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Archive

The Landmarks of Barb City - Part 43C

This was the appearance of the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead in November 2004. The screened-in porch had been reopened during early restoration work. Provided photo
This was the appearance of the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead in November 2004. The screened-in porch had been reopened during early restoration work. Provided photo

From 1861 until sometime in 1877, Joseph Glidden lived in his stately brick farmhouse at what became 921 W. Lincoln Highway. Following the sale of his remaining barbed-wire patent interests to Washburn & Moen Manufacturing Co. of Worcester, Mass., in 1876 (Isaac Ellwood owned the other 50 percent), for $60,000 plus royalties, he commenced construction on a three-story business block/hotel at the northeast corner of present-day Second Street and East Lincoln Highway in downtown DeKalb. Upon its completion, Joseph and Lucinda Glidden moved their own place of residence there from the farm. From the late 1870s to about 1909, relatives, as well as others, occupied the venerable farmhouse. With Joseph's death in October 1906, John Glidden, his nephew, took ownership of the home. He then prepared to move his family from the cream-colored brick house at today's 217 Annie Glidden Road - the house adjacent to Bakers Square Restaurant - to his uncle's. First, though, after the passage of 48 years, the historic Glidden homestead was a prime candidate for a makeover. The early makeover The French Colonial appearance of the basement and main floor remained much the same. The stairs from the yard to the porch were replaced, however. The slender, decorative 19th-century newel posts at the base of the structure gave way to a pair of boxlike posts, and the pitch of the steps was slightly altered in the process by removing a few of the treads. The stone-backed base that originally supported the stairway was taken out, leaving the pillars behind it as the stairway's sole means of support. While a new stone slab in the ground became the actual first step, the original - a cracked and weathered limestone block that long had served the same purpose - remained in place. The porch was screened in without any other physical alterations. The doorway atop the steps was designed in imitation of the one accessing the house, and also was framed by sidelights and a transom. The most significant exterior change involved the roof. The original Gothic Revival gable was removed and was replaced with a low shed-style dormer - completely above the cornice. I submit that a large portion of the roof, if not the entire roof, may well have been replaced at that time. In addition to the work at the front, another shed-style dormer is now on the back roof, which leads me to suspect that a Gothic Revival gable similar to the front one had been there as well. At the very top of the roof, meanwhile, the large widow's walk also was removed during the makeover. Because of the removal of the widow's walk and the pair of gables, a huge section of the roof would have undergone reconstruction. The original, decorative single-stack chimneys at each gable end may have been rebuilt then, too. The first floor The arrangement of rooms inside the house remained much the same as in Joseph Glidden's time. The original multi-paneled wooden door still opens into the historic central hall from the porch. Long, narrow, rectangular glass panels were installed into the door, however, admitting more light into the space. The tall, narrow staircase to the second floor appears unaltered from 1861, its walnut newel post, spindles and railing being reminiscent of those in the Isaac and Harriet Ellwood House at 315 N. Third St. (that home also is by Jacob Haish and retains its 1860-vintage front door) and the Gurler House at 205 Pine St. (whose builder is unknown, although very possibly it was Jacob Haish). Whether the three rooms on the east side of the hall are all original is open to discussion, as is the original purpose of each. They are interconnected, a common characteristic of French Colonial architecture. The Gliddens long used the room fronting the porch as their dining room and the middle one as their kitchen. The dining room contains a brick fireplace, said to have replaced a marble one. The 1909 unit is in the Craftsman style. Accessing the back end of the hall, and off the kitchen, is a full bathroom. An unusual feature in it is a wall-mounted radiator. Family tradition states that the kitchen was historically Joseph Glidden's bedroom. If so, what then was the bathroom? Indoor plumbing did not exist in the house until the 1909 remodeling. The formal living room, or "west room," opens to the left as one enters the house, with another door into it at the back end of the hall. After Carter Glidden married in 1941, the rear portion of this historic room (Elva Glidden, Joseph's daughter, also was married here in 1876) was walled off to form a second kitchen. Three women lived in the house together for more than 25 years: Irma Glidden (Carter's wife), Jessie Glidden and Mabel Glidden (Carter and Jessie's mother). According to Jessie, three women attempting to share a single kitchen just did not work. Since Jessie Glidden moved from the old homestead in 1998, the west room has been restored to its original proportions, by way of the removal of the second kitchen. The fireplace in there was closed up years ago, and the brick was painted, but physically, it survives. Another wall-mounted radiator like the one in the bathroom can be found in the first-floor hall. These were once part of a hot water-heating system located in the old millhouse that was linked to the residence by means of a tunnel; this also has been removed since 1998. The second floor and basement The second floor is composed of a few simply appointed bedrooms, none of which contained closets historically. Armoires and other pieces of furniture were used for clothing storage. Plans call for the creation of a bedroom in memory of the late Jessie Glidden, using furniture from her apartment at Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center. A door in the upstairs hall near the staircase formerly accessed the stairs leading to the roof and the widow's walk. What remains of that space has been used as a linen closet for almost 100 years. Stairs to the basement are at the back of the first-floor hall. They descend steeply to the lower level of the home and still show the years of wear and tear that they have endured. The stairs open into a long, narrow, well-lit room that extends the width of the house. During the years when the Gliddens owned Glidden Campus Florist, this room served as the floral workshop. One of the rooms opening off here was the kitchen in Joseph Glidden's time. According to history, that is where he tinkered with his wife's hairpins on a coffee grinder, devising his original design for barbed wire. It would be interesting to know when electricity was put in the residence. Was it during the late 1890s, or after the John Gliddens moved into the homestead? Coincidentally, John was the first superintendent of the local electric power company in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

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