The Aurora Roundhouse - From Railroad History to Walter Payton and Today
As with any building, it's time and purpose comes and goes. The railroad industry is no exception. Such was the case for the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Roundhouse and Locomotive Shop in Aurora, IL.
|The Aurora Roundhouse in the 1930's. Image: https://www.theclio.com/web/entry?id=26944|
|Locomotives using the roundhouse. Image: Matthew Powers|
|"Paint shop, coach shop, car shop, and blacksmith shop (all car department), all north of the roadhouse and locomotive shops. Photographed between 1880 and 1888 - Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, Roundhouse & Shops, Broadway & Spring Streets, Aurora, Kane County, IL" (Library of Congress)|
But by 1974, the need for the Roundhouse Complex had ceased, and it was closed by CB&Q's successor railroad, the Burlington Northern.
|Image: Wikipedia Commons|
|Roundhouse in the late 1970's. Image: Vicki Moore|
The building would lay dormant for 21 years, a reminder of the area's manufacturing and railroad history, but nothing else, until 1995, when an investment group led by Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton purchased the building with the intention of turning it into a restaurant.
It would be called the Walter Payton Roundhouse and later America's Historic Roundhouse. The complex had an open-air pavillion, brewery and museum, which also had some of Payton's memorabilia in it, such as his Super Bowl XX ring.
The complex would receive a National Preservation Award on October 22, 1999, ten days before Walter Payton's untimely death to liver cancer.
The restaurant was acquired by Two Brothers Artisan Brewing Company in 2011, who still owns it. We visited the restaurant recently and had a great experience, except for the parking lot which is far too small.
|Entrance to the Roundhouse. The history of the place is well documented in it's logo, but there are little mentions of it's past life inside. It's website nonetheless tells the story well.|
|Much of the original limestone structure is still intact, although the restaurant area is on wood platforms slightly above the shop floors.|
|One of the beers available is a nod to the Illinois Prairie Path, itself a redeveloped piece of railroad infrastructure.|
|A light, crisp ale that is apparently gluten free.|
As always, thanks for reading!