In May of 1918, Colonel Robert McCormick, of the First Division, fought in World War I and participated in the capture of Cantigny, this was the first American offensive move and victory for the U.S. which left a lasting impression on McCormick himself.
“When he returned home, he renamed the farm that he owned, the farm that he inherited from his mother and grandfather, Cantigny, to commemorate that battle and that experience,” said Diane Gutenkauf, Director of Robert R. McCormick Museum at Cantigny Park.
When McCormick passed away in 1955, he left behind his money, his home and his property in a charitable trust.
“It was still a working farm with a big farmhouse and ultimately they decided that Robert wishes to turn this into something for the people, meant that they should open everything up to the people of Illinois,” said Gutenkauf.
Cantigny officially opened its doors to the public in 1958, allowing visitors to walk through the Colonel’s home, now called the Robert R. McCormick museum, which interprets the life and legacy of the Colonel.
Adding on to his property, McCormick’s inheritors created the First Division Museum in dedication to the time he served in the First Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.
And although the museums and nearly 30 acres of gardens are what attracts the over 400,000 visitors annually, the one gift that has been most impactful in the past 60 years is the Robert McCormick Foundation.
“The McCormick Foundation was established in 1955 upon the death of the Colonel, it’s a grant making foundation that makes grants throughout the country and world,” said Matt LaFond, Executive Director at Cantigny Park.
The foundation which is committed to fostering communities of educated, informed and engaged citizens is also the parent foundation that Cantigny operates out of and allows them to host programs on park grounds.
“We have about 500 special events that happen all throughout the year,” said LaFond.
Those events also include their 60th year celebration on July 30.
Looking forward for the years to come, the staff at Cantigny Park is hoping to get more people aware of this hidden gem.
“We’re undergoing a master process and were looking about 20 years out for Cantigny and it’s more community involvement, we want to raise the awareness of Cantigny and make it as open as possible to the community,” said LaFond.
For an in depth look at Cantigny Parks 60th year, tune into Naperville News Extra on Tuesday, May 19.
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
Get daily hometown news and sports delivered to your inbox!Sign Up Today!