History in Your Back Yard: Batavia's Campana Factory


Campana Factory, Batavia, IL.  U.S. National Register of Historic Places.  Photo by G LeTourneau.


The art deco Campana Factory is a historic building in Batavia was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

According to a Wikipedia account, it was built in 1936 to serve as a factory for The Campana Company, which produced Italian Balm, the most popular hand lotion in the United States during The Great Depression. The Streamline Moderne and Bauhaus building features many innovative technologies, such as air conditioning.
The Campana Company was a manufacturer of hand lotion, most notably Italian Balm, and other beauty products. Despite the economic hardships of The Great Depression, Campana was prosperous due to an aggressive radio advertising campaign featuring commercials on several hit shows, including The First Nighter Program. Campana also advertised by mailing millions of free samples to potential customers. The company was successful enough to warrant a new factory in 1936. The factory was intended to use the latest technologies and architectural styles to promote its products.
The Bauhaus and Art Deco inspired building was three stories tall with a central tower rising 100 feet (30 m). The building is in a long, horizontal block, and the third story is half as long as the other two. The floors alternative between tile and glass brick with no mullions. The glass bricks provide interior lightning in lieu of full windows. Horizontal bands of turquoise tile stretch around the building, with vertical bands rising up the tower. The Campana logo is written in gold leaf above the main entrance and in a large, red neon signnear the top of the tower.
A glass block wing was added to each end of the first floor in the 1940s and is the only major addition since the plant opened. The Purex Corporation of California later purchased The Campana Factory, which in turn was bought by the Dow Chemical Company. Dow moved all operations out of state and the factory is now closed.