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Archive

The Landmarks of Barb City - Part 43E

As it appears in 2005, the foundation of the "windmill building" on the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead & Historical Center is still impressive. Shown here are the south and east sides. Provided photo
As it appears in 2005, the foundation of the "windmill building" on the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead & Historical Center is still impressive. Shown here are the south and east sides. Provided photo

In addition to structures covered in previous columns, the remains of one other structure survive on the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead & Historical Center grounds. The view of it is completely blocked for passers-by by the house itself. The structure's age is unknown, and what functions it served during the years, especially when it stood intact, also are somewhat uncertain. The historic photograph of the house from Part 43B depicted the so-called "windmill building" in the background. Unfortunately, only the limestone foundation still exists. As this rises some 10 rows of stone above ground, this appears to indicate that the space within the walls comprised a raised basement, just partially underground. Aligned on an east-west orientation, the structure had a front-gabled roof atop one-and-a-half-story frame walls. The photograph showed three two-over-two double-hung windows cut into the foundation. Three full-size windows above them on the first floor were accented with simple wooden trim. An outside stairway on the front extended rather steeply, from the looks of it, up along the east wall to a small entry porch, topped by a front-slanting roof. Two vertical beams supported the porch. A newel post, much on the order of that on the house itself, was at the base of these steps. A less fancy set of stairs seems to have been at the back of the building. A doorway at ground level beneath the stairs accessed the basement. From every indication, this was the only outside entrance to that level. The door at the porch level was sandwiched on both sides by windows. In the middle of another pair of windows on the second floor was a large loft-style door, and above this was a beam, which probably once held a lifting apparatus. At the west gable end of the roof rose a tall windmill, from which the building took its name. Straddling the roof, the windmill had a ladder that extended up the north side to a platform beneath the windmill's blades. The aforementioned picture shows a small foot-pedaled grindstone alongside the building. The clapboard siding, meanwhile, appears to have been painted a lighter color than were the cornerboards and other trim. The building's purpose Did the windmill originally provide some type of mechanical power, pump water into the house, help grind grain or perform another purpose? I have no answer to the question. Were there ever enough farmhands in residence with the Gliddens for this outbuilding to function as a bunkhouse? Once again, I cannot say for sure. If that were the case, then the workers may have taken their meals in the big basement room of the homestead. When Joseph Glidden moved his family to the property around 1909, he supposedly designed a water-heating system located in the old windmill house. It is said to have provided the home with heat, via an underground tunnel linking the two buildings. The tunnel has been removed since restorations began in recent years. By the late 1930s or early 1940s - if not sooner - this historic structure had outlived its usefulness and began falling into disrepair. Just exactly when the superstructure was torn down is unclear. The limestone foundation walls were sturdy enough to be left in place, or possibly would have cost more to remove than the family cared to spend. Since the stones could not be seen from the street, they simply were left alone. An examination of what remains reveals that the stone blocks were irregular in shape and size. The fašade best seen in the vintage photo still retains two of its three window openings - both boarded up. Each has a stone sill. At some point in time, a small door was cut into the space where the window at the southeast corner had been historically. Why it would have been needed is open to discussion, as the original double doorway on the east wall remains, just a short distance around the corner. Two boarded-up windows can be seen on the north wall, and a small window opening is located near the north end of the west wall. In the most recent newsletter received from the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead & Historical Center, a plan was announced to the membership for the adaptive reuse of the windmill building's foundation area. Work will commence soon on converting it into a working blacksmith shop, where classes in the trade also can be offered, along with demonstrations on special event days. --- Steve Bigolin is an expert on local history.

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