Admin don’t want to fund Oderkirk House

By Keith Hernandez

University officials do not agree with a local historical society’s proposal to place the financial responsibility of renovating the Oderkirk House on NIU.

The Annie Glidden Agrarian Society was given 30 days to construct a function and funding plan for the house, 253 N. Annie Glidden Road, after meeting with university and NIU Foundation officials Aug. 14. The house is owned by the foundation and leased by NIU.

In an email sent to the society Sept. 26, Bill Nicklas, vice president of Operations and Community Relations, said the submitted proposal outlined a function but failed to produce a funding plan.

“The most important part of what we had laid out was expectations,” Nicklas said. “The main thing is show us the community support in terms of dollars and otherwise.”


Barry Schrader, Annie Glidden Agrarian Society co-founder, maintained the proposal’s assertion that the university is legally obligated to pay for renovations at the group’s Saturday open meeting.

A provision in the university’s lease with the foundation states the lessee “shall, at Lessee’s own expense, make all repairs and renewals necessary to keep said premises and improvements, both inside and outside, in as good condition as exists at the commencement of this lease … .”

Schrader said NIU must therefore pay for a deteriorating roof, an unfinished rewiring project and the installation of a heating system in order to avoid irreversible structural damage during the winter.

“Ten years without heat has done untold damage,” Schrader said at the meeting.

Among the costs displayed in the proposal are a $16,400 inspection for structural damage by Sharp Architects Inc. and a $10,192.86 interior cleaning by Clean USA.

Not included in the total cost of the project, which Nicklas said could be anywhere between $500,000 to $1 million, are repairs for damage, as well as the installation of restrooms and other structural renovations.

The society can accept tax-free donations due to a recently formed partnership with the DeKalb County Community Gardens and the group is exploring other avenues of funding from local foundations, such as Roberts Family Foundation and the DeKalb County Farm Bureau; however, the house must be declared a landmark by the DeKalb Landmarks Commission to be considered for grants from these foundations — a decision the NIU Foundation will have ultimate say over.


The possibility of establishing a community garden and office space for a student organization at the house were discussed at the Annie Glidden Agrarian Society’s open meeting.

Dan Kenney, executive director of DeKalb County Community Gardens, said he would like to establish a garden on the premises of the house similar to the NIU Communiversity Gardens on the east side of Anderson Hall.

“We’ve heard about all the different issues that we’re going to have to deal with to move forward with the project, but I believe when there’s a will, there’s a way,” Kenney said at the meeting. “I think that combining our efforts in this project … we have an opportunity to make it happen.”

Deneisha Goolcharan, Global Student Organization at NIU co-president, said she is interested in sharing the house with the Annie Glidden Agrarian Society as a base of operation. Global Student Organization at NIU is an organization dedicated to supporting international students as they adapt to life on campus and to exploring cultural differences and similarities.

NIU Foundation CEO Mike Malone, who was not present at the meeting, said although the society proposed a clear function, it should not have partnered with other organizations in deciding what to do with the foundation’s property.

“How do you share something you don’t own?” Malone said. “It would be like me offering to share my parent’s house with somebody. I just don’t understand the principle of a proposal like that.”

Moving forward

Schrader said if nothing else, the NIU Foundation can accept gifts on behalf of the Oderkirk House, as was done in 1977 when the foundation raised $250,000 to purchase the property from the Oderkirk family, according to the proposal.

Members of the Annie Glidden Agrarian Society have also distributed cards that read “Please Save Annie’s House” for community members to sign and mail to NIU President Doug Baker. The card appeals to the university to provide the repairs needed to preserve the Oderkirk House through the winter.