Site and Natural History

Other populations occupied this area of northern Illinois before Fermilab physicists came to the site. As Native Americans vacated, pioneers in the 1830's moved west to homestead and they began to control development around the Big Woods at the outskirts of Chicago and formed counties and towns. Plank roads and railroads brought families from Chicago out to the Fox River valley for clean open space and opportunity.

By 1964 the border of DuPage and Kane Counties contained farms and a small housing development called Weston. In 1966 the area was included in the Illinois proposal for the AEC's 200 GeV Accelerator Project, a U.S. high-energy physics laboratory.

The Fermilab Archives has collections on the history of the farms and the Weston subdivision which, from 1966 to 1969, became the site for the National Accelerator Laboratory. These collections include documents, photographs and interviews conducted by a team of historians from Northern Illinois University in 1998.

The Pioneer Cemetery is located near the lab’s Meson Area. The earliest burial was in 1839 and the last 19th century burial was in 1871. One of the most noteworthy graves from this time is that of General Thompson Mead. The cemetery was eventually abandoned until 1958, when two Batavia residents began restoring it. It became part of the lab after the Weston area was chosen as the site of the new national accelerator laboratory in 1966. The Veterans of Foreign Wars rededicated the cemetery in September 1972, when they installed a flag.

The lab’s first director, Robert R. Wilson, was buried in the cemetery in 2000. His wife, Jane Wilson, was later buried next to him in 2006.

Weston’s predecessor was West Field, a small subdivision built in the 1960s. It eventually incorporated as the village of Weston under village president Arthur Theriault. Weston and the surrounding area were proposed as a potential site for planned National Accelerator Laboratory, and on December 16, 1966, the Atomic Energy Commission announced that Weston would be the site of the new laboratory. The state of Illinois bought the houses from the residents and they became part of the lab’s “Village.” Many of the buildings are still in use by the lab today.

Fermilab’s 6,800-acre site is a natural laboratory for studying the use of vast open space, including grasslands and woodlands and their wildlife populations. Understanding our environment has been essential to Fermilab’s operation for thirty years. Fermilab management and the Department of Energy encourage healthy and safe use of our site by our employees and visitors.

Research on Fermilab’s site since 1968 has included work in archaeology, anthropology, botanical studies of wildflowers and native vegetation, chemistry, ecology, geology, ornithology, prairie restoration and the construction of an interpretive trail, and wildlife and their habitats. Reports on this work are available in the Archives.

Prairie Arbor Day Wildlife