PECATONICA – The Pecatonica Heritage Museum members, Joan Cunningham President, Janice Butler Treasurer, Mary Mohaupt Secretary met at the U.S. Bank Tuesday, Dec. 22, for the purpose of donating the property of the old Granary elevator and breezeway area to the Pec Playhouse Theater for future expansion.

The sum of $50,000 for upkeep and preservation of the granary was also included in the transfer.

The Pecatonica Heritage Museum was formed in 1985 (Inc. in 1996) for the purpose of saving and preserving the 100-year old post and beam structure that was an important part of the agricultural heritage of our area. It was deemed very unique, by Wisconsin’s John Ve Verka, in the fact that it had 17 bins while most Midwest granaries only had a few and that it was in such good condition.

Did you know that the Pecatonica family, that established our grain elevator on Main St., was a venture capitalist, promoter of many enterprises and on the Chicago Board of Trade? They had capital stock worth $100,000 in the Sanborn Lumber and Development Co. with holdings of 900,000 acres of timber in Vera Cruz, where George C. Sanborn was president of the Mexican Mutual Planters’ Company. Sons in this family also had grain elevators in Iowa and Drinkwater Canada. Founder George W. Sanborn was well known in Pecatonica as a leading and influential citizen. He acted as village president and was a member of the school board. According to “Past and Present of Winnebago Co.” he was a supporter of prohibition and favored the temperance cause.

The local farmer’s grain was unloaded, augured into the leg/boot which carried the grain to the appropriate bin where it was stored until loaded into the trains going to Chicago for sale. Some of this grain was lost in the great Chicago fire. One of the stories about the granary featured the “old blind horse” that was used to walk around to power the lift, because he was less cantankerous, and could not see where he was going. More information can be found in the book by Shirley Langholf “Bits & Pieces” at the Pecatonica Library.

The structure to the south of the granary, currently the theater lobby, was the Pec Produce office and in the back where they stored grain and equipment is now the seating for the theater. It was all cleaned out, renovated and made into a home for the new Museum that hosted within their structure – Pec Playhouse Theater, Grafton Art Gallery, P.I.A Welcome Center and the Pecatonica Historical Society. The nonprofit group held many events and fundraisers and the next 20 years brought renovation, hard work (cleaning out grain and cob webs) fun and progress toward their goals.

As the entities grew the welcome center was moved to the village hall, the historical society moved to the “new” library building, the art gallery owners retired, the museum moved to the elevator proper and the playhouse expanded into the full building. The current village board has plans for the area immediately to the north of the granary of putting in a parking lot and a kiosk that will welcome cyclist and hikers at this point on the “Pecatonica Prairie Trail.”

Museum donates building 1

Arnie Ames, Janice Butler, Mary Mohaupt, Joan Cunningham, Neil Ter Hark at the U.S. Bank in Pecatonica on Dec. 22. (Absent from photo, board members Deb Webb and Marion Atten). Courtesy photo

It is our hope that this will promote Pecatonica and help make this a more attractive village to live and raise our families in. Thank you to the people of Pecatonica for all their support. Thank you to those that served on the original board, Arnie Ames and the members of the Pec Playhouse that that worked so closely with us from the beginning.

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