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DeKalb County Tours: Downtown Oddities

November 2nd, 2021
Categories: Adults, Personal Enrichment, Personal Enrichment, Reading, Writing, and Storytelling, Reading, Writing, and Storytelling, Seniors
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DeKalb

Remembering Phineas Vaughan | DeKalb’s foremost Blacksmith was Phineas (Uncle Phin) Vaughan. His freestanding shop was located at 325 East Lincoln Highway. The building was solid stone, and since November of 2008 its original east wall has been visible from Fourth Street. In the sidewalk leading to 325s, front door today, is a horseshoe from the 1890s, put in an older pavement there years ago. Vaughan’s blacksmith’s anvil marks his grave meanwhile at Evergreen Cemetery at South Seventh and Taylor Streets, where it has been since 1897.

A Bank’s Cartouche | The striking Italian Renaissance Revival building at 323 East Lincoln Highway in DeKalb is commonly known as McCabe’s Tavern, from the 1970s. Historically, however, this was the Commercial Trust and Savings Bank of 1902. Centered above the arch at the second floor level is an Egyptian style stone cartouche, containing the bank’s itials “CTSB”. Besides the bank and tavern though, variously over the years it has house a restaurant, furniture store and ACE Hardware, among other businesses.

Masonic Emblem atop 119/123 East Lincoln, DeKalb | The venerable Chronicle building of 1889 sports the symbol of the Masonic Lodge on its front cornice. Third floor originally house that group, dictating the presence of their famous lodge. The Lodge wound up spending just a short time there as things turned out however, but their emblem remains in place nonetheless. At a later time, there was a roller skating rink on the third floor, ironically, at the same time that DeKalb Public Library was on the second floor.

Sycamore

Outside Stairways to Basements | it was not at all uncommon for late 19th century downtown business buildings to have outside stairs accessing their basements, which often had one or two other businesses in them. Downtown Sycamore was no exception, and two such stairways from the 1870s can still be seen. PJ’s Courthouse Tavern and Grille at 202 West State Street, in the historic Waterman Block, has stairs on the Maple Street side of the building. The other stairway is at 362 West State, on the California Street side of the old Winn’s/Ward’s Hotel.

Winn’s/Ward’s Hotel Cornerstone | 360/362 West State Street, Sycamore.  The one story brick building on the southwest corner of West State and California Streets, looks a far cry today from the way it was built in 1875. Levin Winn replaced the old Paines Hotel with a grand three-story brick structure. It was noted for its ornate window lintels, entry portico, limestone foundation and decorative bracketed cornice. Henry Ward bough the hotel from Winn in 1879. A fire in the adjacent 1885 Opera House in 1941 caused so much smoke and water damage to the hotel that its two upper floors had to be removed, and a new façade created for what survived. The original cornerstone remains visible at the west corner of the first floor and contains the architect’s name- J.W. Ackerman.

Site of the Alida Young Temple | Formerly at 150 West State Street, Sycamore. Built in 1889 to house businesses on the ground floor and the Masonic Lodge (third floor) and Independent Order of Odd Fellows (second floor). Alida Ellwood Young, a widow since 1874, bought the buildings naming rights for $1,000 (Which, ten to fifteen years earlier she had been financially destitute). The stonework surrounding the doorway accessing the upper floors and the arched third floor windows on the front, indicate it was Romanesque Revival Architecture. It was destroyed by fire in 1963. The masonic and Odd Fellows cornerstones can be seen at the ground level corners.