.
Restoration work, including painting, began on the
buildings' exteriors, including a the chicken coop, storage
shed, outhouse, granary barn, hay barn and the main barn.
Osborne noted that until additional funding is available,
all of the buildings on the site will remain closed because
the interiors have not yet been renovated.
"Right now, the buildings are just backdrops," he said. "I
think they provide a romantic setting."
For the remainder of the site, forest preserve officials
worked with designer Peter Exley of Architecture is Fun to
develop a concept for the farm. The forest preserve also
hired Michigan-based Exhibit Works to build the steel
displays interspersed throughout the farm.
While there is still some work to be done, including
signage and landscaping, Osborne can visualize the finished
"The entire property is meant to be very fun," Osborne
said. "At the same time, it's very respectful of the
agricultural history of Lake County."
Upon entering into the Bonner Heritage Farm site, visitors
will find a map of the property and an area for children to
use wooden blocks to build replicas of the buildings on the
The next stop will be a maze for children to walk through.
The entrance to the maze will feature a sculptural portal
that is being fabricated by a Chicago artist. The portal
will have a tornado on top of it.
"The story is that a tornado touched down here not long
after it was donated to the forest preserve," Osborne said,
noting that the tornado demolished two metal buildings on
The maze will feature straw bales for children to climb on
and steel corn stalks to gaze at.
Nearby there will be a playground area that will include a
"When we met with our advisory committee, one of the things
that came up is getting messy," Osborne said. "We wanted to
provide an opportunity for kids to be kids."
Traveling further into the site, past the main barn, which
was built in 1848, visitors will find a barn-raising
exhibit. The small-scale, half-built barn will allow
children, with the supervision of forest preserve
employees, to learn the intricacies of barn-raising.
Nearby, guests can marvel at a windmill, hand-pump water
and learn about the weather at a weather station. The
latter, Osborne said, will be used to educate
schoolchildren about weather in the future.
The site also includes a half-mile heritage trail that
features a number of exhibits. The first stop teaches
visitors about chickens. It features steel chickens perched
near large nests and eggs, each of which lists a fact about
Next on the heritage trail is an area about cows. Each of
the steel cows will offer information about poetry, art and
story-telling. The poetry cow, Osborne said, will feature a
poem called "The Cow" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Stepping
stones to each of the cows will look like cow patties, he
Along the trail are natural areas with benches and HI-SPY
viewers, which give guests a detailed glimpse at the
buildings or other items at the farm. One HI-SPY viewer
provides a look at a piece of old, rusted farm equipment,
which Osborne said will eventually be moved indoors for
safety reasons. The equipment is original to the farm.
The trail eventually winds its way back to the opposite
side of the main barn.
"Anytime we can preserve a story that's representative to
so many in Lake County, it's a good thing," Osborne said.
"Four generations of Bonners lived here and worked here."
The restoration work and exhibits were funded through
$395,000 in state grants and forest preserve bond money,
A grand opening celebration will be held from noon to 4
p.m. on Oct. 10.