DuPage County experienced a unique housing boom at the turn of the 19th century. The county, which at the time was primarily farmland, proved a quiet retreat for wealthy Chicagoans as many adopted the European tradition of building country homes. As a result, DuPage became the site of numerous grand homes and estates, many of which still stand and are open to the public.Dan Rice, a successful commodities trader from Chicago, and his wife, Ada, established Danada (the literal combination of their first names) in 1928. What began as 152 acres, quickly grew to an impressive 1,350-acre working farm. The couple built a charming 19-room mansion in 1939 to accompany the farm.
Lucky Debonair’s Big Race
In 1943 Ada’s passion turned to horse racing and shortly thereafter the Ada L. Rice Stable, a state-of-the-art 26-stall barn, was born. In the 32 years that Ada raced her horses, they won an impressive 2,310 races and more than $3 million. Undeniably, the most famous of Ada’s horses was her bay colt, Lucky Debonair, winner of the 1965 Kentucky Derby. To this day, Lucky Debonair’s race time of 2:01.2 remains one of the fastest in Kentucky Derby history.
Upon the Rices’ death in the 1970s, the fate of Danada was uncertain. With no will in place and several developers looking to build on the land, a group of DuPage residents formed Save the Rice Farm (now Friends of Danada) to protect the landmark from being destroyed. In 1980 the Danada house, horse barn, and an additional 800 acres of land was purchased by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and restoration began to transform Danada into what it is today.
How to Enjoy Danada
Visitors enjoy Danada in a variety of ways. “Running, biking, walking, dog walking, bird watching, we get photographers out here all the time,” observes Jill Ludvigsen, Friends of Danada’s executive director. The popular three-mile long Danada-Herrick Lake Regional Trail takes visitors over rolling hills to the west, while the shorter 0.9-mile looped Nature Trail leads nature lovers through Parson’s Grove and connects with the regional trail to scenic Rice Lake. The trails and grounds, which are meticulously maintained by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, boast a variety of seasonal flora and fauna.
Danada’s Model Farm
While the whole of Danada is owned by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, the house and nearby model farm are managed and operated by Friends of Danada, who keep the Rice legacy alive through continued research. While the house has been restored to preserve the history of their former owners, the model farm preserves the history of DuPage County as a whole. Using 1950s machinery and farming practices, the volunteer-sponsored farm offers a glimpse into DuPage’s all-important agricultural past.
Each fall Friends of Danada, in conjunction with the Equestrian Center, put on the popular Fall Festival. Held annually on the second Sunday in October, this area favorite offers hayrides, family activities, horse performances and a nature art show.
Ada L. Rice Stable
Ada Rice’s beloved stables are still in regular use by the Equestrian Center and frequently visited and enjoyed by riders and horse lovers from near and far, including those who are visiting for the summer or winter holidays. Visitors will admire the traditional Kentucky-style stable. Be sure to keep an eye out for the stall previously occupied by Kentucky Derby winner, Lucky Debonair — as well as the new topiary that was planted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his win.
The Danada Legacy
The impact that Dan and Ada Rice had on DuPage County, and the acreage that they once farmed, is made clear by the many area shopping centers, parks, developments and businesses that include their combined names. After making their fortune in the big city, it was Danada where they found true happiness, surrounded by the county’s natural beauty and, of course, Ada’s horses.