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posted: 8/9/2018 10:41 AM

How development has changed both sides of St. Charles

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  • Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant is a new addition to the outlying area of the old Charlestowne Mall on the east side of St. Charles.

    Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant is a new addition to the outlying area of the old Charlestowne Mall on the east side of St. Charles.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer


It would be a lengthy task to chart the history of how development coincided on both the far east and west sides of St. Charles.

The only thing I can note with some certainty is that when I worked on the east side of the city in the late 1970s, there wasn't much out there west of Zimmerman Ford and the Warwick Publishing building.

In fact, when Lord Chumley's restaurant, later called The Galleon and currently St. Charles Place Steakhouse, opened along Main Street in that area in the mid '70s, it was a big jump in restaurant offerings in the city.

A few years later, development on both sides of town began in earnest, though the west side had to endure a debate about what to do with the Kane County Fairgrounds.

Anyone remember the pedestrian bridge across Route 38 that connected the fairgrounds to a parking lot in the area that is now the Meijer grocery store?

In any case, a pitch to put the Kane County Cougars stadium on fairgrounds property and move the fairgrounds to Route 47 in the late 1980s never came to be.

It can be debated about what that did for the potential of St. Charles on that side of town, but, in hindsight, I'm glad the fairgrounds stayed. The remodeled buildings there gave it a nice upgrade, and the place continues to draw all sorts of interesting events and marketplaces.

Plus, St. Charles just kept moving west anyway, with more housing and commercial edging toward Campton Hills. It appears that the planned Wahlburgers restaurant in an outlot by Meijer is certain to be a big hit in town.

Meanwhile, it is probably time to stop fretting about the empty Charlestowne Mall site on the east side. A few readers have told me to stop being so negative about that failure, and I would have to say I am probably tired of beating on that drum as well.

That being said, Cooper's Hawk restaurant stands tall nearby, the Charlestowne Classic Cinemas has a long lease, as does Von Maur, and the nearby strip malls are filling empty locations. Restaurants have come and gone on that side of town, but many have been around for a long time.

It's an interesting time in the history of the east-west development in the city, and one that makes it seem incredible that, in the late 1980s and early '90s, business and city leaders in town were quite concerned that plans for a new Jewel store on Regole property in that area would devastate the downtown Blue Goose grocery store.

Blue Goose has since flourished in a modern new setup along First Street, while a Jewel and Target grocery stores dot the east side landscape.

River runs wide:

Not many people chose to chime in on where they thought the widest part of the Fox River in the Tri-Cities area was located.

I took a guess last week that it seemed to be just north of the Geneva dam.

But as soon as Gary Mechanic, executive director of Friends of the Fox River, weighed in, it was clear my guess was off.

In fact, Mechanic's information made perfect sense to me.

While the widest parts of the Fox River are likely just north of the Lake County dams, you can generally figure that the river is about 600 feet wide just north of most of the other dams along the river.

The widest part in our area is about 900 feet, and that is just north of Boy Scout Island in St. Charles, Mechanic said.

After hearing that, I realized that the St. Charles Belle paddleboat turns around in the river at that point -- and it is quite wide -- to head back to its port during tour rides.

"However, there are several places above the Algonquin and McHenry dams where the river is more than 1,000 feet wide," Mechanic said.

That's good information for those who may kayak or canoe well north of the Tri-Cities to share with others on the river.

Firewater getting closer:

Out of curiosity, as much as anything else, I asked the folks at SavWay Fine Wine & Spirits in Geneva if anyone from the soon-to-open Firewater BBQ on the other side of State Street had inquired about potentially using some of the store's parking lot on busy nights.

They said no, and also that it is not likely they could offer parking spots. And it seems like a moot point, really, at least until Firewater is open and can assess what the parking might be like for the location at 524 W. State St.

As for the opening, I am being told the tentative plans are for a soft opening in the next week or so, and then opening Firewater BBQ to the public by the Labor Day weekend if there are no unforeseen holdups.

As for the large smoker that had to be installed for the barbecue cooking, it's in place -- and that was a big task to complete.

To benefit shelter:

Lazarus House has put together a golf outing that it says has a "new" twist -- mainly that it is on a new date at a new course.

The Lazarus House Open to benefit the homeless shelter in downtown St. Charles will take place Friday, Sept. 14, at the Prairie Landing Golf Club in West Chicago.

Information is available on the Lazarus House website, and those able to donate items for the outing raffle basket can send a note to

Dance shoes go on:

A couple of years ago, Linda Lydon of Geneva had organized the Geneva Dance Club, which met monthly at various locations and brought people of all skill sets together.

The club dances would attract those who were learning to dance and looking for a place to test their new skills; those who had some experience and just needed a place to have fun; and, of course, that vast group of people who simply enjoy dancing, regardless of their skill level, and don't need much of an excuse to get out to do it.

Lydon is bringing back her Geneva Dance Club program on the third Wednesday of each month from 7:30 to 11 p.m. starting Aug. 15 at the Riverside Receptions and Conference Center, 35 N. River Lane in Geneva.

Cost is $15 per person. Music will be provided by Gil DeLaPaz & PM Kool Band.