Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
William H. Roberts House
523 Main St., Pecatonica, Ill.
This two-story residence is the only structure in Pecatonica listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1883 for Dr. William H. Roberts, the house served as both his home and office. Roberts died from an illness in 1886.
Because it was constructed when the popularity of the Gothic and Italianate styles was waning and the Queen Anne style was rising, the home possesses elements of all three. The front facade uses Indiana pressed brick with windows and doors trimmed in Joliet stone. The front also features identical, oriel-style, stacked bay windows, trimmed with ornamental wooden brackets and scrollwork. To the left is an ornate front porch with double doors, topped with an etched glass transom; to the right, a smaller porch and single door, which led to the physician’s office. Oriel roofs are crowned with iron fences, and under the peaks of the three gables are decorative sawn wood ornaments. Except for an addition to the rear and removal of some balustrades and handrails, the home is original.
The house, now located in a district zoned for business, is flanked by commercial property; nearby homes of similar architecture fell long ago. In 1960, the 30-year owner of the Roberts house declined an attractive offer from a large oil company, helping to preserve it. It was added to the National Register in 1979, giving it an even stronger chance of survival.
This is a private residence and can be viewed only from the street. ❚
Cox Farm Round Barn
2285 N. Cox Road, Chana, Ill.
This barn, 192 feet in circumference and 62 feet high, was built in 1917 by current owner John Cox’s grandfather, on the 200-acre family farm purchased in 1908 by Cox’s great-grandfather.
The bricks to construct it came by rail to Stillman Valley and were hauled to the site by horse and wagon. The roof was topped with cedar shingles, and the cupola is designed to ventilate the building. A middle silo holds feed for horses and cattle, with stalls around the perimeter for milking and feeding.
When the barn was damaged by severe storms in 2008, Cox undertook a complete restoration, which involved hiring Amish tradesmen brought in weekly from Michigan. To reroof with cedar meant each shingle had to be water-soaked and hand-shaped to fit; special-order bricks were stained to match the originals. Today, the structure is back to its former glory.
Researched extensively by experts at the University of Illinois in regard to feeding dairy cattle, the round design offered several advantages. First, the central chute distributed all around the silo. Also, it provided more storage room and used between 35 and 55 percent less material to build.
Spurred by the U of I study, many Illinois and Wisconsin farmers constructed round barns between 1890 and 1920. “Round Barns in Illinois Thematic Resources” is an ongoing project that has placed 18 Illinois round barns on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982, including the three built on the U of I campus for the original study. Information on the project and a listing of barns can be found at http://www.state.il.us/hpa/ps/roundbarns.htm.
The barn is private property and can be viewed only from the road. ❚
Central House/Boscobel Hotel
1005 Wisconsin Ave., Boscobel, Wis.
This hotel was built by Adam Bobel, a Prussian immigrant who served as a sutler with the 20th Wisconsin Volunteers. Sutlers were vendors for the soldiers, licensed by the government for one post or regiment, and their prices were reputed to be greatly inflated.
Bobel and a partner constructed the two-story structure in 1865, for about $5,000, and opened a saloon called the Central House. He bought out the partner after just six months to become sole proprietor.
Bobel added a structure in 1873, extending the third story over the saloon and starting the Central House Hotel. In 1881, a fire left only the walls and sign standing, but Bobel rebuilt and reopened in just four months. By the time of Bobel’s death in 1885, his was one of the best-known hotels in the area.
But being recognized as the birthplace of the Gideon Bible is the building’s true claim to fame. As the story goes, in 1898, two traveling salesmen were forced to share a hotel room here – Room 19 – due to a lumberman’s convention. Their conversation revealed that both were Christian, eventually leading to the idea of a Christian traveling men’s association. In 1899, the two men founded the Gideons, now an international organization that distributes Bibles to hotels around the world.
The hotel is no longer open but serves as an historic landmark. Room 19 is marked with a special plaque. The building is also said to be haunted, and ghost stories about certain rooms are prevalent.
Today, the structure is home to the Central House Restaurant. ❚