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Plainfield Board OKs Relocation of Historic Beacon

Beacon among those used to guide air mail pilots, including the likes of Charles Lindbergh, and could be the last one remaining in Illinois.

An Air Mail beacon used during the 1920s will be relocated to property near the Plainfield Historical Society depot at Lockport Street and Wood Farm Road. Credit: File photo
An Air Mail beacon used during the 1920s will be relocated to property near the Plainfield Historical Society depot at Lockport Street and Wood Farm Road. Credit: File photo
Plainfield trustees voted unanimously Monday to allow the Plainfield Historical Society to relocate an Air Mail beacon to its property at Wood Farm Road and Lockport Street.

The 53-foot-tall beacon will be installed near the old EJ&E Depot.

The navigational beacon was among those erected by the United States Army Air Corps Division when it established air mail postal delivery in 1921. The United States Post Office Department took over the navigational beacon system in 1922 when it assumed the air mail delivery division.

Famed pilot Charles Lindbergh used the beacon system when he delivered mail for Robertson Aircraft Corporation along a route between St. Louis and Chicago, passing near Plainfield.

According to the historical society, the beacon was reportedly originally located on an airfield at the Day Brothers' farm on 127th Street east of Essington Road in Bolingbrook.

"According to oral tradition, the Day Brothers did not renew the lease for the airfield in 1929," the historical society said in a memo regarding the beacon. "Reportedly, the beacon was moved from the Day Brothers’ farm in early 1930.  According to oral tradition, the navigational beacon was moved to site of a new building being erected by the Universal Wireless Co., which had purchased the former Robins Farm on 127th Street between present-day Illinois Route 59 and Book Road."

The tower was reportedly acquired by Newell Boughton, whose farm was located to the northeast of the former Universal Wireless Property on Book Road, sometime between 1979 to 1986.

The farm property is now owned by the Forest Preserve District of Will County, which has since cleared the site of all structures, but worked with the historical society to salvage the beacon tower.

"It remains unclear if any other—or how many—of the 30 navigational towers still stand in Illinois. It is believed that this tower is one of the last—if not the last—navigational tower remaining in Illinois," the historical society said.

Historical society collections committee member Michael Lambert told the village board that the tower, once relocated to the depot property, will be secured to deter people from attempting to climb it. 

Security lighting will also be installed on the beacon.

Lambert said the beacon will be relocated and re-erected later this month.
Joki2 May 14, 2014 at 09:09 AM
Wow!!!!!! Plainfield really knows how to make the town look nice. Couldn't they find a better location, maybe next to Tom Cross signs at 126 and 59 .
Ericus Alanas May 14, 2014 at 11:04 AM
for the sake of tourism please nobody clarify ;)
Tim May 14, 2014 at 03:19 PM
As long as no taxes are being used to pay for this, why not do it? It's completely irrelevant as a structure though, as the flight path is historical, not the debris put on the ground below it. Next thing you know, someone will be claiming the Ice Cream Sundae was invented in Plainfield...

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