Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cottage in the Woods...

Thought we'd tell you a little bit about our place in the woods. "Ketelsen Estate East" is on the grounds of Riverwoods Christian Center - a church camp for disadvantaged kids in the Fox River Valley. Located on 85 acres of mostly-wooded property, it lies on the east banks of the Fox River about 4.5 miles north of St Charles.

It is a spectacular location - there is little to no traffic except for the camp, though there is considerably more river traffic - boats pulling skiers, canoes, houseboats and jetskis, especially on weekends. Camp is in session for about 2.5 months of the summer, though there is low-level activity at the camp year round. So there are up to 100 kids and counsellors on the grounds any given summer week, most activity away from the private residences. But mostly it is a quiet, serene location with considerable wildlife in the non-camp seasons.

There are 3 private residences occupied by people not affiliated with the camp, including Melinda and me. In these cases, the house is owned by the occupants, and there is a land lease agreement with the camp. In all these cases, the leases expire in 2050 (end of the 100 year lease period), and the houses revert to camp property. It made getting our mortgage a little strange last year, since the house will essentially have no commercial value at the end of the land lease about the time we are turning 95... BTW, we bought our cottage from one of the other residents - Elaine, who came to own 2 of the residences after the passing of her son Tim a few years ago. Melinda rented our cottage from her for over a year about the time we became a couple, and about the time we were ready to buy she decided to sell and we reached a deal!

The 85 acre parcel of land was originally purchased by Louis Canfield, of Chicago, in the 1920's. The only building on the property at that time was an old tavern with inn in the upstairs area. Mr. Canfield had that building converted into a "summer home" for he and his wife. He had four children, who were independant at that time, and had four cottages built; one for each child and their families. When his children had no interest in "going to the country" for weekends, or summer holidays, Canfield donated all of the property, as well as the buildings to the Advent Christian Church. We own one of the original cottages built by Canfield, with the year of building being 1930. At this time, two of the cottages have been demolished. The old tavern was turned into a dining hall for the camp - though that is slated for demolition, as is the other remaining cottage. Once those buildings are gone, we will own the only original building on the property. There are numerous books on the history of the Fox Valley area, specifically the St. Charles area. It seems that owning property along the river "in the country" was the height of society in the 1920's, and we are fortunate in owning a piece of that history!

Of course, with owning a piece of 'local history' comes the actual trials of owning a house built in the 1930's. The house was originally built as a summer house, and then winterized and turned into a year around residence. Since 1930 every resident has had their own ideas of how to repair problems, remodel, and renovate the house. Some of those renovations included linoleum glued to the original wainscoting in the kitchen - covered by peel and stick floor tiles - covered with vinyl wallpaper! Other "repair"s include putting up acoustic tile ceilings - to cover/hide 80 year old insulation and rotted support beams in the roof. The list can go on for days! However, doors that had been stuck shut for years are now in working order, and the sunroom (which had never had window trim) is trimmed out to match the rest of the house! With the task of renovation comes the opportunity to add the touches that make this cottage the home that we want it to be (slate tiled hearth, etc.). I'm thinking that we're going to be really good with window glazing by the time the house is done - as this little place has 23 windows that need to be reglazed! Oh my gosh! There's so much to do - why am I sitting here at the computer! I'll let Dean finish this!...

So that is a short description of our little piece of paradise and how it came to be and be ours. The beauty of the place is quite striking - and the reason we held our wedding here in June!

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