Illinois November 02, 2017
This Eccentric Old House In Illinois Has A Stupendous History
You’ve probably never heard of this old house tucked away in the woods of Illinois. Built by a man who may have been a genius, this vintage home was ahead of its time in more than ways than one.
Illinois has much to be proud of, and this architectural feat takes the cake. Keep scrolling to discover one of the state’s best kept secrets.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
A majestic place known as Woodland Palace is located in a small village called Francis Park, which is near the town of Kewanne. The area is very rural with about 13,000 residents. Our incredible story of an old house begins with Frederick Francis, who was born here in 1856.
Francis was one of the first men to attend the University of Illinois when it was called the Illinois Industrial University. He, and some of his classmates, are responsbile for the "Class of '78" clock which is in the north tower of the Illini Union building.
This intelligent Illinoisan went on to be a very successful watchmaker for Elgin Watch Company. Over the course of just a few years, he developed patents for which he was greatly compensated and able to retire at age 32.
Apparently, the watch company kept sending him checks for his work even after he retired, and he eventually told them to just keep the money, because he had enough. This company is also where Francis met his wife, Jeannette.
The retired watchmaker then set out to build his dream home. It was supposed to be sensible and was made from a combination of cheap and more high-quality materials where necessary. Most notable is that this was the first home to have central heating and air conditioning.
The A/C and heat were powered by a windmill device that moved cold and warm air through pipes in the home. It also had running water, despite no energy, made available through a cistern. Some doors closed automatically, and Francis even invented screens that replaced the window when it was slid up. (He had a fear of bugs getting inside.) It is said that the house was nicknamed Woodland Palace by Francis himself.
One of many notable features in this astounding old house is the Coach Room, which was built to resemble a Pullman train private sleeper cabin. Some of the decorations in the room were even made from old rail parts.
Francis' house never had a concrete plan or blueprint, yet everything was handmade. He hand-carved all the woodwork, made tables, chairs, archways, stairs, etc.
Francis was many things, and one was a naturalist who believed in living a self-sufficient life. He was vegan and grew his own food, and he also enjoyed spending much time naked walking through the woods.
Though this genius was an atheist who refused to eat meat, he married a devout Christian who loved beef and chicken. He loved her so much, he even took her to church each Sunday, though he refused to attend the service himself. When asked his beliefs, he was known to respond with "My church is the wild wood, and I am the minister and the congregation."
After his wife fell ill and died, Francis developed a painful medical condition and, at age 70, took his own life. In addition to a wood sculptor, builder, and engineer, he was also a poet and inventor, a regular Jack of all trades.
A heartwarming feature of the home Francis spent his life building is the domed, greenhouse-like addition he added to aid his wife's tuberculosis. The only treatment at the time was sunshine and fresh air, so he designed the room to let in as much sun as possible, and he also built a venting system that pulled in air from outside.
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Have you ever been by this old house? Share your photos and experiences with us!