There Are 3 Must-See Historic Landmarks In The Charming Town Of DeKalb, Illinois
Local landmarks are so important. They give us a glimpse into our history and help tell the stories of our hometowns and cities across the country. Whether it’s a natural formation or an awe-inspiring mansion, every landmark gives us an opportunity to learn and remember. When it comes to the small towns that dot the Midwest, this is especially true. We rounded up three of the best historic landmarks in DeKalb that are definitely worth a visit for your next
day trip in Illinois.
1. Spend some time at the Egyptian Theatre.
One of DeKalb's must-see attractions is the
historic Egyptian Theatre
. Built in 1929, the theater's look was inspired by the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922. The building was originally erected as a place that could showcase both movies and vaudeville performances. The stunning structure was designed by architect Elmer F. Berhns, who studied Egyptology and decided to embrace the theme of Ramses the Great. His vision came to life with incredible detail inside and out. The cream and light green terra cotta exterior is adorned with a breathtaking 20-foot stained glass window depicting a scarab beetle standing on the earth while holding Ra, the ancient Egyptian sun god, above it. Its doors are meant to mimic the entrance of a grand temple. Above them is the grand marquee, which brilliantly lights up the street. At the top of the front facade are two towering pharaoh statues standing guard. Inside, the lobby boasts a 40-foot ceiling and tons of beautiful details in the decor, including scenes of falcons' wings, serpents, palm leaves, and lotus flowers.
A magnificent chandelier sits between a double staircase. The floor of the lobby is a tin-glazed pottery mosaic made from tiles collected from businesses throughout the town. It's modeled after the types of floors found in Egypt that go back thousands of years. The theater atrium is lined with handpainted murals that show places such as the Pyramids of Giza and Ramses' temple. Looking up, its magical ceiling resembles a blue sky adorned with tiny twinkling lights to look like stars. It also has the largest movie screen in DeKalb County, Illinois at 35 by 22 ft. DeKalb's Egyptian Theatre was once one of more than 100 Egyptian-themed theaters across the United States, but today just five remain. The others are all concentrated west of the Rocky Mountains.
A state of aging disrepair in the 1970s almost led to its closure, but residents united to save the theater and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Today, it's experienced a number of faithful restorations and upgrades to recapture the state of its original glory. The theater has many current uses, including showing movies, hosting local dance performances, hosting national touring acts, live music, annual events, and much more. See
what's headed to the theater next
, and make sure to keep tabs on its
for updates and cool photos!
Egyptian Theatre, 135 N 2nd St, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA
2. Take a trip to the Ellwood House Museum.
The Ellwood House was built in 1879 for Isaac Ellwood, who helped create the first barbed wire factory with local inventor Joseph Glidden. It's a Victorian mansion designed by George O. Garnesy and was originally part of a massive estate with over 1,000 acres. The home was remodeled and restored several times over the years by family members and owners, so it showcases a number of different styles. Inspiration is drawn from English cottages, and Georgian Revival, Victorian, and Mission-style architecture, to name a few. It joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Today, it's a museum campus with a visitor's center that includes the main house, plus six other homes and structures, including an ornate playhouse that looks like a miniature home and a 50-foot water tower. The estate is a hugely popular place for homecoming, prom, engagement, and wedding photos for multiple nearby towns. It offers guided tours and caters to private events and school groups.
The 3-story home's exterior is ordained with intricate details in its trim, brickwork, stately columns, and landscaping. It has a large, beautiful front porch that's perfect for photography. The interior is painstakingly managed to keep in excellent shape and is truly a sight to behold. Large mirrors, bold colors in the dining room, detailed woodworking, walnut shutters, custom furniture, a stone fireplace, and an Italian marble mantle in the library are all eye-catching. One of the estate's most unique structures is its Stick-style children's playhouse with a Victorian theme. Known as the Little House, it was built in 1892 as a parade float, but was eventually bought by the Ellwood family and placed on the property. It stands at just 14 ft tall with a 13 by 15 ft base. The visitor's center features information on the history of barbed wire and a gallery of the home's horse-drawn carriages. Check out the home's
history and tour schedule
, and follow its
for upcoming events!
Ellwood House Museum, 420 Linden Pl, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA
3. Peruse the beautiful Haish Memorial Library (DeKalb Public Library).
DeKalb's history with barbed wire is also to thank for the creation of the beautiful art deco-style Haish Memorial Library building, erected in 1930 with funds donated to the DeKalb Public Library by inventor Jacob Haish.
The impressive structure was constructed with Indiana Bedford limestone and features a lovely garden. Its interior includes a stunning 1934 mural from artist Gustaf Dahlstrom that was commissioned as part of a federal art program that hangs over the main reading room's fireplace. In 1980 it was also added to the National Register of Historic Places, joining the ranks of the Egyptian Theatre and Ellwood House.
Today, the library offers a robust mix of the historic and the modern, with the latest technologies and media formats mingling with nationally recognized architecture.
Check out a book
while you're visiting, and stay plugged into the
library's Facebook page
for the latest news!
Were there any other historic landmarks in DeKalb, Illinois, that you would add to this list? Have you visited any of these incredible buildings? Tell us in the comments! You can start planning your visit now with our helpful
weekend getaway guide to the charming neighboring small town of Sycamore, Illinois. And while you’re in the area, don’t forget to stop for a pizza and beer nuggets at Pizza Villa, a local favorite!
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