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The Little Traveler, Geneva

#1 of 13 in Things to do in Geneva
The Little Traveler is more than just a store--it's a trip around the world and through time as you peruse the 36 themed rooms in this Victorian-era home. Each room is a different experience, from the latest in fashion apparel to home décor, gourmet foods, and so much more. Look for incredible one-of-a-kind pieces for your home as well as unique gifts for your friends and family. #TheLittleTraveler

The Little Traveler has been a landmark of the Geneva, Illinois shopping district since 1922. It all began with one of Geneva’s most prominent families, Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Raftery. Born the daughter of a Mississippi riverboat captain, Kathryn married Edmund and moved from Kentucky to the Fox Valley. At that time, the Fox Valley was burgeoning with trade, including the foundry where Edmund was employed.

The Rafterys purchased a magnificent Victorian home at 404 S. Third Street in Geneva. This two-story home had four rooms on each level with fireplaces in the spacious parlor and dining room. Beautiful gardens and walkways graced the exterior. History tells us that Edmond and Kate Raftery enjoyed a wide circle of friends and were known for entertaining at their home with flair.

Around 1922, Mrs. Raftery’s close friend, Lucy Calhoun moved with her husband to Peking, China. Mr. Calhoun was an important emissary of the United States to the Court of the Last Dowager of China. Lucy began sending her good friend Kate bolts of Imperial Tribute silks, fur robes, pewter deers and ducks, jade ornaments, and festival lanterns.

Mrs. Raftery was delighted with her friend’s finds and knew others would be too. She asked her to send more of these unusual items, and her collection grew. She displayed these Oriental treasures on the grand piano in the living room and sent invitations for an afternoon tea and sale. The tea was a success and more were held.

As the collection continued to grow, so did the Rafterys’ reputation. Other friends began sending treasures from around the world. From London, Count Bensington sent Georgian china and silver, Elizabethan and Regency furniture, and other English antiques. Items also arrived from France, Spain, and Italy. Soon, a portion of the Raftery’s home was formally opened as a shop.

Because travel to Geneva could be an all day affair, Mrs. Raftery, always the gracious hostess, continued to serve tea and lunch for her guests in the in the intimate surroundings of her home. While her friends enjoyed lunch, Mrs. Raftery saw to it that their drivers were served a simpler fare in the courtyard, now the Atrium Cafe. By 1925 the shop, dubbed “The Little Traveler,” was frequented by the carriage trade. The small shop expanded into a regency of arcades, Victorian corridors, captains walks and wings, green gardens, and courtyards.

While The Little Traveler was Mrs. Raftery’s most celebrated accomplishment, it was not her only. She was most certainly the originator of Third Street as a unique shopping environment. Many of Geneva’s other businesses can be attributed to Mrs. Raftery’s encouragement.

As an accomplished business woman, Mrs. Raftery was influential in residential development as well. At one time, Geneva Lane (now River Lane) was an area of shanties and small homes. She would purchase these modest houses, tear them down, and encourage her friends to build beautiful homes overlooking the Fox River. This area is now one of the prettiest streets in Geneva.

Today, downtown Geneva is still known as one of the most unique shopping districts in the Midwest, maintaining a tradition of hospitality, charm, and character. The Little Traveler has remained the cornerstone of this tradition. The shop has grown considerably since the original Italianate Victorian residence (which now serves as the center section of the shop) to thirty-six rooms of treasures. You’ll be greeted by a caring staff and amazed by the never-ending array of items brought back by our modern day little travelers.

It all started as a simple idea and evolved into a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Still locally owned and operated, The Little Traveler is a Geneva landmark that has been enjoyed for generations.
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The Little Traveler Reviews
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169 reviews
  • vWe have visited many times over. Every corner of the Little Travel has surprises, little nuggets of unexpected knick knacks and unusual items, from all over the world and at great prices. Not strolle...  more »
  • We are up in the aurora area visiting family and my mom brought my sister and I to Geneva for a cute day trip. Let me tell you, this store was so cute. With a room for everything from fun kids' toys t...  more »
  • This former house is now home to many little stores. Each room features a different retailer, and you can find everything from knicknacks for the kitchen to children's toys to jewelry, clothing, or it...  more »
  • This is always a girls day out destination at least once a year. The 36 room mansion houses a large variety of shops carry quality goods from cards and toys to fancy dresses and everything in between and their lunch room serves the most delicious sandwiches and quiches. It's even a great rainy day destination!
  • One of my favorite places to visit! The food is absolutely wonderful here, and I enjoy seeing the fashion show and talking with the ladies there. Great waiting staff who always makes sure you have what you need. I love walking around the different sections here, especially the Christmas section. Amazing place to take friends and relax! Love coming here!
  • First time out here. Fall Craft and Wine tasting was happening in this area. Geneva IL. A good selection of crafts on the streets and wine tasting in front of Little Traveler store, very tasty wines and u can buy. Fun & delicious.
  • Love this place. Lots of unique items. Perfect for decorating your home or gifts. It's like a small department store but all on one level and you feel like you're in a home. They have clothing, garden accessories, kitchen stuff, a place to eat, and much, much more. Staff is very nice.
  • Just can't get enough of this store! They have everything, from really cute clothes, hand bags and accessories, home goods, luxury soaps and body products, Christmas shops and specialty foods and more!! Leave yourself plenty of time to really peruse all the fun stuff!!
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