House walk a mix of public, private spaces

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The Sycamore History Museum’s annual Pumpkin Fest Historic Homes Tour will celebrate the life of General E.F. Dutton and his influence on Sycamore, paralleling the SHM’s current award-winning exhibit, “General Dutton’s America.”

The tour will run from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25. It will include seven locations this year, giving festival-goers a glimpse into how Sycamore changed and grew over three eras: the early settlement years, the Civil War years, and the Gilded Age.

Special features include a two-hour opportunity to see the beautiful, historic DeKalb County Courthouse, from 10 a.m. to noon only, and special talks by book authors Clint Cargile, who wrote “Five-Mile Spur Line: a Railroad History of Sycamore, Illinois,” and Nancy Beasley, author of “The Underground Railroad in DeKalb County, Illinois.” Both stories are closely associated with the life of E.F. Dutton. The tour’s featured properties are all part of the story of General Dutton.

The tour starts at the beautiful and historic DeKalb County Courthouse. Thanks to Judge Robbin Stuckert, DeKalb County Circuit Clerk Maureen Josh, and the courthouse staff, visitors will get a unique insider’s view of this building that is central to Sycamore’s history. E.F. Dutton served as a county clerk in the second courthouse, which this building replaced, and he was instrumental in the move to build the grand structure we now enjoy. Tours will include the historic courtrooms as well as the atrium and the 2012 addition, which blends seamlessly with the original building.

Central to the tour is the Engh Farm and the Sycamore History Museum, including a guided tour of General Dutton’s America. Many of the artifacts in this exhibit are more than 100 years old and tell an incredible story of the strength of Sycamore. Included with the exhibit viewing will be tours of the historic farm gardens and our archives building.

Another special location, connected to the story of E.F. Dutton and the Illinois 105th is the Old North Grove School on Brickville Road. This restored one-room schoolhouse that is on the National Register of Historic Places is beautifully preserved and well worth a stop. Tour guides will tell the stories of the families who built this strong, Swedish school community and made it a vital part of the history of Sycamore.

The tour also will feature the historic Chicago & Northwestern Depot, current home of the DeKalb County Community Foundation. The whole town has watched as the once-proud building has been restored to its former glory. The original freight room, now a stunning community room, available for local group meetings and events, will showcase Clint Cargile’s and Nancy Beasley’s talks at three times throughout the day and photo displays will tell the story of the history of the depot as well as its restoration.

The homes included this year start with the David Syme house, located at 420 Somonauk St. This classic Queen Anne-style mansion is a showplace of the architecture of George O. Garnsey. Syme was a leading grain merchant who helped put Sycamore on the map as an important hub for agriculture in its early days. The current owners have collections of art and objects from around the world. As the family is always working on updating the living areas and building their collections, even those who have toured before will find new touches.

The tour then turns next door to 432 Somonauk St., the J.H. Rogers house. Rogers was a prosperous dry goods merchant whose stores occupied the historic Central Block in downtown Sycamore for many years. Showcasing the Gilded Age of Sycamore, this imposing mansion has been lovingly restored from its years as divided rental property to today’s warm and inviting family home. It still has the original stained glass windows and much of the original woodwork. This home is a real treat not to be missed.

The tour finishes at the Daniel Dustin home at 423 S. California St. One of the oldest homes in town, it has been renovated several times but retains the character of the original. Dustin was a commander of the Illinois 105th and a life-long friend of E.F. Dutton. He also served as County and Circuit Clerk for DeKalb County. This home sports beautiful inlaid wood floors in the dining room and wonderful porches on both the front and the back. The narrow servants’ stairs are definitely reminiscent of a different era.

The walk will run from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25. Tickets for the walk will be available at the Sycamore History Museum, the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce, and Sweet Earth Gifts or on the day of the walk at any of the House Walk locations. The cost is $25 per person or $40 for two tickets bought together. For more information, contact the Sycamore History Museum at 815-895-5762, visit www.sycamorehistory.org, or like the museum on Facebook.