Timeless sophistication. Ageless beauty. When walking the grounds of Dunham Castle, you can’t help but feel the depth and energy surrounding this most revered and respected property. And even though many greatly appreciate it, most don’t know just how the structure came to be…
Arriving in Chicago in 1835, Solomon Dunham claimed land for farming in the St. Charles area, paying a fair price of $1.25 per square acre. On the land he built a small log cabin, which he later converted into a brick building.
Upon his death, his youngest son, Mark, inherited the property and began to breed Percherons, strong and sturdy French horses used mostly by farmers to pull plows. Mark was the first to import and breed these horses, and his business flourished until the advent of the power tractor later eliminated the need for the animals. But in 1883, in the midst of his success, Mark (with the assistance of Smith Hoag, an Elgin architect), decided to construct his dream home, Dunham Castle, which he fashioned after a French chateau.
In its heyday, Dunham Castle hosted several famous people, including Cyrus McCormick, George Pullman, and the Duke of Veragua–a direct descendent of Christopher Colombus. In the early 20th century, the residence served as a retreat for such politicians as Adlai Stevenson and Everrett Dirksen.
The castle has changed hands multiple times since Mark’s passing, and was even converted to apartments in 1953, while still preserving the original character of the house. Although the house was sold out of the Dunham family in a previous generation, Jane Dunham, along with establishing the Dunham-Hunt Museum in downtown St. Charles, worked hard to ensure that the historical elegance of the home was preserved.
Unfortunately, the castle is in poor condition and in desperate need of repair. It’s estimated that renovating the structure will require millions of dollars. However, the current owner is passionate about the restoration, and is seeking community approval to begin his work.