Preserving the old “Holbrook Mill” • one of the oldest structures in Aurora, Illinois

History of the Old Holbrook Mill

"The venerable stone building still stands today,
as a relic of the early days.”

-- Aurora Beacon News, January 27, 1927


Unfortunately, little information can be found about the old Holbrook Mill. It is believed to be one of the oldest structures in the City of Aurora, and the oldest surviving commercial building in Kane County. In a 1927 article about Holbrook Street (now called Benton Street) the building was quaintly referred to as “a relic of the early days.” It is my intention to make sure these words will remain true for future generations.


• Built circa 1843 on land originally owned by Theodore and Esther S. Lake, founders of West Aurora.

• In 1856, Owen C. Hines purchased the property for $1,600.00. The building was used as a livery stable for almost 20 years.

No photographs have been found to exist showing the building during the 1800s. The only glimpse we have of the building's original design comes from this 1867 aerial view map.

• In the mid 1870s city directories list several different carriage works which operated out of the structure.

• The 1882 aerial view map of Aurora clearly shows the building. The large two- dimensional trade sign
. of a carriage projecting out in front of the building's flat roof gives evidence of its occupants during this era.
. We speculate that the wagons were assembled on the second floor, and then wheeled out the rear door
. and down the ramp.

• The 1887 Sanborn map of Aurora shows the builing marked as "Holbrook Mill." This mill (believed to be steam powered) operated in the late 1880s and 1890s and ground grist -- flour, wheat, and other grains.

• White and Todd Lumber Company purchased the building in the early 1900s and through most of
. the twentieth century it was used for wood storage.

This early twentieth-century photograph shows the old Holbrook Mill and the surrounding storage sheds and office buildings belonging to the White and Todd Lumber Company. It is believed that the large lean-to shed was added to the western side of the old mill building at some point around the turn of the century.

• In the late 1980s, Aurora's Old Second National Bank purchased the White and Todd LumberCompany property and they proposed demolishing all buildings on the site to make room for a parking lot.

• After a hotly contested debate, the Aurora Historic Preservation Commission designated the old Holbrook Mill a local “landmark” halts its demolition in 1990.

• The building is sold in 2003.

Three photographs showing the condition of the old Holbrook Mill in 2003. Significant cracks can be found throughout the building, most of the mortar has eroded from the lower three stone courses, and the pitched roof is sagging.

• Roof collapses, late March 2006.

• Property was purchased by the current owner in June 2006 and plans for it's restoration begin.