200 Years of Illinois: Making way for Fermilab

weston ILIt came from the future: Tevatron. The villain in the new Michael Bay feature? Actually, the world’s largest particle accelerator once it opened in 1983. But to get there, the giant underground atom racer/smasher needed a town to get out of the way and let in the National Accelerator Laboratory, later called Fermilab.

And all because Weston, Illinois, got what it wanted.

On December 16, 1966, the Atomic Energy Committee chose tiny Weston, Illinois as the site of its new National Accelerator Laboratory. The citizens of Weston rejoiced. A farming town of about 450 people, Weston had come into being in 1963. Developers had big plans for the town from the beginning: a huge housing complex and mall that would grow a new 50,000-person city in the middle of DuPage County. The county had, in fact, shut down that idea due to concerns over funding, overcrowding of schools, and infrastructure.

moving a houseThe National Accelerator Laboratory would give a giga-boost to these ambitions.

What citizens did not realize was that the NAL plan did not include space for Weston. Not just the large Weston dreamed of by real estate developers. Weston, period. To say nothing of the land belonging to area farmers, who went largely un-consulted during the process. The town residents, having just won the battle to incorporate, believed Weston would sit just outside the NAL’s border. But the plans for the site included their land. An (ironic) fight to stop the particle accelerator began and faltered. Weston’s residents hoped to move their homes to land nearby but legal challenges blocked their way.

With no place to go, residents sold their homes and land to the state of Illinois. Weston legally ceased to exist in 1970.