Alexander Brothers Blacksmith Shop: 2023 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois

“Geneva benefits by having a ‘brand,’ and respect for our heritage is an important part of that. The Alexander Brothers Blacksmith Shop should be viewed as an opportunity, not as a problem.”

– Alan Leahigh, Geneva resident



4 East State Street, Geneva, Kane County

Year built

c. 1846



Current owner

Shodeen Family Foundation

(Photo credit: Colin Campbell)

Historic Significance

This one-story limestone building is one of the oldest surviving commercial structures in Geneva. Originally built in 1846 as a blacksmith shop, the building was occupied by many other businesses over the years. Among these was the Mill Race Inn restaurant, a popular destination dining spot for nearly eight decades until it closed in 2011. This humble building represents the transformation of the City of Geneva from its first years as a settlement to today. Its storied 180-year history and its prominent location on the shores of the Fox River have secured this limestone structure’s reputation as a beloved, iconic and irreplaceable piece of Geneva’s industrial history.

(Photo credit: Al Watts)

Current threat

The Blacksmith Shop’s owner, the Shodeen Family Foundation, has applied for a permit to de-designate and demolish the historic limestone structure, arguing that it is not financially feasible to reuse. The foundation attempted to demolish the building once before, landing the structure on Landmarks Illinois’s 2018 Most Endangered list under the heading “Early Settlement-era Buildings, Geneva.” Local advocacy efforts resulted in the Blacksmith Shop’s designation as a Geneva Landmark in 2018, and its demolition was prevented. Although the Blacksmith Shop is now threatened once again, its landmark status means that the demolition permit application is subject to review by the Geneva Historic Preservation Commission.

(Photo credit: Colin Campbell)

Preservation Solution

At public hearings, multiple concerned citizens have voiced their desire to see the limestone structure preserved and incorporated in some way into the Shodeen Family Foundation’s adjacent development. Although the foundation contends that preservation is not economically feasible, it has so far refused to consider alternative redevelopment scenarios or alternative funding sources. The foundation could investigate available funding sources such as state or federal tax credits, public or private grant funding, or Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds.

(Photo credit: Colin Campbell)


Testify at an upcoming hearing of the Geneva Historic Preservation Commission to ask them not to approve the de-designation and demolition request for 4 E. State St.

(Photo credit: Al Watts)

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