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The Landmarks of Barb City - Part 43A

The "Residence of Joseph F. Glidden" on Thanksgiving Day 2004. This structure replaced an earlier log cabin in 1861. Family members lived in the home until 1998. Provided photo
The "Residence of Joseph F. Glidden" on Thanksgiving Day 2004. This structure replaced an earlier log cabin in 1861. Family members lived in the home until 1998. Provided photo

The venerable brick house and outbuildings on the property spanning the area from 913 to 921 W. Lincoln Highway well qualify as the most historic set of buildings in DeKalb. On Oct. 25, 1973, the house was the first structure in DeKalb County ever to win listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Dating from 1861 - according to family tradition - this was the "Residence of Joseph Farwell Glidden," the inventor of barbed wire. My purpose here is not to tell the tale of Joseph Glidden, but instead to concentrate on the physical structures associated with his property over time. There are a myriad of sources documenting his role in the invention and manufacture of barbed wire in DeKalb, and his various business and civic involvements. The DeKalb Public Library, Hayter Regional History Center at Northern Illinois University and the Joiner History Room at Sycamore Public Library all contain collections dealing with the subject, as does Ellwood House Museum. Glidden's brothers' arrival Joseph and his brother, Josiah Willard Glidden, arrived in DeKalb County in 1842 from New York State. They came west on the recommendation of a cousin, Russell Huntley, who settled here in 1837 and contacted relatives in the East, extolling the advantages of the rich prairie soil of Illinois. Huntley laid claim to 160 acres of land east of the Kishwaukee River, and is generally credited with being DeKalb's founding father, although he designated it as "Huntley's Grove," naming it after himself. His double log house stood for 40 years on what today is the northwest corner of First Street and West Lincoln Highway. The Glidden brothers purchased adjoining 600-acre farms for $1.25 an acre ($875) west of the river. Joseph's land extended from the river to present-day Annie Glidden Road, along both the north and south sides of what is now Lincoln Highway, then known simply as the "Chicago-Clinton, Iowa Road." It reached as far north as today's Lucinda Avenue, with the south boundary running almost to Taylor Street. Joseph would add 200 more acres to his holdings as time went by. As the railroad approached from the east in the first years of the 1850s, Glidden recognized the importance of the new means of transportation for future growth, and granted the "Chicago & Galena Union Railroad" the right-of-way across the southern edge of his farm. Family tradition states he hosted the crew from the first train for breakfast at his log cabin. While no actual picture of the cabin survives, a pen-and-ink sketch showing it was included in the 1899 "DeKalb Chronicle Illustrated Souvenir Edition." The log structure stood in front of where the barn would later be constructed, or approximately where the Burger King restaurant at 913 S. Lincoln Highway stands today, again according to family recollections. The historic image depicts it set back behind a three-rail wooden fence, with two possible additions in evidence. The cabin was of fairly standard design for that day and age, according to architectural-style guides, probably erected by Joseph Glidden himself. The lumber most likely came from the grove at the east edge of his land, which bordered on the Kishwaukee River. That area today encompasses the NIU lagoon and the land along Castle Drive. 'Hall-and-parlor' design The main block of the cabin was made of rounded logs laid in horizontal fashion, forming "saddle-notch joints" at the corners, much like familiar corners made with Lincoln Logs. Glidden's cabin was side-gabled with a pitched roof. The door was centered on the front, flanked by a pair of nine-pane windows. Traditionally, cabins would have a chimney at one or both gable ends, but the early Glidden home sported its protruding from the center of the back roof. This might indicate the structure had two rooms instead of just one, and was of the "hall-and-parlor" design. This form was common in New England, where Joseph Glidden was born and raised - meaning he constructed his cabin in a manner familiar to him. The outside door opened into a vestibule-like space called a "porch," with interior doorways accessing the two rooms. "American Architecture: An Illustrated Encyclopedia," by Cyril M. Harris, says the "hall" was not a hall in the conventional sense of the word, but was a full-sized room, within which most of the daily activity took place. The "parlor," on the other hand, was the room where the family's finest furniture could be found, as well as being the parents' bedroom. The chimney on the roof would have capped a huge central fireplace wall separating the two rooms, with openings to each. Stairs of some kind or a ladder to the loft where the children slept in darker surroundings were generally located in the vestibule of a hall-and-parlor cabin. In the case of Joseph Glidden's, there were two narrow, rectangular windows at the loft level, just under the roof eaves. Since no chimneys were present at either gable-end, at least one, or probably both, contained windows. A single-story addition with a slanted roof had its own door and window. Whether it was any bigger than what is visible is uncertain. Usually when another room or space was built onto the front of a cabin, it extended out from the original wall, not from a corner like this. At the back, meanwhile, one end of a "lean-to" can be seen. Such structures would provide more living space: a larger kitchen, one or more bedrooms, storage, etc. Both end walls are likely to have contained windows, and the long wall would normally have a couple of windows, and possibly even a back door. By 1861, however, Joseph Glidden had prospered to such an extent over the years that he could well afford to hire a local carpenter to construct a stylish new farmhouse for his place of residence.

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