Genuine Northwest

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

The Octagon House

223 W. Main St., Barrington

This iconic and historic structure was a residence before it was converted into a business and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Joseph Brown built the home soon after he came to Barrington, from New England, in the 1880s.

“I presume he was part of the westward movement of people who came to the Midwest,” says Barbara Benson, a local historian with the Barrington Historical Society.

Before building the house, Brown, who was a carpenter and a farmer, read a book titled, “A Home For All, or The Octagon Way of Building,” by Orson Squire Fowler.

In his book, Fowler explains how eight walls can enclose more space than four. Brown’s interest in this unusual home design was most likely generated by Fowler’s book, Benson says.

The three-bedroom, 1,600-square-foot wood-frame home is covered with golden-painted clapboards and trimmed with green and burgundy. Its Italianate ornamentation is restrained.

Today, the Octagon House is the home of Corporate Identity, a firm that helps businesses reach the public through color schemes and designs.

Business owner Linda Learn has owned the Octagon House for 20 years. She runs her business there, but does not live in the house.

Learn does not give tours, though she occasionally meets with people who are interested in the structure.

Raceway Woods Forest Preserve

Illinois Route 31 and Huntley Road, Carpentersville, (630) 232-5980,

The track that winds around this 154-acre nature preserve was built for the Meadowdale Raceway, which opened in 1958.
“Many racing legends from the 1950s and 1960s raced there,” says Laurie Metanchuk, director of community affairs and environmental education for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, which manages the property.

The track closed in 1969, due in part to competition from other tracks.

“After the race track closed, the property fell into disrepair, and for many years was vacant,” Metanchuk says. “In 1994, the Forest Preserve District invested in its first 33 acres of the property.”

The park has nearly six miles of hiking, biking and horse trails.

“There is a trail located down the middle of the former racetrack footprint and along the edges you’ll still see old asphalt that dates back to the property’s former racing history,” Metanchuk says.

Early morning bird watching is also popular at Raceway Woods and in the winter, you’ll find cross-country skiers and people snowshoeing.

The park is open daily, from sunrise to sunset.

Raging Buffalo Snowboard & Ski Park

19-265 Western Ave./Illinois Route 31, Algonquin, (847) 836-7243,

The staff at Raging Buffalo Snowboard & Ski Park is ready to begin a new season.

“It sounds like we’re in for a very cold winter and we’re hoping for lots and lots of snow,” says Zoe Marshall, general manager.

The park is located on a sloping bank of the Fox River and contains a 150-foot vertical hill, which includes five runs. It also includes two rope tows, half-pipes, tabletops, staircases and a hill for beginners.

“We are open between 100 and 120 days a year,” Marshall says “We were only open between 60 and 70 days last year, because we didn’t have a lot of snow.”

Staff members are constantly changing the terrain course to keep the hills updated and challenging.

When the park opened in 1993, it was intended to be used solely by snowboarders. Now, skiers, too, can join in on the fun.

“People can come here to ski, but if they ski, they have to bring their own equipment,” Marshall says. “We only have snowboard rentals and equipment available.”

Raging Buffalo has lessons available for both beginners and advanced riders. Private, competitive ski lessons are also available.

From Dec. 17 to Jan. 2, hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. The park is closed on Christmas.

Starting in January, seasonal hours are: Mon.-Thur. 4-9 p.m., Fri. to 10 p.m., Sat. (and holidays) 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. to 9 p.m.