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Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Curious Curator – A Moo-ving Story

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Polivka-1963

Update, Sept. 20, 2022 / Today PN was notified that James D. Polivka, age 93, “lived fully and died peacefully on September 16, 2022.”

A visitation is planned from 4-7PM Thurs., Sept. 22, at the Beidelman-Kunsch Funeral Homes & Crematory, 516 S. Washington St., Naperville. A private family burial will take place on Friday, September 23, 2022, at Chapel Hill Gardens West.

An obituary and loving tribute to James D. Polivka is posted online at www.beidelmankunschfh.com.

Original Post. Aug. 18, 2016 / In 1945, George and Dorothy Polivka bought the “old Callenders place” to raise their family and operate a dairy farm. Milk, cream and butter were delivered daily from their 90-plus acre farm called Will-O-Way. After the death of George in 1949, Dorothy and her son James carried on the business.

Later, James and younger brother Judd convinced their mother that a restaurant would be more profitable than the dairy farm. Judd had taken restaurant management courses at Michigan State and James’ experience in the Army as a Quartermaster and inspector of meat and dairy put the brothers in a position to operate a first-class restaurant. In 1963 during the dispersal sale, one of the prized cows from their heard, “Comrade’s Caroline” sold for $14,000! After 118 years as a working farm, the property was now a perfect backdrop for elegant dining facility set on a stately estate now called Meson Sabika.

The story of the home now known as Meson Sabika, really begins with James G. Wright who was born in England on June 6, 1823, and came to DuPage County around 1843. In 1845, he married Almira Van Osdel, daughter of Chicago’s First Architect, John M. Van Osdel. Van Osdel built William Ogden’s home, the first Mayor of Chicago, who coincidentally owned property next to Wright in Naperville.

Wright prospered in the community and held many prominent offices. In 1850, he was selected as a Vestryman of the newly formed St. John’s Episcopal Church where he also served as church historian. He was a charter member of the International Order of Odd Fellows Chapter 81 in 1851 and served as the secretary of the DuPage Agricultural and Mechanical Society in 1853. James Wright was elected to several public offices including: Naperville Township Supervisor in 1860 and 1875 and the Illinois State Legislature in 1876. Wright was selected to be Naperville’s Postmaster in April 8, 1861, a post he held until April 16, 1869.

Wright Street in Naperville is named for his son, William P. Wright a Civil War veteran and national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). William married Ida Sleight whose grandfather and father developed the eastside of Naperville, often naming streets after family members.

The Wright farm was purchased by Chicago industrialist, T. P. Phillip sometime in the 1880s.

In 1890, Dr. Guy Lilly retired from his Chicago practice and moved to the farm in Naperville to retire. His stay in Naperville was short-lived. The family left in 1897.

Between 1897 and 1902 the house was occupied by tenants.

In 1902 William R. Goodwin, stock breeder and publisher of the “Breeder’s Gazette” purchased the farm. The Goodwins named the farm “Oakhurst” The brass name plate is still located on the gate posts!

Oakhurst-gateWilliam died in 1919 and within a year or so the farm passed to W.D. Callender, publisher of trade magazines like the “Breeder’s Gazette” The Callenders continued to farm until 1945 when George and Dorothy Polivka purchased the property.

The 90-plus acre estate was intact until 1981 when the first of several sub-divisions were made to the estate. The large barn to the east of the house was converted into office space and is one of few remaining barns in Naperville. A large banquet facility was added in 2008 on the west side of the home which retain much of the architectural elements, charm and elegance in the days of James Wright, pioneer farmer, banker, and community leader.

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Bryan Ogg
Bryan Ogg
Bryan Ogg is a local historian and curator of local legend, stories and lore.
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