Take a journey back in time

By Justin Gallagher

To walk inside the Ellwood House is to take a 100-year step back in time.

The textures of the materials, the grandiose architecture of the woodwork and the smell of age inspire images of horse-drawn carriages and young women in hooped dresses.

The Ellwood House sits atop a small hill at 509 First St. Surrounding it are about nine acres of landscaped gardens and trailed woods.

The grounds are open to the public and touring the house costs $6 for adults. For that price, guests receive an hour-and-a-half tour across the home’s four floors.

Ropes and barriers are kept to a minimum to allow tourists the closest possible proximity to this century-old reality, said Donna Gable, the house’s coordinator of volunteers.

Gable is a walking encyclopedia on the Ellwood family and its home. Throughout the tour, she offers information about paintings, dining sets and architecture.

“Architecturally, [the stairway] is probably the most spectacular part of the house,” she said.

Built in 1879, the grounds became the DeKalb Park District’s about 40 years ago, and since then, the house has undergone continual restoration, Executive Director Jerry Brauer said.

Tourists can observe artistic themes in architecture and furniture.

Ninety percent of the furniture and decorations belonged to the Ellwoods, with the rest being donated and accurate to the period, Brauer said.

Evidence of this can be found in the light bulbs, which emit about 20 watts of power like those from 1879.

For those wary of climbing stairways, seeing the basement and first floor is possible by way of a lift.

Outside the home, the grounds offer more for visitors to view. Formal gardens spread across the landscape.

For his daughters, Isaac Ellwood purchased an oversized Victorian dollhouse, and today the 114 year-old clubhouse still stands.

The Ellwood House routinely holds meetings for local businesses and organizations beyond wedding receptions, Brauer said.