Driving from Sycamore to DeKalb on the four-lane highway
you might notice a large boulder with a bronze plaque facing
the highway in front of Grease Monkey and the Bob and Dorothy
Stanbery home. I have driven by it for many years but never knew
Recently Jeff Strack told me about its origin and why it
honors the memory of William Swinbank. He was born in England
but came to America at age 10 with his parents. The family
eventually located in Burlington, and Swinbank went as far as
the 8th grade. At age 25 he moved to Nebraska for a few years
where he ranched and taught in a country school for three years.
This despite the fact that he never went to high school, but
was so talented he readily secured a teachers certificate
by taking the required tests, according to his obituary
in the Sycamore True Republican on August 9, 1949.
He then returned to Sycamore, becoming owner of a greenhouse
for 25 years, which no longer exists. Because he had extensive
knowledge of plants and trees, he was hired as Superintendent
of Grounds at Northern, a position he held until 1945. The obituary
said he provided advice to several garden clubs and hundreds
of individuals over the years. It added: The marked beauty
of the college campus evidences his outstanding ability
I can imagine many of the trees now fully grown were planted
under his supervision.
The bronze marker on the boulder placed there by the DeKalb-Sycamore
Garden Club states: A tribute to William Swinbank 18651949
for his service of civic landscape gardening in DeKalb, Sycamore
and this memorial highway.
An article by Sue Breese in the September 2013 issue of
the Joiner Room Journal explains that this section of Route 23
was named the DeKalbSycamore Memorial Highway in 1949 with
a bronze marker near Hopkins Park that explained that the planting
of trees along the highway was dedicated as a memorial
to those who served their country.
The marker has disappeared and was never replaced.The area
garden clubs and Rotary clubs purchased some 150 trees to plant
on the state right-of-way between the two cities. Many of those
are gone now due to commercial developments.