Winnetka's Original Log Home - the Schmidt-Burnham Log house is thought to be Winnetka's oldest home. Some fine homes are still standing that were built as early as the 1890s, but this simple design was built by the earliest settlers in the vicinity. This log house is slightly more sophisticated than the humble one-room log cabin and was intended to be permanent, having two or more rooms plus a second story.
The logs were closely fitted with a complicated system of notching. Sticks and stones were placed between the logs and covered with mud to help weatherize the home. Interestingly, the windows and doors were cut out after the home was built!
Finnish and Swedish immigrants originally introducted this simple construction style to America and this home ihas more German influences with rooms surrounding a central chimney.
The house was originally constructed on 37 acres on the present site of Indian Hill Country Club, near the corner of Winnetka Avenue and Church Road. German immigrant Peter Schmidt was the first documented owner and purchased the property in 1841 - he enlarged it to accommodate a growing family and several generaltions living within. He also stuccoed the interior and added clapboard to the exterior. He sold the house in 1870 and moved to Wisconsin.
Around 1917 a famous local artist, Anita Willets Burnham, (shown as a child in the photo below right)was on a painting excursion and walked up to the house in search of water. She fell in love with it and purchased it for $25 - but the land was not included as it had been annexed for the construction of Indian Hill Country Club in Winnetka. She spent $100 to have the house moved by horse-drawn wagon to 1407 Tower Road in Winnetka, near the intersection of Tower and Vernon. The Burnham family added a clapboard lean-to in the back to provide more space.
The Burnhams owned the home until 2001 when it was donated to the Winnetka Historical Society and moved yet again to Crow Island Woods, adjacent to Crow Island School. The Historical Society restored the home and opened it for public viewings in 2006. The present day location gives it an aura of authenticity as it sits among the prarie grasses and gardens.
Although there are no more open houses this year, group visits can be arranged in advance by contacting the Winnetka Historical Society.
To read more:
To read more about touring the Schmidt Burnham house, please see Schmidt Burnham Log House
(Two black and white photos above and left are courtesy of the Winnetka Historical Society)
Moving Day 2003
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Margaret Goss is a full-time real estate broker since 1998 working in the North Shore communities of Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Northfield, Glenview, and Evanston.
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