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Now up for sale

Public gets look into NIU president's house as it hits the market

DeKALB – For years it was the home of university presidents, but Sunday afternoon, prospective buyers flocked to 901 Woodlawn Drive in DeKalb as the former “official home” of Northern Illinois University’s past presidents hit the market.

Castle View Real Estate agent Mary Nelson said the house was built in 1952 by DeKalb residents Roy and Lillian Skorberg. Lillian sold it to NIU’s then-newest president, Rhoten Smith, in 1968.

“He gave the house to the NIU Foundation in 1970, and [it] deeded it to the board of regents in 1971. It’s been the President’s House ever since,” Nelson said.

Both exchanges were for $10.

The 6,000 square-foot home is currently listed at $295,000. It tucks into the corner of an expansive front yard, only five minutes from NIU’s campus and sits on 1.3 acres of land.

In 2018, NIU appointed it’s current President Lisa Freeman. Freeman opted to remain in her own home, and 901 Woodlawn became surplus property. In November, the NIU Board decided to put the house up for sale.

Sunday’s open house ran from 1 to 3 p.m., and hosted more visitors than Nelson could count. However, not all of them were prospective buyers.

“I’ve talked with people from the neighborhood, people who have partied here when it was a Skorberg house, and with people who partied here when it was a Rhoten Smith house,” Nelson said. “But I’ve also had people who are really interested in living here.”

Keri Asevedo of DeKalb attended the event with her husband and was drawn by an online housing alert. The couple has been seeking housing opportunities for the past half year.

"We were half intrigued by actually seeing if it was something we’d want to buy, and half intrigued by seeing how the president of NIU lived," Asevedo said.

When asked about her impressions of the property, Asevedo said, “It’s a really unique space. And it’s huge, with a beautiful backyard, that’s for sure.”

Other visitors included the Gilson family of DeKalb. Todd Gilson is a professor and department chairman at NIU, and heard of the open house through a campus internal communication.

“We’re just here to explore the home,” Gilson said. “It’s a great opportunity to see where the past presidents have lived, and check out for yourself if it might be something you’re interested in.”

Gilson agreed with Asevedo’s thoughts about the size of the space.

“It’d be great for someone with a large family, or for someone who wants to live in DeKalb with a bit of land and an intimate location,” Gilson said.

A second open house for the property will be held in March.

Illinois law requires that any proceeds received by the university from the sale of the house must go toward campus facility improvement.

According to a news release from NIU, “It will be used to revitalize classroom spaces and address other maintenance needs, such as roof repairs and a variety of other building improvements.”

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