Escape to Kankakee County!
Lose yourself in the natural beauty of the Kankakee River and Kankakee River State Park, you won't be disappointed.
Calling all history buffs! Home to droves of noteworthy buildings (some designed by the late architect Frank Lloyd Wright), world-class museums and prominent landmarks, Kankakee County attracts people across the nation to explore its historical side. Get ready to receive a history lesson on your next visit to the area. Here are the top historic sites to visit in Kankakee County.
The B. Harley Bradley House
First, see one of the works of the world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Kankakee. The B. Harley Bradley House is a true representation of prairie-style architecture, a design that Wright fathered. Built in 1900, the house is easily identified by its unique horizontal structures and more than 90 stained geometric glass windows. The low arched roof and extended eaves are signature marks of the design. Take a one-hour home tour through the 6,000-square-foot building to see the interior design along with its picturesque garden. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and was recently featured by filmmaker Tom Desch in his documentary, "An American Home: Frank Lloyd Wright's B. Harley Bradley House."
Churches and Cathedrals
Continue your architectural journey at the historic churches of Kankakee County. The beauty of Kankakee’s cathedrals and churches has wowed visitors for decades. Go on a walking tour to see the historic churches in the area. Some of the buildings date all the way back to the 1800s and are among some of the first churches established in the area by the early settlers. Request a copy of “Historic Churches of Kankakee County” from the site and use the map to navigate your way around the county. Pay a visit to Asbury United Methodist Church, built in 1872; St. Anne Catholic Church, built in 1836; and Maternity BVM Church, built in1858.
Kankakee County Museum & Historical Society
What’s a better way to immerse yourself in history than to visit a museum? Kick off your visit with a trip to the Kankakee County Museum & Historical Society, a jewel that has been around since 1906. The prestigious museum houses a cluster of exhibits along with two houses, the Dr. A.L. Small Memorial Home and Taylor One-Room Schoolhouse. Whatever historical aspect of Kankakee County you’re looking to explore, you’ll find in this museum. For sports fans, the “A Century of Sports” exhibit features memorabilia from local teams throughout the years, while media buffs can visit the “Press Room” to learn all about the printing industry and various printing machines used to build local newspapers. The museum also houses a “WWII and Civil War” exhibit, “African American Heritage” exhibit and “George Grey Barnard” exhibit, where you can admire European sculptures.
Kankakee Railroad Museum
Learn all about the steam engine industry and vintage locomotives at Kankakee Railroad Museum. Just outside the restored train depot, check out one of the largest model trains set up in a miniature city, which replicates what Kankakee looked like in the 1950s. Press the buttons outside on the Stop by to admire a well-preserved 1900s trolley car a 1964 Union Pacific caboose or 1947 Pullman coach to take a nostalgic trip back to that era.
French Heritage Museum at the Stone Barn
The French Heritage Museum at the Stone Barn is another fantastic stop to get a history lesson. The building is also known as the Lemuel Milk Carriage House and currently operates as a museum that houses artifacts and a wealth of information about the French involvement in Kankakee County. At the museum, you’ll learn more about the Coureurs de bois, fur traders and early pioneers from France, French Canada and Belgium. Upon arrival, you’ll soon realize why the building was called the Stone Barn. The house was built with massive yellow bricks, giving the structures enough strength to last centuries without damage.
The George R. Letourneau Home
Venture outside of Kankakee city and you’ll find yourself in Bourbonnais, home to Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society Museum’s George R. Letourneau Home. The museum was previously a home owned by the first mayor of the city, George R. Letourneau, who acquired the place in 1952. Enjoy the arboretum’s lush garden full of colorful flowers and plants. The museum will teach you more about the French-Canadian influence in the city. To learn more about the history of Bourbonnais, download a walking tour guide to visit the other historic and well-preserved buildings in the area.
Momence Historical House
Take some time to explore the Momence Historical House Museum, a bright yellow, two-story cottage also known as Graham Historic House, in Momence. Built in the 1870s, the house is in immaculate condition, and inside, you can see original furnishings and artifacts kept there. There’s also a tiny exhibit inside the house highlighting the history of local railroads. Throughout the year, the museum hosts various events ranging from a flower show to a wine tasting for charity.
Manteno Historical Society
Finally, visit the one-room schoolhouse that’s now the Manteno Historical Society Museum. The Bloom School House has been kept in fabulous condition by the museum along with the Charles Skinner House, which operates as the main museum building. Tour the two buildings, where you can admire original furniture used by the early residents in the 1800s along with artifacts they left behind. In another wing of the house, an additional exhibit features war veteran uniforms, and outside sits a restored Rouleau Buggy Portico.
For more ideas on the top things to do in Kankakee County, download our visitors guide.