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A special stop on the Landmarks tour

The residence of Clinton Rosette, at 319 N. Second St. in DeKalb, as it looked on June 2 with the newly remodeled front porch. Provided photo
The residence of Clinton Rosette, at 319 N. Second St. in DeKalb, as it looked on June 2 with the newly remodeled front porch. Provided photo

If walls could talk ... The house at 319 N. Second St. in DeKalb is up for sale. Its origins are intimately connected with one of the movers and shakers of late 19th century DeKalb - Clinton Rosette. Born in the far southwest part of the county in Paw Paw Township in 1850, he came to DeKalb in 1875 with his wife, Alpha, and they conducted a small private school for about four years. In March 1879, Mr. Rosette became the founding editor of the DeKalb County Chronicle, today's Daily Chronicle. The fledgling newspaper's publisher was D.W. Tyrrell, who sold it a few months later to Joseph F. Glidden of barbed-wire fame. Glidden and Rosette ran the business together until Mr. Glidden died in October 1906, when Rosette assumed ownership of the J.F. Glidden Publishing Co., becoming both editor and publisher. The paper was well-known those first 30 years for its political affiliation and slogan: "Democratic in all Things and Under all Circumstances." In January 1909, ill health forced Rosette to sell the business to Edward J. Raymond and Frank W. Greenaway. Six months later, Rosette died at age 59. He is buried in DeKalb's Fairview Cemetery. Where the Rosettes initially took up residence in DeKalb is unknown. The 1880 U.S. Census listed them as living at the Glidden House Hotel on the northeast corner of Second and Main streets - later Lincoln Highway. The facility did not exist in 1875 but was built for and owned by Joseph Glidden. Between 1879 and 1889, the Chronicle was printed in the building's basement, before the paper's move to its longtime home at 123 E. Main (Lincoln Highway). According to the property abstract for 319 N. Second St., the Rosettes purchased the lots there for $600 on March 12, 1884, from William and Sarah Day, who also owned other land in the vicinity. Page 16 of the abstract indicated the Rosettes took out a $500 mortgage at 8 percent interest from Joseph Glidden on Aug. 9, 1884, repayable in three years. (The money was paid back in full 17 months later.) These funds may well have been used for building the house. (A check of historical tax records - available from the DeKalb County Treasurer's Office - would likely confirm this.) Description of the house The house is substantial without being overly pretentious. The exterior is marked by distinctive gables, ornamented with decorative fish-scale trim. The front porch was reopened early in the 21st century, after being enclosed for nearly 100 years. A story survives about the reason for enclosing the porch. This tale is preserved via oral tradition, so take it as you will. According to Beatrice Gurler of neighboring 205 Pine St., in the 1900s, the Rosettes were preparing for a visit by an especially prominent woman. She was to arrive and spend a period of time with them during what turned out to be a very hot summer. The practice of porch-sitting was common in those days. As the Rosettes feared their guest might feel uncomfortable trying to relax under such extreme weather conditions, they decided to enclose the structure. A 4-foot-wide beveled glass door opens from the new porch steps into a vestibule, where a small door once opened to the left onto the porch, which had been designed with no other outside access. That vestibule/porch doorway has been walled over inside and out, and with the reopening of the porch, outside access is now possible. The doorway from the vestibule into the living room, meanwhile, is narrower than its counterpart, and has no door at all. The exterior paint scheme is based upon traces of colors discovered when the century-old enclosed porch was removed. Some liberties were taken with the placement of colors in the gables. The spacious interior is highlighted by 9-foot-high ceilings, accented with a great deal of original window, door and baseboard trim on both the first and second floors. Except for one room in which the floor is maple, all the others are oak. One fireplace exists, located in a small room off the living room, which may either have been the library or a study for Mr. Rosette. It is rendered in what appears to be brown marble with portions of marbleized black slate, both materials incised with gold detail. Pairs of six-panel pocket doors separate the living room from the library/study, as well as the living room from the dining room. The center window in the living room's east wall is not original, possibly having been a doorway onto the enclosed porch. On the back wall of the dining room are three leaded-glass windows above a recessed area in the wall. Some type of fixture - breakfront, sideboard, etc. - would seem to have once occupied the spot. The kitchen, a mud room and a half-bath are at the rear. An enclosed stairway ascends to the second floor from the living room. The upper level is composed of four bedrooms and a full bath. At the top of the stairs is a simple wooden newel post, along with spindles and railing, extending a short distance down the hall, the end section having an undulating wall on one side. Four out of five doorways are topped by transoms, but only the one over the bathroom doorway is intact. The door itself is an original four-panel one, with brass hinges. Closet doors in two bedrooms retain their brass doorknobs. If walls could talk ... Among the local notables who no doubt visited the master of this house during his quarter of a century in residence were Democrats Joseph Glidden and Jacob Haish, Isaac Ellwood, state Sen. D.D. Hunt of DeKalb (who sponsored the bill in Springfield in 1895 creating Northern Illinois State Normal School, also known as Northern Illinois University), Dr. John Williston Cook (founding president of the school), and younger brother Bailey Rosette of 303 N. Second St. - two houses away - after 1896. --- Steve Bigolin is a local history expert.

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