South River Lane was considered the “slums” of Geneva before the 1920s. Around 1925, Kate Raftery began purchasing properties on this street as part of her River Lane Beautification Project. Collaborating with her architect son, Howard, she transformed this area into a desirable neighborhood, marketing it through The Little Traveler Almanacks.
413 South River Lane was designed by Frazier and Raftery and constructed by August Wilson and Son in 1931. Built for George Chamberlain, an assistant superintendent of Commonwealth Edison, the building’s notoriety did not develop until Robin Dienst owned the property.
Dienst and Helen North opened a one-room book department inside The Little Traveler, but outgrew the space by 1938 and moved the business to the two-bedroom cottage on South River Lane. This was a bold maneuver, because it was one of the first retail establishments off the main thoroughfare of State and Third Streets. It proved to be a successful venture, as over seven hundred customer’s attended the formal opening.
Michael Lambert, City of Geneva Historic Preservation Planner will describe the transformation of River Lane at the Geneva History Museum on Saturday, May 6 at 11a.m.