I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
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Shirley Hamilton Nehring moving to new challenge
By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................January 10, 2012
Taking on a new challenge is not a daunting task for Shirley
Hamilton Nehring, 83, who has just turned over the Erwin Perry
Ellwood mansion at 417 N. First St. in DeKalb to the Ellwood
This spring she will move back to her Wisconsin home on Middle
Genesee Lake near Oconomowoc, which her first husband bought
for her and their four children in 1965 shortly before his death
at age 39. That house was once owned by Col. Pabst, the Milwaukee
Shirleys first husband
introduced her to Paul A. Nehring and his son, Paul M. Nehring,
whom she married 22 years later after raising and educating her
children. When she arrived in DeKalb, the Ellwood-Nehring house
was in pretty rough shape, but Shirley had a vision of how it
could look. She had left a career as a psychiatric social worker
and took on a new role
Hamilton Nehring stands beside the statue of Austrian Emperor
Franz Joseph in her mansions front yard. (Schrader photo)
renovating and restoring the 6,000-square-foot manor.
During his lifetime, Paul had collected porcelain, statues, paintings
by celebrated artists, antiques, Oriental carpets, books and
exotic furniture, which he stored randomly in the house. Many
of these items he bought in Chicago and area house sales when
the mansions were being demolished. He also bought fine furnishings
from the estate of Sam Insull the man who was Thomas Edisons
secretary and went on to build the Chicago Opera House and started
Shirley envisioned all these artifacts in their proper places
and the wonderful venue the house could provide for parties and
concerts in the large music room where Mae Ellwood used to sing.
Paul bought her a grand piano for their first anniversary and
later their first party was given there to celebrate Pauls
After Pauls death in 1999, Shirley donated his First National
Bank building at Lincoln Highway and Second Street to the park
district as a memorial to Paul A. Nehring, founder of Nehring
Electrical Works. She said the father, Paul A., was a quiet but
Unfortunately, the Haish/Nehring plant was torn down despite
strong protests by Paul M. Nehring and local historian Steve
Bigolin, and a McDonalds now stands in its place. This
demolition influenced Shirley to donate the bank and recently
the historical house to be sure they would not suffer a fate
like the Haish house and the landmark post office at First Street
and Lincoln Highway.
The old bank now houses the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and the
DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association museum, which is
centered around the former DeKalb Agricultural Association collection.
She says her latest gift of the Ellwood-Nehring mansion to the
Ellwood House Association will assure that it will be maintained
and preserved for the enjoyment of the community. So now she
has decided it is time to go back and take care of the century-old
Pabst farmhouse which needs renovating.
She expresses strong emotions about leaving the home and her
friends after more than 20 years of involvement in the DeKalb
and NIU music scene. She has hosted the Kishwaukee Symphony members
at her home for yearly fundraising concerts. And she has also
housed NIU foreign music students, most brought here by the Vermeer
Quartet, including pianists, instrumentalists and vocalists from
such countries as Poland, Taiwan, China, Spain, Turkey and Romania.
But she said it was rewarding to see a house filled with talented
young people appreciative of the arts.
Between now and the household antiquities sale later in the spring,
Shirley will savor her final days as caretaker of this stately
old landmark, which she lovingly turned into a home filled with
youth and music. The community will, without a doubt, miss her
Barry Schrader was editor of the Daily Chronicle
from 1969-1972. He and his wife, Kay, are retired and live in
DeKalb. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail
at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115