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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lakewood Farm - Lakewood Forest Preserve

In 1937, Malcolm Boyle (1897-1959), a wealthy Chicago contractor, purchased several farms near Wauconda totaling 1,250 acres to create Lakewood Farm.

The rolling topography of Lakewood Forest Preserve (formerly Lakewood Farm).
This view is of the Stockholm addition to Lakewood Forest Preserve, 1989.
Boyle was at the tail end of a movement of influential Chicagoans who retreated to the countryside to build estates and operate farms, mainly from the 1870s to 1920s. These farms were known as “gentleman farms” because the owner’s hired farm managers to run them.

Many gentlemen farmers were executives or owners of Chicago businesses, or the children of prominent Chicago families. Their farms transformed the landscape of Lake County from homesteads with traditional white clapboard farmhouses to estate houses with elaborate gardens designed by famous architects. Among these farms were Arthur Meeker’s Arcaday Farm, Grace Durand’s Crab Tree Farm, Robert Leatherbee’s Brae Burn Farm, and Malcolm Boyle's Lakewood Farm.

In 1939, Malcolm Boyle registered the name, Lakewood Farm, for his working farm with the Lake County Recorder of Deeds. It became a showplace with Guernsey cows, pigs, horses, extensive orchards, gardens and grain production.

Wauconda's Independent Register wrote in 1938: "[Boyle] has remodeled the buildings and is making extensive improvements on the property, including an artificial lake."

Boyle renovated a pre-Civil War house on site
 into a country home. Since 1986, this building has been
 used for the museum's archives and library. 
One of the existing buildings Boyle improved was a pre-Civil War house. Boyle renovated it in 1938 into a lovely country home, and in 1986 when the Curt Teich Postcard Archives was donated to the museum, the house was adapted into an archives.

This barn was built in the 1920s and renovated by Boyle circa 1938.
This image is from a Lakewood Farms booklet printed, circa 1965,
printed by Howard Quinn, the property's next owner.
The ponds on the property were enhanced and landscaped by Synnetsvedt, and Boyle dredged a wetland to create Banana Lake and then stocked it with fish. He reportedly planned to dredge a small canal from Banana Lake to Bangs Lake in Wauconda (a distance of about one mile).

In 1953, Boyle’s Guernsey “Hagan Farms Merry Song” won a prize at the International Dairy show. The cow had notably produced 15,000 pounds of milk the previous year.

Silver tray trophy "Champion Northern Illinois Jr. Parish Show
Curtiss Improved Stud Service 1956."
For Lakewood Farm, Wauconda. LCDM 2009.21.2
In July 1961, Howard Quinn, owner of a savings and loan in Chicago, purchased the property. Quinn made many improvements to buildings, and in farming and breeding methods for his registered Guernsey and Angus cattle. He also constructed a Butler building  to be used as a loafing shed for cows waiting to be milked.

Known by its manufacturer’s name, the Butler building was a pre-engineered metal building. 
Beginning in 1968, the Lake County Forest Preserves used it for storing vehicles. 
In 1977, the Chicago Bears practiced here before they had a permanent facility in Lake Forest.
 The building was razed in 2010.
In 1965, Quinn was convicted of defrauding the government. According to the Chicago Tribune, the property was to be sold to "recoup losses from Quinn's handling of savings and loans funds insured by the federal corporation."

The Lakewood Farm property was one of the first sites designated by the Lake County Forest Preserves' for acquisition. In 1968, the land was acquired, and the farm buildings used to store equipment.

Prize bull barn as seen circa 1965.
This structure would be adapted as the museum's lobby and gift store.
The Lake County Discovery Museum opened its doors at Lakewood in 1976. Previously, the museum was located near Wadsworth on Route 41. Several of the original Lakewood Farm buildings were adapted for the museum’s exhibit galleries, collections storage and administrative offices. The museum will be moving in 2-3 years to Libertyville where it will have larger exhibit galleries, and be able to provide increased access to educational programs and to researchers utilizing collections.

Today, Lakewood Forest Preserve totals more than 2,600 acres, making it the largest preserve in Lake County. During the next couple of years the Lake County Forest Preserve’s planning department will develop a master plan for Lakewood, which will consider how the complex of buildings at Lakewood will be used. This master plan will be approved by the Forest Preserves Board of Commissioners.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homer Dahringer (1890-1918)

When World War I erupted in Europe after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, on June 28, 1914 by the Black Hand, the United States pursued a policy of non-intervention.

However, former president, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), strongly supported the Allies and demanded a harsher policy against Germany, especially regarding submarine warfare. In 1917, Roosevelt visited Fort Sheridan (shown in photo) to give a passionate speech about the importance of rallying troops for mobilization for the war.

By 1916, the United States had begun to enlarge its army in preparation for war. At Fort Sheridan, much of the training focused on mastering trench warfare. Soldiers constructed and used an extensive trenching system simulating, as closely as possible, the trenches in the European war. (Officers Training Camp trenches at Fort Sheridan, circa 1917).

On April 6, 1917, the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany. Lake Countians began to volunteer for service in the war, and the Lake County sheriff was under orders to arrest all “slackers” or any man who wouldn’t register.

Homer Dahringer of Waukegan (right), who had gone through the First Officers Training Camp at Fort Sheridan in 1916, was commissioned August 15, 1917. He studied aviation in Austin, Texas, and was ordered to France in March 1918.

He was attached to the First Aero Squadron as an observer. In June 1918, he was promoted to first lieutenant. His job was to fly behind enemy lines in a two-seat reconnaissance plane, make observations and collect information and photographs of value to American gunners.

Dahringer had been a star athlete at Waukegan’s Central High School, and captain of the basketball team at the University of Illinois. By all accounts, he was outgoing and well liked.

Homer Dahringer (2nd from right), circa 1913.

Homer Dahringer (left) with friends. Mr. Steinhaus (2nd from right)
was Dahringer's business partner. In 1908, just after graduating
from high school, they formed Dahringer & Steinhaus
Restaurant, Ice Cream and Confectionary
at Genesee and Clayton Streets, Waukegan.

On September 16, 1918 he to wrote his parents from France:

“I am going on a dangerous mission, but we are all keyed up for it and do not anticipate any trouble. Tomorrow’s work is rather a culmination of all my efforts. We are going over the top together with the infantry. I am scheduled to fly an Infantry Liaison plane. It is the worst kind of work and everything rests with God. If I do not come back, you may know that I gave my all and my best to my country.”

He and his pilot, Lieutenant William Cowart, never came back from that mission. Their plane was shot down by a German Fokker, and they were reported missing in action on September 17, 1918.

Dahringer's family clung to the hope that he was alive and would come home from the war. The local paper ran headlines "Vanished Behind Foe Lines in Plane; Homer Dahringer, U.S. Air Observer, Missing in Action." Even the American Red Cross investigated and reported that he was alive and had been taken behind enemy lines. Soon even that report was questioned, since the family never received a letter from their son or any other news.

The Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, but it was not until January 3, 1919 that Dahringer's family received another telegram from the U.S. Army stating:

"Your son, Lieut. Homer Walston Dahringer reported by message dropped from German plane as dead in Germany. Date and cause of death unknown. Will notify of any future information."

Still, the family refused to accept the news. Within weeks, his body was brought to France for burial and it was the final proof that his family needed.

Real photo postcard of the University of Illinois' soccer team, 1910.
Homer Dahringer is seen smiling in the back row, third from left.
He sent the postcard to his sister Edna who was living in Los Angeles
at the time. He wrote: "This is the new game I am playing now.
We played against St. Louis and lost 5-0. Then we played Chicago
at Chicago and won 3-0. Today we played Chicago down here
and won 6-1. This was our last game this year. I am going home
for Thanksgiving soon.
Wish you were going to there too."
Signed, Homer "Darrie" [his nickname].
On October 28, 1919, the newly formed Waukegan American Legion Post was named in honor of Dahringer. Three years later, Dahringer’s body was brought back from France to be buried in Waukegan.