On Christmas Eve in 1855, Johann and Katharina (Schneider) Wagner arrived in the United States from their home in Weiler, Germany, which lies just west of Koblenz in the Rhineland. The Wagners eventually made their way to northern Illinois and settled in Gross Point (now Wilmette), an area that was heavily populated by German immigrants.
The Wagners soon established their homestead on the southeast corner of Lake and Wagner Roads in present-day Glenview. By 1898, Johann Wagner owned approximately 91 acres: 10 acres on the southeast corner of Lake and Wagner Road; 11 acres on the northwest corner of Lake and Wagner Road; 30 acres on the southwest corner of Harms and Lake Avenue, and 40 acres north of the present farm.
Johann and Katharina had ten children. Their youngest son, Thomas, who was born in 1869, married Julia Brachtendorf of Northfield Township in 1892. In 1902 Thomas and Julia purchased the Hoffman farm on the northwest corner of Lake and Wagner Roads - now known as Wagner Farm.
At this time, the farm was now 40 acres, extending just west of the present day farm. Thomas also inherited the land on the northeast corner of Lake and Wagner Roads. Thomas' siblings inherited all the other lands in the farm's estate.
In addition to farming, Thomas was the Northfield Township Road Commissioner from 1910 until his death in 1950. He also owned a gravel business that he passed to his sons, Frank and Martin.
Thomas and Julia had five children - Frank (1894-1959), Lucy (1899-1980), Rose (1903-1997), Peter (1904-1991), and Martin (1910-1984). Four of the children (Frank, Lucy, Rose, and Peter) remained on the farm their entire lives. The farm was operated continuously by the children until the last member of the family - Rose - died in 1997.
Rose's Will stated that the farm should be sold and any proceeds placed in trust for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Glenview. A locally organized group called C.O.W.S (Citizens Organization for Wagner's) worked to have the farm saved from residential development and the Glenview Park District was able to pass a referendum in 1998, finally purchasing the farm in 2000.
The Park District established a steering committee which developed a master plan. The original vision for the site read:
"The Wagner Farm is historically significant and represents Glenview's agricultural heritage. It is desirable to develop and operate this site as a working and interpretive farm to preserve the history of family farming in the community during a time period from the 1920's to the 1950's. To this end, plans and programs will be developed to provide recreational and educational resources for the community."
Farm staff have carefully followed this original vision with the restoration of the site and development of programs, events, and all other educational opportunities.
Wagner Farm is a place where education meets history.