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Despite losses, enterprises go on: 100 block of West State Street includes some business sites typical of historic county seat

Caption
The building at 160 W. State St. in Sycamore is seen in this 1906 photo from the Sycamore Tribune, along with its then three-story neighbor.

The Sycamore Historic District: Location 8 By Steve Bigolin - Chronicle Columnist Downtown Sycamore remains a viable central business district today, containing a good number of noteworthy examples of architecture from the late 19th and early 20th century - including the structures at 156 and 160 W. State St. The December 1976 nomination papers for the Sycamore Historic District stated: &#8220Land use within the historic district conforms to the norm of small Illinois county seats, with governmental and commercial uses concentrated together ... and surrounded by residential neighborhoods. The commercial area of the district - primarily State Street from Main to just West of Somonauk - presents a closed, nearly gap-free wall three stories in height.” The south side of the 100 block of West State Street violates this general description, as it includes three &#8220modern intrusions” - structures or open spaces not dating from the historic period. The southwest corner of State and Main streets is a former gas station site, and as such is the intersection's only corner that does not contain an appropriate example of historic architecture. To both sides of the Courtview Dental Center at 134 W. State are small parking lots, one of which is below the level of the sidewalk, because the building once located here had a substantial basement. The Townsend Building Of all the structures along that block, the building on the southeast corner of State and Maple - 160 W. State - is the most architecturally interesting. According to C.R. &#8220Luke” McLagan's book &#8220Nostalgia and Glee in Sycamore, Illinois,” it was once known as the Townsend Building, as in civic leader Frederick B. Townsend. In May 1978, when the Sycamore Historic District was designated, the ground-floor units of this building and its neighbor to the east were occupied by Hagen's Ace Hardware. McLagan's book says the waiting room for the DeKalb-Sycamore Interurban line and the Sycamore Post Office were located at 160 W. State in the early 1900s. A 1993 book by Hopkins Stolp Peffers, &#8220Aurora-Elgin Area Street Cars and Interurbans: Volume 4 - The Connecting Lines,” includes vintage photographs of the two buildings. The February 1906 &#8220Illustrated Prospectus of Sycamore, Illinois,” which was published by the Sycamore Tribune, contains a streetscape view of the pair. What is now 156 W. State was originally a much more distinctive three-story structure, its top floor finished with the same type of gray, smooth wall surface that the second floor retains today. Its roof was basically flat. The structure at 160 W. State was depicted in Peffer's book as having a typical ground-level facade for a commercial building of the period. There was a door at the extreme east end of the front, accessing the stairway up to the second floor. A tall display window followed, then the entrance to the store, and finally another display window. The building's four second-floor windows fronting on West State, as well as the nine along the Maple Street side, rest on stone sills and are capped by segmental stone arches with decorative projecting keystones. The keystones are accented with Eastlake-style carving. At the corners at the front of the second floor are narrow blocks of stone that give the appearance of quoins. A similarly narrow stringcourse runs along the front of the second floor and completely down the west wall along Maple Street. Above this on the building's front is a corbeled stone cornice, while an unornamented brick cornice extends the length of the side wall. Like its neighbor, 160 W. State St. originally sported a basically flat roof. During the time when Gordon's Hardware operated at 156 and 160 W. State, the gabled metal roof was installed atop the two buildings. Other repairs also were done to the buildings then. Although modern windows are now in place, their installation did not compromise the historic window openings. --- Steve Bigolin is an expert of DeKalb County history.

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