Ellwood House to celebrate season

By Tom Chadar

There are a few places around where you can hide away from the daily rush.

The Ellwood House, a 19th-century Victorian mansion at 509 N. First St. in DeKalb, will host its annual holiday celebration this weekend. The house will be decorated under the theme “Victorian Fantasy.”

“There are community organizations and businesses like florists and jewelers that participate in these annual decorations,” said Gerald J. Brauer, director of the Ellwood House Museum. “And this has been going on for 25 years. The event draws 12 to 15 hundred people every year, and there are many NIU students coming to visit the mansion.”

Some decorations in and around the house are Santa’s antique sleigh, as well as the carriages that were available for sale through the Sears and Roebuck catalog at the turn of the century, priced as low as $93.

The Ellwood House Christmas events will begin today and will feature vocalist Bob Stroud, the Sycamore High School Madrigal Singers and the Westminster Presbyterian Adult Handbell Choir. The events will continue Saturday with the Northern Illinois Children’s Chorus, the Almost Famous Chorus and Liz L’Huillier performing during the day. The Sunday program will feature the performances of Jaune Schafer and the Brandenberg String Quintet.

The candlelight setting during the evening hours will enhance the moody atmosphere in the mansion.

The huge red brick house was built for Issack Ellwood in 1879. Ellwood began a barbed wire manufacturing business with a capital investment of a mere $200 and eventually ended up as possessor of a $13 million fortune. The house cost $70,000 in 19th-century currency.

The successors and heirs of Ellwood had owned the house until 1964, when it was turned over as a gift to the DeKalb Park District. Today, the building is being managed by the Ellwood House Association.