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U.S. Route 66: Chenoa, Illinois February 20, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, History, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
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After spending so much time near Chicago I thought it would be nice to return to the downstate calm of Old U.S. Route 66. Just north of the city of Chenoa, Illinois, the historic section of U.S. Route 66 that is listed on the National Register Historic Places ends, but the road continues southward, toward Bloomington. Coming from Pontiac, we first hit Chenoa, in northern McLean County.


Chenoa, Illinois, in northern McLean County

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Frank W. Thomas House: Oak Park, Illinois Part 6 February 16, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, Houses, National Register of Historic Places, Prairie style.
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There are two houses in Oak Park which have, at different times, been called the “first fully mature” example of a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style house. The first of those homes is the Frank W. Thomas House at 210 Forest Avenue; most sources agree that the Thomas House was the first example.

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1901 – Frank W. Thomas House

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Walter Gale House: Oak Park, Illinois Part 5 February 14, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
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The Walter Gale House, in Oak Park, Illinois, was constructed around the time of yesterday’s Bootleg Houses and closely resembles their design. Again, Wright went with a geometric Queen Anne style that, while not unlike traditional styles popular during the 1890s, represented a precursor to the direction he would take a few years later.


1893- Walter Gale House

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Bootleg Houses: Oak Park, Illinois Part 4 February 13, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
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Between 1892 and 1893 Frank Lloyd Wright designed a series of eight houses, many of them similar in style, in and around Oak Park, Illinois. The popular tale says that Wright, then under contract with Louis Sullivan, was forbidden, by his contract, to “moonlight” and do independent designs. That tale is contradicted in Thomas Heinz’s 2006 book, “The Vision of Frank Lloyd Wright”. Heinz says that Wright was not forbidden to do independent work, and that Sullivan would have encouraged it because Wright owed him money. Heinz says Wright left Adler and Sullivan on his own terms, amidst an economic downturn.

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Ashelford Hall: Esmond, Illinois February 9, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, History, National Register of Historic Places.
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There are more than 90,000 listings on the National Register of Historic Places. Not all of them are well-kept, I have come across a fair share of dilapidated properties, one of them here in DeKalb County. While far from falling down, Ashelford Hall in the small village of Esmond, Illinois is, to put it lightly, in a state of disrepair.


1925 – Ashelford Hall

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Adolphus W. Brower House: Sycamore, Illinois Part 6 February 7, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
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Weary from our journey we return to Sycamore suffering from a case of Republican-icon-overload. Breathe, sigh, we’re back and will be soothed. Soothed by picture perfect Italianate style. At 705 DeKalb Avenue in Sycamore is a high-style example of Italianate in the Adolphus W. Brower House.


1874 – Adolphus W. Brower House

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Ronald Reagan Birthplace: Tampico, Illinois Part 2 February 6, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, History, National Register of Historic Places.
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Today, Ronald Reagan was born in 1911. I have said before I am not a Republican nor a Reagan fan, but it is significant history for northern Illinois and needs to be talked about. Today we see the Ronald Reagan Birthplace building. He was born in the second floor apartment of a commercial building in downtown Tampico, Illinois.


1896 Graham Building (center) – Ronald Reagan’s Birthplace

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Main Street Historic District: Tampico, Illinois February 5, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, History, National Register of Historic Places.
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Before the Reagans came to Dixon they lived in the Whiteside County, Illinois village of Tampico. In fact, Ronald Reagan (40th U.S. President) was born there on February 6, 1911 (more on that tomorrow). The area around the apartment where Reagan was born is a historic district, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.


Main Street Historic District – Downtown Tampico, Illinois

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Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home: Dixon, Illinois Part 2 February 4, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, History, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
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Ronald Reagan grew up and went to high school in Dixon, Illinois. His family lived in a house on Hennepin Avenue (now Reagan Way) that gained federal recognition, first as a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, and then as a National Historic Site in 2002. While the building has been declared a National Historic Site, ownership has not been handed over to the National Park Service, a necessary step in its evolution to the new status. You will soon know why.


Plaque at Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home

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Lowell Park: Dixon, Illinois February 3, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, History, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
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Lots of people know that Ronald Reagan grew up in Dixon, Illinois. His boyhood home is part of a declared National Historic Site (more on that tomorrow). Some people know the tales of Reagan saving 77 people from drowning while working as a lifeguard. Fewer probably know where he worked as a lifeguard at, and fewer still know anything about the place. At least that’s my take. Today I share with you Lowell Park in Dixon, Illinois.


National Register plaque, Lowell Park

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Stephen Wright House: Paw Paw, Illinois February 2, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
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Before we get to the Reagan landmarks in Dixon we stop in Paw Paw, Illinois, a small village many of you have probably passed on Interstate 39, you know you are there when you see the windmills on the horizon. Before 2005 the 850 person village of Paw Paw had no properties included on the federal National Register of Historic Places. The listing of the Stephen Wright House changed that in May of that year.


When the windmills appear, Paw Paw is near

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Carlos Lattin House: Sycamore, Illinois Part 5 February 1, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, History, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
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Carlos Lattin was the first permanent settler in the DeKalb county seat of Sycamore, Illinois. Lattin arrived in Sycamore in 1835 and constructed a log cabin near the site of present-day downtown Sycamore, just north of Downtown Shoes, at 307 S. State St. (Illinois 64). The site is marked by a plaque at that address.


Plaque marking spot of Sycamore’s first cabin

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Illinois State Police Office: Pontiac, Illinois Part 2 January 31, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, History, National Register of Historic Places, U.S. Route 66.
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Just south of Pontiac on Old U.S. Route 66 is an Illinois State Police Office, now abandoned, that was built during World War II and served as the Illinois State Police District 6 headquarters until it was vacated in 2004. The Art Moderne (closely related to Art Deco) building gives off a sleek, streamlined look through its use of glass bricks, curved corners and smooth surfaces.


1941 Illinois State Police Office – Pontiac

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U.S. Route 66: Pontiac, Illinois January 30, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Courthouses, History, National Register of Historic Places, U.S. Route 66.
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Leaving Dwight and Odell you next come to Pontiac along the historic stretch of Route 66, there are a couple old cafes to see for hardcore enthusiasts, but I went straight for the architecture along the route, and anyone who goes should see these sites.

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Pioneer Gothic Church and a train station: Dwight Illinois Part 4 January 29, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Churches, National Register of Historic Places.
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We looked at the small village of Dwight, Illinois more than a week ago, there are two more National Register listed sites in the community that we have yet to discuss; though, there are other sites in Dwight worth seeing as well.

The Pioneer Gothic Church is a high-style example of Carpenter Gothic Revival style. Good examples of the style are even more scarce because the 1857 church, like many examples of Carpenter Gothic, is constructed entirely from wood. Fires were common during this era, in fact, Dwight suffered four major fires during the period 1869-1891.


1857 Pioneer Gothic Church

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J.H. Rogers, Four Square and the Bettis House: Sycamore, Illinois Part 4 January 28, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Houses, National Register of Historic Places, Prairie style.
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Next door to yesterday’s David Syme House is the J.H. Rogers House, a peculiar blend of Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival styles. It has the obvious turret of a Queen Anne home while also having prominent Romanesque arches. The home was built in 1890 for Rogers, a respected dry goods merchant who settled in Sycamore in 1858.


1890 J.H. Rogers House

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David Syme House: Sycamore, Illinois Part 3 January 27, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
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If you find yourself in Sycamore, Illinois with nothing to do, more specifically if you find yourself in the 800 block of Somonauk Street in Sycamore, undoubtedly viewing the Chauncey Ellwood House and Esther Mae Nesbitt House, you could walk south. Walk until you hit the 400 block. At 420 Somonauk is the stately David Syme House. It’s a Queen Anne style home that is part of a group known as “painted ladies” (wiki-not the greatest but good enough).


Circa 1880 David Syme House

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Esther Mae Nesbitt House: Sycamore, Illinois Part 2 January 26, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
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You don’t have to travel far from the Chauncey Ellwood House in Sycamore, Illinois to locate the subject of this post, it’s right next door, at 825 Somonauk Street. The Esther Mae Nesbitt House, another member of the Sycamore Historic District, has its origins back in 1837, as a carriage house for the subject of yesterday’s post, the Chauncey Ellwood House.


1837 Esther Mae Nesbitt House

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Chauncey Ellwood House: Sycamore, Illinois January 25, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in Architecture, Houses, National Register of Historic Places.
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Coming back, closer to home (at least for me), we travel into the frigid cold in the small city of Sycamore, the county seat of DeKalb County, Illinois. Sycamore is a quaint town, very nice, about 14,000 people reside there and it has an extensive historic district, known simply as the Sycamore Historic District. The area is especially pleasing in the deep of winter when several inches of fresh snow are on the ground. The historic district includes the downtown business strip on Route 64 and key residential structures north and south of downtown, over 200 properties in all. While there are several large, ornate government buildings, including a courthouse and a library, the real gems are the houses.


1859 Chauncey Ellwood House

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Buffalo Grove Lime Kiln: Polo, Illinois Part 2 January 23, 2008

Posted by dr. gonzo in History, National Register of Historic Places.
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Just outside of the small Ogle County, Illinois city of Polo, if one pays enough attention, there is an immaculate, and restored, 19th century lime kiln. Lime once had many uses, including building mortars, lime was used in the mortars of many of the ancient civilizations. Worldwide, relics of this era dot the countryside and just outside of Polo is a fine example of an 1870s perpetual lime kiln.

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