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Ellwood House hosts Wine on the Terrace fundraiser

DeKALB – By the time Sycamore resident Matthew Brown was 9 years old, he could give a tour of the Ellwood House Museum by heart.

On Saturday, the son of a former Ellwood House board of directors member visited the 139-year-old building again for the Wine on the Terrace fundraiser. 

“It’s one of the only things that identifies DeKalb besides NIU,” Brown said.

The event was expected to raise between $12,000 and $15,000 for Ellwood House educational programs and general care for the museum, said Brian Reis, Ellwood House executive director.

Almost 900 school kids visit the museum each year from as far away as Rockford and Belvidere for a free tour, Reis said. 

During the tours, participants learn about the history of the house, which was built in 1879 by barbed wire sellers Isaac and Harriet Ellwood. 

Attendees for Wine on the Terrace paid $50 each to enjoy wine tastings, food from Inboden’s Meat Market, entertainment by Craig Mathey, a silent auction and raffles.

Roscoe Linnae-Smith, beekeeper for Queen & I Honey Farm in Sycamore, said he is very familiar with the Ellwood House.

Two of his daughters were married there.

“It’s amazing what they’ve done to the property,” Linnae-Smith said. “I’ve been here for more than 40 years, and I remember when it was almost abandoned.

“I’m wondering how they were able to do it. I can’t imagine how much work it takes to maintain this.”

In the 1960s, a member of the Ellwood family donated the house to the DeKalb Park District to become a museum. Since then, the building has needed a lot of upkeep, Reis said.

The Ellwood House recently received an $82,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to help restore the roof on the water tower.

Sharp Architects of DeKalb is working on the project, and employee Jeff Keppler attended the fundraiser on Saturday as a rare evening out with his family.

As Keppler was sipping on his wine, he admired the infrastructure of the building his firm is helping to restore.

“It’s a beautiful property, and it’s wonderful that it has been preserved,” he said. “It’s great that people care enough about this place to keep it open for others to appreciate.”

Admission for a tour of the Ellwood House is $8 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-17 and free for children younger than 6.

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