Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Testy Fox River

Angry Midwest rivers are in the news these days. At least, that's how rivers overflowing their usual banks and ravaging nearby towns and farms have been described -- "angry."

On Sunday, the Fox River near Geneva wasn't angry, but it seemed a mite testy. After touring the inside of the Fabyan Windmill and marveling at its intricate wood and cast-iron works -- and best of all, seeing the blades and cap from the second-floor balcony -- we went downhill to the river's edge, and then crossed a series of pedestrian bridges to the other side, to visit the rest of the Fabyan estate.

Either the river was high, or somehow the trees and bushes along its edge had moved down toward the river. The current was also quite swift, the product of countless tributaries still draining rainwater into the Fox at countless points, moderated in various ways by dams along the way.

The first footbridge from the east bank actually crosses to a long peninsula, narrowly attached to the west bank. Another foot or so of river, and the peninsula would have been underwater. As it was, large pools of water had collected there, and the river was lapping at the edge of a sizable ornamental lighthouse (or did it have a function?) that George Fabyan had installed. The bottom of this structure is in this photo, with the rest obscured by leaves.

The peninsula -- which was either an island in the days of Mr. Fabyan, or fancifully described as one -- was also home to his "Roman" swimming pool. I stood at the south point of the peninsula and tried to imagine it; the pictures I saw reminded me not of Bath or any actual Roman bathing structures, but rather pictures I've seen of the Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle, though not nearly as grand. (Fabyan was merely a millionaire, while Hearst was Hearst.) Unfortunately, Fabyan's Roman pool didn't withstand the ravages of time, and only a small sign erected by the Forest Preserve District marks the spot.

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