Reflections – Prairie State Winery Buildings

September 21, 2022

Researching local history can feel a lot like putting together a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle… exhilarating as borders are established, sections are filled in, and the pictures tell their stories… and thoroughly frustrating when you discover there are pieces missing (often lots of pieces!).

Such was my experience recently as I explored the stories of two buildings in Genoa, 220 and 222 West Main Street that Prairie State Winery now occupies. Here are the pieces I’ve put together so far…

As Henry Durham bought much of the land around 220 and 222 West Main Street in Genoa from the government in 1840, it seems that he was the original owner of both of these properties.

220 West Main Street

Circa 1880, the Farmer’s Bank inhabited 220, and S. H. Stiles donated the rent for a library in the upper rooms of the building. In 1912, the DeKalb Telephone Company moved in a telephone switchboard into the second floor. Farmer’s Bank was closed by the state authorities for examination and adjustments during the Great Depression of 1929. An apartment upstairs was occupied in 1950 by Jane Hubell and Paul Olson after they got married.

Workers hoist the telephone operator’s switchboard into the upstairs window of the bank in 1912 at 220 West Main Street, Genoa.

By 1956, the building was known as the Kukura Building, probably due to Joe Kukura who may have been a tailor. Western Auto Associates began renting the building in 1956 under the management of Doug Carr. In 1962, Grover Atkinson became the manager, although Carr was still in charge. This space was occupied next by Farmer’s Café until Victoria’s Crossing was opened there in 1993 by George and Barb Daugherty.

When Victoria’s Crossing closed, Prairie State Winery moved in from its building on the north side of Main Street.

222 West Main Street

Who built 222 West Main is one of those missing pieces, but from 1893 to the 1920s, the building housed a jewelry store run by Ed Lane. In 1893, Dr. Hill moved into his new office over Lane’s store. The first telephone switchboard was in the back room of 222 West Main before being moved into 220 West Main’s upper level.

West Main Street, Genoa, 1912

A women’s hat shop was another tenant in the 1950s, but Genoa Package Liquors was occupying the space by 1968 and was still there in 1978. From 1985 to 1996, Genoa Pizza was located at this address until Victoria’s Crossing expanded into this building from 220 W. Main in 1997.

When Victoria’s Crossing closed, Rick and Maria Mamoser purchased the buildings and moved Prairie State Winery, which they had opened in 1998, across the street into both 220 and 222 West Main.
The history of two buildings… the picture is emerging, but there are many missing pieces. If you find any, please send them our way.

Orrin Merritt, Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society

Information provided by the Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society and the DeKalb County History Center.