Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Before Naperville Had McMansions, We Had Real Mansions

 Sketch from menu of Willoway Manor when it was a restaurant.

 Heatherton during its gracious days.

Dining outside on a warm summer’s evening is a fleeting pleasure for Chicago-area folk. One favorite spot is the patio at Meson Sabika on Aurora Road.

Originally, the restaurant was a private home. At one time it was known as Willoway Manor, lending its name to the adjoining Wil-O-Way subdivision. The illustration above is a menu from when the manor first operated as a restaurant. But when William Ransdell Goodwin lived there, it was called Oakhurst Farm. Apparently people liked to eat out-of-doors even during the Goodwins’ time. A Chicago Tribune article from June 2, 1909 tells of Mrs. Goodwin’s garden party for 400 women who sipped pink lemonade while seated on camp chairs under the trees.

William raised Berkshire swine, Buff Leghorn fowls and Indian Runner ducks at Oakhurst, as well as Angora cats, but he was also an “ardent automobile enthusiast” and a well-respected writer for the Breeders’ Gazette, according to his obituary: “He was buried Tuesday afternoon, April 8, 1919, in the village cemetery at Naperville, his shaft within sight of Oakhurst's pillars. No stone can ever symbolize the imperishable monument he holds in the hearts and minds of American breeders.”

Oakhurst Farm was considered to lie outside of Naperville, but William’s brother had an estate within the city limits. John Samuel Goodwin partnered with William to breed Aberdeen-Angus cattle and they were both members of the Saddle and Sirloin Club. John also served as a judge in Chicago, although he lived at Heatherton, his gracious manor here in town.

John built Heatherton on the site of Lewis Ellsworth’s house who in turn built on the site of Fort Payne. Joe Naper and the other settlers erected the fort in 1832 for protection during the Black Hawk War, but it was never actually used and was eventually dismantled. North Central College’s athletic fields fill much of the estate today.

Heatherton went up in flames on March 14, 1920, and in an eerie coincidence, Goodwin, who was staying at the Palmer House in Chicago, died of a heart attack just two hours before the fire that destroyed his home .


  1. A couple of additional facts. Many years after William Goodwin passed the Oakhurst was purchased by a family who ran a dairy called Wil-O-Way which is the actual name of the subdivision. The Restaurant Willoway came a few years later. The story that all the neighbors know is that John Goodwin was shot and killed by his wife who found him in a hotel room with another woman. Goodwin knew his wife knew about his philandering ways and had previously told his personal servant that if his wife ever killed him that he should burn the house down. The fire started that night and was put out by the volunteer fire department. Later on in the night it started up again and burned most of the hose to the ground. Some of the columns remained and were used in houses near the north side of North Central College.

    1. Thanks for these interesting details to the story!

  2. This article continues the story: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1990-05-16/news/9002120202_1_band-concert-town-popcorn It's an interview with Phyllis Benson whose father was a herdsman with the Wil-O-Way Dairy Farm.