The field of cryptology can
trace its roots to Col. George Fabyan and his laboratories along the Fox
River. The nine-acre campus includes three historically significant
buildings. Two laboratories for conducting scientific research in
acoustics and engineering were built in 1918 and 1922, respectively, and a
bungalow for housing staff and visitors dates to the early 1900s.
Researchers at Riverbank
Laboratories included expert code breakers, whose work helped decipher
enemy messages during World War I. The Engineering Building (1922), which
was designed by Fabyan who reportedly used stacks of cigarette boxes as a
model, consists of stacked rooms built from surplus 15-foot steel
I-beams. After Fabyan died in 1936, he left the property to a foundation
that was unable to properly maintain the site. By the 1980s the buildings
were in serious disrepair and it was feared they would be demolished for a
residential condominium development.
Fortunately, the property was
purchased and sensitively rehabilitated by new owners who, not only
appreciated the site’s historic and architecturally importance, but were
able to reuse the Engineering Building for their own music technology
business. Nearly 60 wood windows were restored, along with the
installation of a new roof and gutters and stucco repairs. The bungalow
has been rehabilitated for the owners’ private residence, while the third
structure continues in its long-term use as an acoustical laboratory.