Landmarked Home Tells Frankfort’s Story

A stately Victorian on Hickory Street has earned the designation as the Village of Frankfort’s first landmarked home. (Photo courtesy of Judy Schultz)
A stately Victorian on Hickory Street has earned the designation as the Village of Frankfort’s first landmarked home. (Photo courtesy of Judy Schultz)

By Karen Haave

A stately Victorian on Hickory Street has earned the designation as the Village of Frankfort’s first landmarked home.

The village dedicated its first historic landmark building–the century-old Peter’s United Church of Christ–last month with the unveiling of a plaque and luncheon at the church. The building was approved as a historic landmark in December 2020, but celebrations were delayed because of COVID-19.

The Hickory Street home is owned by Judy Schultz, who also serves as the director of the Frankfort Historical Society and the museum.

“The plaque is being ordered, and there will be a brief ceremony during a Village Of Frankfort Board meeting sometime (this) year,” said Marcia Steward, chairperson of the Frankfort Historic Preservation Commission,

“Because Frankfort is a Certified Local Government having its own Historical Preservation Ordinance, Will County (Historic Preservation Commission) plays no role. Judy’s property will be registered as a local historic landmark within Will County, however.”

Steward noted that Frankfort’s Historical Preservation Ordinance establishes criteria for local historic landmark designation. Schultz completed the application and requirements for consideration.

“The Historic Preservation Commission reviewed the application, determining how well it met the criteria,” Steward said.

“This house has significant value as part of the historic character of the Village of Frankfort. It is identified with a person who significantly contributed to the community.

“Isabella Gaines’ family was the second owner and she lived in it until her death. She was a beloved Frankfort Grade School teacher, known for making cookies with her students. She was an active member of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ. In her will, she asked that Christmas candy be given to the church’s Sunday School. This continues to this day.”

Steward said the house represents a distinguishing character of late nineteenth-century architecture. While Frankfort is known for its Queen Anne homes, 204 Hickory stands out, she said. Most of the original exterior materials remain. Schultz works hard to maintain the historical integrity, she said.

The house lies in a unique area of the village, across from the former grade school, now the park district, and within the Old Town neighborhood, Frankfort’s original neighborhood.

“It is a unique example of a turn of the 20th century home with many of its original outbuildings, such as the windmill and carriage house, still extant,” Steward said.

“I can tell you, as a 28-year resident of the Old Town Neighborhood, many were thrilled to see a 100-plus -year-old home in our neighborhood recognized and celebrated. The story of Frankfort can be seen in this home.”

For Schultz, her discovery of the home was meant to be.

“I first fell in love with this home when I took a break from my little part-time job at Geri Ann’s Lampshade Shop in the Trolley Barn,” she explained.

“On a whim, I drove around with hopes of finding a house in Frankfort to purchase.

“I saw this old white Victorian house with a ‘For Sale’ sign in front. It was a cold, snowy January 2002 day, but the front door was wide open, empty, except for a plumber and electrician.

“No one else around, so I decided to just go up and let myself in. I was told that the owner had just put the sign out 10 minutes before I arrived.

“I felt a higher power had intervened! When I walked into the foyer, I was home. The workers told me stories of the elderly lady who had lived in the home most of her life and had just passed away less than a year ago in a nursing home at age 90.

“He let me walk around and I was transported back to a time when ladies wore the big full skirted dresses, the wide hallway upstairs attesting to the fact. Leaded glass features in the windows, original oak woodwork, pine floors throughout, pocket doors, a clawfoot tub and chandeliers dating back to the 1920s.

“I was sold, I had to have it! I felt like time was of the essence, thinking I’d better jump at this before someone else grabs it!

“I called the number on the sign and spoke to the owner. I met with him and after negotiating how we could make this gem mine, he gave me a key and I gradually moved my belongings over. With earnest money, I was securing the deal ’til I could sell my home in Park Forest.”

In the interim, she said, “I was mowing two lawns, caring for two houses, just hanging on ’til my house sold in February of 2003, and finally, I closed on the two properties in March 2003.

“I am now only the third owner of this home. A cute story that was told to me by cousins through marriage of the previous owner was of the days when there was a dumb waiter in the kitchen that was used to bring items up and down from the basement.

“Isabella, a little girl at the time, would take turns with her cousins giving each other rides up and down on the shelf with the pulley. When the father learned of this, he dismantled it before they could get hurt, and it now has only the shelves, but the pulley mechanism is still there.

“I smile every time I walk on the sidewalk that has chicken tracks that were made in the wet cement when it was laid. There was a chicken coop in the back; it was torn down before I got the place, but I found 18 original screens from the house and two old doors which I repurposed into a potting
shed which stands on the coop foundation.

“Near the base of the windmill, is the year 1930 written in cement.

“The reason I am so passionate about being the caretaker of this home is I cherish the old,” Schultz said. “The home still has so much originality; it just has to be preserved for the people who come after me so they can see the pride and workmanship that went into building homes over a hundred years ago, made to last.”

Karen Haave is a freelance reporter.

 

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