Batavia was first settled in 1833 by Christopher Payne and his family. Originally called Big Woods for the wild growth throughout the settlement, the town was renamed by local judge and former Congressman Isaac Wilson in 1840 after his previous home of Batavia, New York. Because Judge Wilson owned the majority of the town, he was given permission to rename the city. Batavia was on the front lines of the Black Hawk War in which Abraham Lincoln was a citizen soldier, and Zachary Taylor and Jefferson Davis were Army officers. Although there is no direct evidence that any of them were actually in Batavia, there are writings by Lincoln that refer to "Head of the Big Woods", which was the original name of Batavia given by its original settler, Christopher Payne. The city was incorporated on July 27, 1872.
After the death of her husband, Mary Todd Lincoln was an involuntary resident of the Batavia Institute in 1875. In the late 19th century, Batavia was a major manufacturer of the Conestoga wagons used in the country's westward expansion. Into the early 20th century, most of the windmill operated waterpumps in use throughout America's farms were made at one of the three windmill manufacturing companies in Batavia. Many of the original limestone buildings that were part of these factories are still in use today as government and commercial offices and storefronts. The Aurora Elgin and Chicago Railway constructed a power plant in southern Batavia and added a branch to the city in 1902. The Campana Factory was built in 1936 to manufacture cosmetics for The Campana Company, most notably Italian Balm, the nation's best-selling hand lotion at the time.
According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 9.70 square miles (25.1 km2), of which 9.64 square miles (25.0 km2) (or 99.38%) is land and 0.07 square miles (0.18 km2) (or 0.72%) is water.
There were 8,494 households out of which 41.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 63.0% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.2% were non-families. 22.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.27.
In the city, the population was spread out with 31.3% under the age of 18, 6.0% from 18 to 24, 30.6% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 94.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.4 males.
Males had a median income of $55,913 versus $35,083 for females. The per capita income for the city was $38,576. About 2.5% of families and 3.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.1% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.
According to the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $90,680, the median income for a family was $103,445, and the median home value was $329,800.
Aldi, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Aldi, has its headquarters in Batavia.
Fermilab is located just outside the town borders and serves as employment for many of the town's residents.
According to the City's 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
In 2009, Batavia was ranked #56 on CNN Money's Best Small Towns in the nation. In 2007, BusinessWeek ranked Batavia #21 on a national list of the 50 best places in America to raise kids. In 2011, Batavia was voted by RelocateAmerica as one of the Top 100 Places to Live in America.
Batavia is served by Batavia Public School District No. 101. The district currently consists of six K-5 elementary schools, one 6-8 middle school, and Batavia High School.
Batavia is served by Batavia Public Library District, which was founded in 1882 as a township library. It converted to a district library in June 1975. The library serves most of Batavia Township (Kane County) and portions of Winfield Township (DuPage County), Geneva Township (Kane County), and Blackberry Township (Kane County). Its current facility opened in January 2002.