The story begins...
sometime around 1841. The Dunham-Hunt house is said to be the oldest brick residence in St. Charles. In the book, Past and Present of Kane County 1878, it states: "In 1841 the first brick dwelling in the place was built by B.T. Hunt from a kiln of brick manufactured by John Penny in the public square, upon the East side." The Penny Brickyard was located at what is now the corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue. The property is currently owned by the City of St. Charles and is both a National and Local Historic Landmark property.
Bela T. Hunt arrived in St. Charles in September 1836 to a village of 20-25 acres in size. Seeing the opportunity to grow the new settlement, a company under the name of Minard, Ferson & Hunt was formed in that same year. The company then went on to purchase another 200 acres which was used to lay the foundation of the new town then called Charleston. B.T. Hunt is considered to be one of the foremost men to have built up the town and early enterprises.
A store built in the following spring was the first frame building in Charleston. In that same year a dam was built across the river and a saw mill was erected on the East side--both credited to the Minard, Ferson & Hunt company as having built the same. The earliest hotel had been built around this same time and changed hands a few times before B.T. Hunt purchased it. A tavern in the building is said to have been completed by B.T. Hunt and dedicated on the 4th of July 1838 by holding the first public ball in the town. In 1839, the name St. Charles was adopted by the town when it was discovered that another town by the name of Charleston had already been established in Illinois.
In 1841, B.T. Hunt was elected the first Kane County Treasurer. B.T. Hunt married Harriet L. Lathrop on October 12, 1842. B.T. Hunt was 30 and she was 20. Together they had four boys, Charles L., Frank B., Clarence T., and Wilbur C. Charles L. having died in 1857. Their son, Frank B. Hunt, was the third mayor of St. Charles and served from 1881-1885, then 1899-1905, and again 1907-1911. He lived with his family along with his father and mother in this same house. Wilbur C. Hunt was the city's attorney and his son, Edwin H. Hunt was the 11th mayor of St. Charles having run against his uncle Frank B. Hunt and winning. He served from 1911-1921.
The house is built in the Greek Revival Style evidenced by the simple, rectangular plan, front facing gable, and strong gable roof. The front door has classic Greek Revival features with doors, sidelights, and transom. The wide band of trim emphasizing the cornice line of the main roof is another common element found in Greek Revival architecture. The windows are 6 over 6 paned glass, typical of Greek Revival styling, some being original to the home.
The Greek Revival style is an adaptation of the classic Greek temple. To the popular mind, the Greek temple was associated with American democracy origins in ancient Greece. Further, Greece’s involvement in a war for independence (1821-1830) aroused sympathy in the newly independent United States. In addition, the War of 1812 fought against England diminished American affection for British influence including the still dominant Federal style of domestic architecture.
Members of the Hunt family continued to live in the house until it was purchased by Jane Dunham from Wayne in July of 1980 and opened the museum officially on December 6 of the same year. Jane Dunham lovingly restored the house as it reminded her of the home built in Wayne by her great-grandfather Solomon Hunt, which is now the Dunham-Hunt Riding Club. Jane was a descendant of Lorenzo Ward on her mother's side. Lorenzo Ward was a pioneer family in the early days of St. Charles. In conjunction with The St. Charles historical Society, she restored the Hunt House and opened the Dunham-Hunt museum with full intention of handing over the same to St. Charles to continue to operate as a museum. She brought in family artifacts and put them on display bringing 1870's furniture from the Dunham Castle. She was integral in getting the house to receive its National Historic Landmark status in 1982. The house was turned over to the City of St. Charles in 1986 and continued to operate as a museum under Jane's direction until her death in 1995. The museum was opened again in 1998 and run by the St. Charles Heritage Center until its closing in 2010. The property has been vacant since.
For more about the history of this home please join me for a Wine and Cheese Reception at "The Office", 201 East Main St., St. Charles, IL, beginning at 5:30 p.m. followed by Presentations including the History of the Dunham-Hunt House and Tax Credits for Landmark Properties: Residential and Commercial. The evening will commence with a Open House Tour at the Dunham Hunt House, 304 Cedar Avenue, St. Charles, IL
This property is currently listed at $199,900 and in need of restoration. It has a mixed-use zoning of CBD-2 which allows for residential as well as commercial use.
This Looks Like Home!
For more information about this home contact:
Marian Boveri, Historic Homes Specialist
Keller Williams Fox Valley Realty, 847-308-2424
Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(An old Irish blessing)