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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently write a column every other Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Thoughts on preserving Annie's old farmhouse

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................September 2, 2014

Note to readers: Barry Schrader’s “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 DeKalb.

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 agriculture from

: 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. (Barry Schrader photo)


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.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115