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Restored depot to highlight historic homes tour

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

The Sycamore History Museum will present the annual Pumpkin Fest Historic Homes Tour, also known as the House Walk, on Oct. 27.

Previously run by the Friends of the Sycamore Library, this event has been a favorite of festival goers for many years. This year’s theme is “Adapting Spaces,” and the locations are all historically significant, architecturally inspiring and warmly inviting. The Old East School, St. Alban’s Cottage, the James Edmund Ellwood home, the newly restored Chicago & Northwestern Depot and the Engh Farm – the current location of the Sycamore History Museum – will be featured.

The Old East School, 410 E. Elm St., is currently owned by Joe and Raechel Bassett. It served Sycamore children from 1880 until 1976, when it became a private residence. James and Margaret (Baack) Tucker were instrumental in restoring the property and remodeling it into living quarters. The original boys’ bathroom is still in the basement of the dwelling, and many of the original chalkboards are used as flooring in the main room. Visitors should ask about the “secret room” and catch the forboding portrait of one of the original school masters looking out over the upstairs landing.

St. Alban’s Cottage, 726 Somonauk St., is home to Steve and Pat Faivre. This home was designed and built by the owners in 2009 in the style of the classic American bungalow. It features the work of many local artisans, and while it is not as old as the other homes, the property is one of the most historic in town. It sits almost on the footprint of the chapel of the old St. Alban’s School, and the owners have incorporated some of the original bricks from the chapel into the patio, where they also have mounted the school’s original bell.

The James Edmund Ellwood home at 708 Somonauk is famous in Sycamore. In 1989, this three-story Victorian house was moved across the street from where it had previously been the administration building for the Sycamore Hospital and St. Mary’s convent. David and Julie Lundeen have put much care into the upkeep of this historic property, also designed and renovated by Margaret Baack. The woodwork in this home is beautifully kept, and the vistas from the upper stories seem, as Julie Lundeen says, “like viewing Sycamore from a tree house.”

Maybe the most anticipated property on this year’s walk is the newly renovated Chicago and Northwestern Depot. The DeKalb County Community Foundation and the city of Sycamore have done an incredible job of restoration while making the space usable for the organization and for community groups. The Historic Homes Tour will be the first public look inside the building. Waiting rooms have become meeting rooms; the ticket office belongs to the new “station master,” the foundation’s executive director, Dan Templin; and the freight room has been transformed into a community room.

The main stop on the tour is the historic Engh Farm at the Sycamore History Museum, 1730 N. Main St. A guided tour of the museum’s new exhibit, “Play,” will be included on the walk. This historic farm, once owned by the Harold Engh family, was a center of agriculture in the county and has been home to the museum since 2009.

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