Spent a pleasant afternoon at Cantigny, the estate of legendary Chicago Tribune publisher, broadcast pioneer and ardent isolationist, Colonel Robert McCormick. After his death in 1955, McCormick had willed that the 500 acre grounds located in Wheaton, Illinois, be turned into a memorial to the 1st Infantry Division of the US Army, in which he had served ( McCormick was a veteran of the Mexican Expedition and the Great War). Operated by the McCormick Foundation, a charitable and educational trust with an endowment that rivals that of Yale or Harvard universities, Cantigny now is home to an opulent garden, golf course, mansion museum, several restaurants, a greenhouse, a tank and artillery park, a children’s playground, visitor’s center and the Museum of the First Division.
The grounds contain an array of armor on display for the tank aficianado, including the Sheridan, Sherman and variations of the Patton series up to the M-1 Abrams, including several “experimental” models plus a selection or artillery pieces going back well before WWI. Just added was a fully restored D-Day landing craft (still being unloaded from the trailer). Aside from children’s tours and families present, I saw not a few veterans today, some very elderly and in wheelchairs, reminiscing together quietly by particular tanks or displays.
The museum has a collection of artifacts that run the gamut from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq War but the major sections are concerned with the two World Wars and the Vietnam War. Museum staff are friendly and helpful but unobtrusive and the basement contains a military library and archive that is open to the public for research.
The grounds are very extensive and the landscaped garden, which covers many acres, is a world class feature in itself. The fee for admission is a mere $ 5 to park – the amenities and facilities (except the golf course and restaurants) are all free of charge.