DeKALB – Roger Keys is spending all his spare time at the Ellwood House restoring The Little House.
Keys, a restoration expert who owns R.W. Keys and Son in DeKalb, has been working since October making technical repairs to The Little House. He expects to be finished within a month or so.
"A lot of the work I do, you never see," he said.
The Little House was built in 1891 as a contractor's model for Patten Manufacturing Company, according to the Ellwood House. William Ellwood bought the playhouse for his daughters Jessie Jean and Harriet Elise, and it was then passed down to their grandchildren.
It is located on the Ellwood House property near the visitor's building. Before that, it was located on Annie Glidden Road near the IHOP, Keys said.
Keys spent the day Tuesday restoring the railing near the front entrance. A high school woodworking class donated the spindles on the railing in the 1970s, Keys said, so many of the spindles don't look exactly the same or match the one next to it.
Keys also is filling cracks on the siding and repairing the roof shingles to prevent water damage.
Much of The Little House contains parts that are original to the building, Keys said. He carves some rotten wood instead of replacing it.
Keys served on the board of the Ellwood House, 509 N. First St., DeKalb, for 15 years. He last restored The Little House for free in 1986, when the work involved lifting part of the house to put a foundation underneath the patio.
Keys declined to disclose the price tag for the current project.
Ellwood House Executive Director Brian Reis said officials wanted to work with Keys because of his expertise and experience. Other volunteers also have helped repair The Little House in the past, Reis said.
Keys has reglazed and primed the windows. He will repaint the house using historic colors from a Benjamin Moore paint catalog.
"We count on him not only for things like this, but for advice," Reis said. "He has a wealth of knowledge about preservation practices."