Genuine Northwest, Summer Edition

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

Nancy Kimball Cobblestone House

302 W. Chicago St., Elgin,

Joseph Kimball’s family settled on the west side of the Fox River, around what’s now downtown Elgin, in the 1830s.

Among the community’s founding families, the Kimballs became Elgin mayors and are credited with supporting the once-thriving local dairy industry.

Joseph Kimball’s sons, Samuel and William, built a home for their widowed mother eight years after the family arrived, constructing it from cobblestones found around the property and near the river.

This building method was especially common in New England during the 1800s, as it made use of materials easily discovered nearby. The home’s outer walls are some 16 inches thick. Of the dozens of cobblestone homes that once stood in Elgin, only six remain. This is the oldest.

Nancy Kimball lived in the home until her death at age 101, in 1888. Her descendants owned the home for 105 years.

In 2015, the Elgin Historical Society bought the home, after it had become a source of neighborhood blight. Volunteers have spent the past five years fundraising and stabilizing the structure in hopes of establishing a community gathering space.

Perkins Town Hall

3600 Franklinville Road, Woodstock,

This structure along a quiet stretch of country road between Woodstock and Marengo was built in 1885 for what was then a thriving rural community.

It was called Seneca Township, and it was named for the American Indian tribes in New York State, where this community’s first European-descended settlers once lived.

The Seneca Township Hall, as it was known then, was a site for community events, public meetings and election-day voting. After a nearby church burned down in 2005, it also became a site of public worship.

Seneca Township eventually became a ghost town. This hall is the only piece of the community that remains.
For years, the building sat unused. However, on April 9, 1996, the hall was donated to the McHenry County Historical Society, after it had expressed some interest in the property.

Today, the old hall is christened Perkins Town Hall, in honor of Don Perkins, a longtime township highway commissioner and a former board president.

The hall now presents historical re-enactments and periodic lectures hosted by the Seneca Ladies Literary Society, a group founded in 1855.

Elmwood Cemetery

Corner of Charles and South Cross Streets, Sycamore

When this cemetery was incorporated in 1865, it was established on 18 acres southwest of downtown Sycamore that had belonged to the H.L. Boies Farm. 

Welcoming visitors to the northern and eastern entrances are ornately decorated wrought-iron gates that are “the best extant example of iron cemetery gate design in the state,” according to the Illinois Historic Structures Survey.

They’re designed in a Serlian motif, meaning they’re made of three openings, divided by posts, with a rounded archway over the larger middle opening.

In the years following the Civil War, cast iron became a staple in building structure and ornamentation, and it was a common site on building facades. Its use was more rare in landscape design, such as these gates – which remain fairly unaltered from their original condition.

Little more is known about their origin, as early cemetery records were destroyed by fire. The Elmwood Cemetery gates were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.