Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Crazy Old Man


The bay and porch
This is our house as it looked when we bought it. 

We had searched for a home in the country.  We found houses that had no redeeming character other than they were still standing.  Others were crazy expensive for nothing we wanted.  Some had too much land; others had odd tracts of land sometimes divided by other people's property, some had portions shared with the current owner even after sale, one near a commercial production hog business, and the stories go on. 

One day our realtor called to say there was an old abandoned home out by Bishop Hill, Illinois.  She told us we didn't need a key and it was so awful she wasn't going with us.  At this point, we perhaps should have been suspicious. 

Weeds were almost as tall as the second floor.  Windows were broke, doors boarded over, black plastic landscape fabric covered some walls.  And then, there was the smell...

The house had been vacant for about three years.  Prior to that it had been a party house for area teens.  Prior to that it had been lived in by various tenants who really didn't want or couldn't do the upkeep.  The last owners to actually love and keep the home were long gone but all their updates were still being used - some thirty years later. 

Raccoons lived in the attic, drug paraphernalia littered the floors, and for some reason the many inappropriate fires had not burned the place down. 

We entered the home through an "opening" and found the house looked like a family had simply got up from dinner one day and said, let's get out and leave everything behind.  Pans on the stove, plates on the table, clothes everywhere. 

The three acres held walnut, elm, wild cherry, soft maple, hawthorn, an apple and catalpa trees.  One old fashioned rose bush and absolutely no other flowers or evergreens of any kind.  The woods had trees harvested as some point and many old trees were damaged.  Someone had pastured horses in the woods and there had been a mink shed.  Yes, the kind of mink that's used for hides for wealthy ladies' coats.  The yard was littered with trash large and small. 

Olof Krans painting of Bishop Hill fields
The home had good bones.  It had the characteristics of many of the Bishop Hill Colony historic homes.  In fact, it was situated on some of the original Colony land.  The home was built in 1896 by Edwin Hedlin, a descendant of an original settler to the Colony.    Even though it was teetering on the very edge, it had not slipped over to where it couldn't be saved.  We made an offer and it was accepted.

At this point, the kids came out to view our great find.  We used the word "potential" often on the tour.  After a brief walk around, my daughter turned to my husband and said, "Crazy old man."  It's a quote we would often refer to over the next few years. 

Her son, Max, was only about 3 years old and had a little problem saying some letters.  He would get so excited to come out because of all the equipment and adventure.  He would yell, "We're going to the dunky house!"  aka the junky house.  Out of the mouths of babes. 


  1. I love the backround on your beautiful house Diane. Thank goodness you saved it!

  2. A labor of love for sure! Thanks. Diane

  3. And I stand by my original comment .... ;)