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No bidders for Hiram Ellwood house at sheriff's auction

SYCAMORE – An estimated $366,000 opening credit bid for the historic home of former DeKalb Mayor Hiram Ellwood, 329 N. Third St., by U.S. Bank National could not be topped during Thursday’s sheriff’s auction.

The property has been in foreclosure for about 18 months after its former owner, James Hovis, said he experienced a financial setback and no longer could make mortgage payments. The house’s future now rests in the hands of the bank.

First Ward Alderman David Jacobson attended the auction to see whether a buyer would step up and buy such a pristine property.

“I would have been excited to see a local owner step up, but there’s still an opportunity for that,” Jacobson said. “I think it’s the hope of everyone in the neighborhood that someone comes in and maintains one of the gems we have.”

Hovis interjected during the sale and said that about 5 p.m. Wednesday night, two short-sale bids came in on the property – one for $400,000 and one for $300,000, less shingling costs. He filed a motion an hour before the auction to postpone the sale for a two-week period.

Using a sales comparison approach, which estimates the value of a property based on recent and similar sales as of the date of inspection, the indicated value of the property was calculated at $300,000 as of June 2015.

DeKalb County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Andy Sullivan conferred with the state’s attorney’s office and was advised that the sale must continue.

Under the terms of the notice of sale, the successful bidder must deposit 10 percent of the successful bid balance, in certified funds, up front, and payment of the remaining balance, in certified funds, must occur within 24 hours. Premises are not open for inspection and are sold as is.

Upon payment of the full bid amount, the buyer shall receive a certificate of sale, entitling the buyer to a deed to the real estate after confirmation of the sale.

The Victorian home was designed by George O. Garnsey in 1884 for Hiram Ellwood, older brother of barbed wire baron Isaac Ellwood, and his wife, Sarah. Garnsey also was the architect behind Isaac Ellwood’s home, which currently is the Ellwood House Museum, 509 N. First St.

The home stayed in the family until the 1940s, where it was used as a rooming house for Northern Illinois University students. About 30 years ago, the house was purchased by Hovis and his wife, Catherine, from the family of Bob Heimerdinger, former athletic director and football coach at DeKalb High School.

James Hovis said he invested about $1 million to restore the home, which then was used for a number of public events, including Northern Illinois University fundraisers. James Hovis attempted to the sell the property about five years ago but could not find a buyer.

Although no local buyers showed interest at the auction, there had been some interest in the property from parties outside the DeKalb area.

Chicago resident John Campen, who used to live in the Ellwood Historic District, expressed interest in buying the house from willing investors to possibly turn the home into a bed and breakfast or small cafe.

In a letter sent to potential investors, Campen also proposed a number of events the house could host, such as pop-up dinners and reading activities. His hope is to roll a number of different opportunities into a unique experience the city has never offered before.

Campen did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Three other properties were up for sale at the auction. The other 13 property sales originally slated either were canceled or continued to a later date. For a complete list of properties up for auction and upcoming auction dates, visit the DeKalb County website.

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