Genuine Northwest, Winter 2012/13

Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.

The Stickney Mansion, Bull Valley

The Stickney Mansion

1904 Cherry Valley Road, Bull Valley

This prairie mansion was completed in 1856 by owners George and Sylvia Stickney. They took possession of the property in 1840 as newlyweds and lived in a log cabin. Stickney dealt in farming and merchant ventures, and as he became more successful – and their family grew – the couple began building a more suitable home in 1849.

The early Victorian Italianate house reflects the Stickney family’s social and financial stature; in fact, their presence helped to establish Bull Valley as a community. Success didn’t lessen the fact that prairie life was hard, however; of the 10 children born to the Stickneys, only three survived into adulthood.

The house also reflects the Stickneys’ religious beliefs as spiritualists. A Victorian “fad” religion, spiritualism was based on the belief that the dead communicate with the living, and séances conducted by mediums were popular. To better facilitate this communication, the Stickneys built their house with rounded corners, allowing the spirits to move freely through the house.

Legends and tales abound, and the Stickney Mansion is included in publications such as Haunted Illinois and Chicago Haunts.

Whether the house is a haven for spirits is debatable, but its historic significance is not; it was added to the National Register in 1978. Now home to the Bull Valley Police Department, the Stickney Mansion has been the focus of concentrated preservation and restoration efforts by the Stickney House Foundation for several years, and Phase I of the three-part plan is nearing completion.
As to the rumored paranormal activity, the foundation website urges, “Come by and see for yourself!”

Cat in the Hat statue, Naperville

Dr. Seuss Statues

Naperville Century Walk, Downtown Naperville,

In 2007, officials of Naperville’s “Century Walk” of art received a 10-foot-tall “Cat in the Hat,” one of nine works commissioned by the Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Giesel estate. Complete with umbrella, striped hat and red tie, the mischievous feline greets visitors to the Nichols Library, 200 W. Jefferson Ave. In 2009, the Naperville public arts project procured the 9-foot-tall Green Eggs and Ham character “Sam I Am.”

The 42nd piece added to Naperville’s “Century Walk” is not only appropriate to the season, but most likely recognizable to anyone from age 1 to 100: Dr. Seuss’s Grinch and, donning the requisite reindeer antler, his dog Max. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” welcomes patrons to the library branch at 2034 S. Naper Blvd. Installed on Oct. 12, the life-size bronze completes the Library Series in the Century Walk.

Naperville started its public art initiative of murals, reliefs, mosaics and sculptures in 1996, and its first 30 pieces represent the history of Naperville. An interactive map, complete with a QR code for downloadable audio describing the art, is available online for self-guided tours.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago, Bartlett

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

4N739 Pramukh Swami Road, Bartlett, (630) 213-2277,

Opened in August 2004, this traditional Hindu Mandir, one of the largest in the U.S., is an architectural wonder. Following traditional Indian architecture, it contains no steel or iron.

The process involved complex logistics. Its limestone was quarried in Turkey, its marble in Italy, and then shipped by boat to Mumbai, sent by barge to Kandla, and then transported by train to 26 different locations. The stones were hand-carved by more than 2,000 artisans over a period of 22 months, and then sent to a final location for polishing, packaging and numbering.

Once finished, they were sent back to Kandla by train and transported by barge to Mumbai, where they were loaded onto a container ship for a two-month trip to Chicago.

Sent by truck to Bartlett, the stones were grouped and classified according to a detailed database and assembled like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. The assembly took 16 months.

Among its amazing exterior features: a 22-foot-diameter center dome and 16 smaller domes, five pinnacles, 151 pillars, and 129 arches. Inside details include 40,000 carved stone pieces and 75 ceilings with 39 different designs. It also boasts up-to-date modern technology, including heated floors and fiber optic lighting.

The facility includes a Haveli – a cultural complex constructed completely from wood, in keeping with ancient tradition. In addition to serving its Hindi worshippers, the temple attracts thousands of visitors each year.