Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear every other Tuesday.
(Note to readers: Columnist Barry Schrader is a co-founder
of the newly formed group The Annie Glidden Agrarian Society,
which has as its goal the preservation and renovation of the
Annie Glidden-Oderkirk farm home and nearby carriage house immediately
south of the Barsema Alumni & Visitors Center on the NIU
campus along Annie Glidden Road.)
There is Annie Oakley, the cowgirl sharpshooter, Orphan
Annie of comic strip fame, and then DeKalb County's Annie Glidden,
pioneer family member, farmer and community activist, memorialized
in a mural on the wall of the building on Lincoln Highway near
its intersection with North First Street.
Through local historian and author Steve Bigolin, I have
come to know a lot more about Annie Glidden and her life in the
DeKalb community. She was born in 1865, 150 years ago come July.
She died at age 97 in 1962 way out in Pasadena, California, then
was laid to rest in Fairview Cemetery at the southern edge of
As Bigolin said, Annie was an iconoclast. She was very
independent and determined to succeed at whatever she attempted,
attending two colleges in the late 1800s, earning a degree in
: Inspecting the former Annie Glidden-Oderkirk house
at 253 N. Annie Glidden Road on the NIU campus recently are Lisa
Sharp (from left) and Jeffrey Keppler from Sharp Architects,
Inc. of DeKalb, with Mike Elliott and Justin Elliott from Clean
USA, a house cleanup and restoration firm from Naperville and
DeKalb. They are standing in front of the living room fireplace.
Cornell University in New York state. Fortunately for Annie and
her siblings, their uncle Joseph Glidden wanted a better life
for his family and financed their education through college.
She came back home where her brother John was building
a stately brick mansion uphill from Altgeld Hall, which had just
opened for classes. Annie and her family could look out the windows
of their second-story bedrooms and see the magnificent "castle"
at the western edge of DeKalb. Her uncle named a wooded plot
along the Kishwaukee River just north of Lucinda and Miller streets
"Annie's Woods" because it was where she enjoyed spending
time with her friends. Later she, along with the DeKalb Women's
Club, donated the land as a park, which still exists today.
Annie took over the house and farm at 253 N. Annie Glidden
Road in 1906 when her brother moved to Uncle Joseph's homestead
on West Lincoln Highway after the death of the barbed-wire baron.
Annie spent the next 20 or so years farming the acreage and raising
her nephew, Glidden Switzer, after Annie's sister died in childbirth.
Tragically, young Glidden accidentally drowned at about age 12
while the family was vacationing at a Wisconsin lake. Annie's
farm was later sold to the Burt Oderkirk family in 1930.
So Steve Bigolin and I thought it only fitting that the
community and university should collaborate on a project to save
the endangered farmstead and carriage house that are owned today
by the NIU Foundation, under lease for the past 30 years with
the university. The buildings have been empty the past 10 years
and face an uncertain future if they are not reroofed and protected
from the elements soon.
NIU President Douglas Baker has heard our plea and offered
us the chance to come up with a plan by mid-September to preserve,
renovate and find a useful purpose for the 113-year-old brick
house and its adjacent outbuilding.
We are working diligently to try and partner with college
student organizations, community groups, historical societies
and agricultural organizations. DeKalb Mayor John Rey sees potential
for a "communiversity" collaborative usage and we are
pursuing that possibility. Of course the college and its foundation
would rather not spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars to
restore it to pristine condition, so we need to find ways of
funding parts of it, coordinating a volunteer group of craftspeople
for its restoration, obtaining donated materials, and getting
the plan accepted by Baker and the Foundation.
That is a daunting challenge with only weeks to go, so
we set up a website at www.anniehouse.org with pertinent information
and photos of the two structures. Take a look and join with us
if you are interested in helping preserve this heritage site.