An Exploration of History & Heritage

From indoor and outdoor museums to famous mansions and legendary estates, guided walking tours to architectural treasures, DuPage County is the place to discover history and heritage.

We’ve put together the following trip ideas for – An Exploration of History and Heritage in DuPage County:

Graue Mill and Museum, Oak Brook
Graue Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the only operating waterwheel gristmill in Illinois and features an Underground Railroad exhibit. The Museum provides programs -- for school children and others -- that include milling, spinning and weaving and living history presentations, as well as artifacts which illustrate the way of life of area residents between 1850 and 1890 and the impact mills such as Graue Mill had on our culture. (Picture below by @Clarkmaxwell via Instagram)

Graue Mill and surrounding nature

Mayslake Peabody Estate, Oak Brook
In 1919, coal baron Francis Stuyvesant Peabody commissioned renowned Chicago architect Benjamin Marshall to design the Tudor Revival-style mansion known today as Mayslake Hall. The style reaches back to England’s Tudor period as a revival of the timber-frame buildings popular at that time. Visitors can experience the grandeur of Mayslake Hall at one of the several arts, history, and cultural programs offered throughout the year.

William L. Gregg House Museum, Westmont
The 1872 Victorian home/museum was built shortly after the Chicago Fire of 1871. Gregg, among other brick manufacturers of his time, jumped at the chance to supply bricks for the rebuilding of Chicago. The museum is a homage to the collective contributions of the many men and women of the Western Suburbs who helped rebuild Chicago.

William L. Gregg House Museum exterior

Naper Settlement – Outdoor History Museum, Naperville
Naper Settlement is an outdoor 19th-century living history museum that serves northeastern Illinois as a unique educational and cultural resource with hands-on activities and special events including Civil War Days and more. The village tells the story of how life changed throughout the 19th century for the people of northern Illinois in towns such as Naperville. History comes to life at this 13-acre museum village with 30 historic structures, including a Victorian mansion, fort, chapel, one-room schoolhouse and working blacksmith and print shops.

DuPage County Historical Museum, Wheaton
Here you can explore DuPage County’s rich history from the 1830s to the present. From changing exhibits to permanent ones and works on special loans, learn about newspapers and journalism, agriculture and life, golf history and be sure to check out the HO Gauge Model Railroad.

Employees on front steps of DuPage County Historical Museum

Sheldon Peck Homestead, Lombard
This 1840s farmhouse features reproductions of the artist’s folk paintings, stories about the Underground Railroad and his involvement, farming and pioneer life. Sheldon Peck is acknowledged not only as a very fine folk-art portraitist but also as a radical abolitionist in the 1840s and 1850s and was known to have also aided freedom seekers on their journey north to Canada using the Underground Railroad. Visit Peck's Homestead - the oldest house in Lombard.

Elmhurst Historical Museum, Elmhurst
This award-winning history museum in downtown Elmhurst features touring exhibits and a permanent, interpretive exhibit on the history of this vibrant Midwestern town. The Elmhurst History Museum, located in the significant historic Elmhurst landmark known as the Glos Mansion, was built in 1893 for the first president of Elmhurst, Henry Glos and his wife Lucy.

McCormick House, Elmhurst (at the Elmhurst Art Museum)
This unique museum campus includes the McCormick House, a single-family home designed in 1952 by Mies van der Rohe, one of the great architects of the 20th century. The McCormick House is one of only three residences designed and built by Mies in the United States – and one of only two open to the public.

Wilder Mansion, Elmhurst
The estate consisted of undeveloped cow pastures to the north and the family home, gardens and clay tennis courts on the south. The original development of the gardens had begun much earlier in 1868 by the founder of the Knickerbocker Ice Company in Chicago, Seth Wadhams, who built his family home, known as White Birch, along with a greenhouse and gardens. They planted numerous trees representing a variety of species to create a true garden spot in Elmhurst. The Park District acquisition of the Wilder property occurred in 1921, making it the first public park in Elmhurst. The Park District added the conservatory to the greenhouse in 1924, and the Wilder Park Conservatory then opened to the public. In 2007, the original 1860s home was remodeled without compromising its historic architectural features.    

Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, Oak Brook
The Lizzadro Museum displays gemstone treasures, antiques to modern, with a blending of earth science exhibits. This new (Nov. 2019) one-story museum is breathtaking. As you stroll through and view the collections of mosaics, dioramas, jade carvings, cameos, organic gems, gemstones, Castle Lizzadro and more on display, note the incredible attention to detail in every intricate carving and piece. Be sure to hunt for take-home treasure in the gift shop before leaving. The Lizzadro family-owned museum has been around since 1962. In 2019, they moved to a new location in Oak Brook. 

People viewing art exhibits at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art

York Theatre, Elmhurst
Built in 1924, this renovated Spanish-style theatre is part of the Classic Cinemas® family-owned business based in Downers Grove. It is one of fifteen locations and boasts the most advanced sound and projection to fully immerse the moviegoer into the story. Grab a box of hot buttered popcorn, a refreshing drink and settle in to watch a first-run movie in one of their ten state-of-the-art auditoriums.