NIU pushes for relocation of Oderkirk

By Keith Hernandez

The Oderkirk House will have to be relocated off-campus if further renovations are to be made.

The Annie Glidden Agrarian Society will have to find and purchase a vacant lot in DeKalb and raise part of the funds for the relocation of the house, NIU Foundation President Mike Malone said after a closed meeting between the organizations and university officials Tuesday.

The foundation will pay $50,000 — what it would cost to demolish the building — to help defray the cost of moving the structure; however, the historical society will have to receive nonprofit status before the foundation will help with the relocation cost.

“We don’t have a compelling use for that small building in that location,” Malone said. “The reason the foundation bought the land in the first place was to keep it for future development. We’re staying true to that purpose.”

Barry Schrader, co-founder of the Annie Glidden Agrarian Society, said he does not have a location in mind for the house, but the group’s first priority is to decide if it should pursue 501(c)(3) status and raise funds to move the house or continue efforts to convince the university to pay for renovations.

“I hope by the end of the week we’ll have had a chance to have a meeting and look at the options,” Schrader said. “I should at least give the courtesy to the people in our organization to let them know what the response was.”


Malone cited the success of the Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St. in Naperville, as a model for the relocation of the Oderkirk House.

The Naper Settlement, where 30 historical buildings have been relocated and restored since 1969, started as a collaboration between the city of Naperville and the Naperville Heritage Society, a nonprofit organization. The city now provides most of the funding for the organization, said Naper Settlement spokeswoman Donna DeFalco.

Most vacant lots in DeKalb are located downtown, which would require a 1-2 mile trek for the house, Mayor John Rey said. While the city is open to a resolution supporting the house’s relocation and renovation, it cannot enter into a formal relationship with the Annie Glidden Agrarian Society because it does not have nonprofit status, Rey said.


Although the NIU Foundation has no current plans to demolish the Oderkirk House, the property will be the most desirable for development during the foundation’s next funding campaign, Malone said.

“We have land available on the edges of campus, but we don’t have land really close to the heart of campus,” Malone said. “We just didn’t think it was fair to ask people to invest in repairing it … when we knew we wouldn’t be able to guarantee any kind of a longterm lease on that building.”

Schrader said he would like a final answer as to the fate of the house, should it remain at its current location, from NIU President Doug Baker and not from university and foundation officials.