The Sycamore Historic District: Location 1 By Steve Bigolin
The striking stone building at 351 N. Main St., which is now Towne Square Restaurant is just over 100 years old. The “Illustrated Prospectus of Sycamore, Illinois,” published in February 1906 by the Sycamore Tribune, related how it was the garage for the Frederick B. Townsend estate; the house was located atop the adjacent hill at 331 N. Main. The Townsend family settled in DeKalb County in 1849, when Joshua Townsend, Frederick's great-grandfather, brought his family - including son Stephen - to Mayfield Township. They originally were from New York state, where Joshua was born in 1787. Farming was his primary focus and was for others in the clan, as well. The Stephen Townsend House was illustrated in 1871's “Combination Atlas Map of DeKalb County, Illinois.” Stephen's son Amos, who was Fred's father, farmed in Malta Township. This information comes from 1907's “Past and Present of DeKalb County, Illinois.” Fred Townsend was a native son of DeKalb County, born on his parents' Malta Township farm in 1858. After attending college in Galesburg and in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., he settled in Sycamore in 1876 and entered the banking house of Daniel Pierce & Co. in 1881. Pierce was Fred's maternal grandfather. Built to last A Sycamore True Republican article dating from when the garage was new says it was intended to house the “benzine vehicles” owned by Fred Townsend and his cousin Elmer E. Boynton. The Sycamore Tribune prospectus gave the structure's cost as $3,000; the building was built of granite boulders brought from the many farms owned by Mr. Townsend. It obviously was designed and built to withstand the test of time. Subsequent to being privately owned, the impressive garage was converted for use as a gas station. The historic character of the old garage - some call it a carriage house - has been well-preserved during the many adaptive reuses it has undergone. The roof of the front canopy has seen the most changes. Originally covered with red tile, like the roof of the building itself, the canopy has been altered, but it is still being supported by sturdy stone pillars. When the building's last incarnation as a gas station closed in the early 1980s, the edifice sat empty for a time before being given a new lease on life. Since 1983, a succession of restaurants have operated here. The initial remodeling required an outlay of $250,000. For a number of years now, the restaurant in residence has been Towne Square.