Tuesday, July 18, 2023

The "K" or "H" House Mystery?

Photos by Jessi LaRue
"The K-House Mystery" is a book that was written by DeKalb author Grace Trobaugh Hay, copyright 1958. Stories about this book circulate every once in a while in DeKalb history Facebook groups, as folks recall hearing stories that this book was loosely based on the Jacob Haish mansion. Cindy Dockerty was kind enough to gift me her copy of this book, which I've been seeking for quite some time! 

The story follows the Easterly family, who just moved to DeKalb into the "queer old Keane house." The grand home once belonged to A.Q. Keane, "whom the world knew as the inventor of an important automobile part." 

An inventor's home, indeed!

"Queer was hardly the word for it," the book flap reads. "The house was unbelievable, with its fantastic red glass tower, hidden staircases, and the initial 'K' which appeared like a ghostly symbol on every object, from the picture frame that held the portrait of a fierce, brooding man, to the very shrubbery in the garden."

The story follows the family attempting to solve some odd mysteries surrounding the house. Some specific DeKalb nods include a "DeKalb" pennant in an image and references to Prince's Castle, the former ice cream shop, Kishwaukee River, and "old Lincoln Highway."

DeKalb pennant
Some of the descriptions and imagery throughout the book make it easy to see why DeKalb locals refer to this as the "book about the Haish mansion," although it has never been confirmed. Here are some of the references I picked up on while reading, interpret them as you will...

The family's first impressions of the house:

"It's red and pink," Ellen giggled.

"It has a necklace of red and blue glass around the porch," Mother laughed.

 A color photo of the mansion in the 1950s, provided by Steve Bigolin.

The depiction of the "K" house on the book cover.
"They found concrete roosters, squirrels, and cats and dogs modeled at the base of the porch pillars. ... They discovered stained glass windows stuck in surprising spots. Roosting on top of the tall chimneys were stone owls in various poses. A round tower made almost entirely of red glass perched on one side of the green tile roof."

Photo from an auction at the Haish mansion in 1955, showing the "animal" porch pillars. Image courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives.

The posts and portrait as portrayed in the book.
The Jacob Haish portrait that once hung in his mansion, now on display at NIU's Founders Memorial Library.
Hand-painted murals on the walls and multiple fireplaces in the Haish home have been remembered in local stories and newspaper articles. The story references a staircase and murals that made me think of the below photo.

"Anne found lovely summer sky and clouds painted on the ceiling of her bedroom. The chandeliers downstairs were shaped like grotesque animals; the two bathtubs were large fish; the colored tile floor of the octagonal library had words imprinted here and there and a large K in the center; the newel posts of the broad stairs looked exactly like heavy dark sugar bowls with lids."

The interior of the Haish mansion captured by photographer Roger Alexander in 1961, shortly before the house was demolished.
A staircase as portrayed in the book.

The K House's parlor as illustrated in the book.
What do you think? Do you see similarities between the fictional DeKalb "K-House" and the Jacob Haish mansion? Have you read this book before?

Monday, June 26, 2023

Haish-Built Engines Featured in Show

I recently attended the 52nd Sandwich Show in Sandwich, IL. This show featured Haish built engines, some of which I captured in photo and video and posted below. Haish's involvement in engine manufacturing is pretty varied: his earliest engines were part of "Cock O' The Walk Line," then the "Chanticleer" line. 

According to JacobHaishMfg.org: "Haish would manufacture engines not only for sale by his own dealer network, but also developed engines for the Appleton Mfg. Co., of Batavia, Illinois, Sandwich Mfg. Co. of Sandwich, Illinois & Rock Island Plow Co. out of Rock Island, Illinois. Haish's engine he built for these other companies were almost entirely the same as his own, with modifications to the said horsepower ratingengine tags or paint schemes, etc. Additionally, Haish manufactured an engine line for the Smith Mfg. Co. out of Chicago under the trade name "Great Western" from about 1905 until 1911. Rock Island Plow Co. purchased the "Great Western" line, which included the engine division, on October 1, 1911 from the Smith Mfg. Co. Haish would then build the "Great Western" line exclusively for Rock Island Plow Co. until about 1916. However, Rock Island Plow discontinued the "Great Western" engine division in about 1912 in favor of Haish's "Chanticleer" line. Rock Island would continue to market the "Great Western" trade name with its famous manure spreader and cream separator divisions for many more years. Sandwich Mfg. Co. stopped marketing "Chanticleer" engines in about 1912 as they had began to develop their own engine with a distinctive "tulip" style water hopper. Jacob Haish sold his entire "Chanticleer” engine division in April 1917 to the Appleton Mfg. Co. of Batavia, Illinois."

Learn more about the engines by clicking here.

Perhaps my favorite was a 4 HP Rock Island engine (built by Jacob Haish Mfg. Co) operating an early 1900s Sandwich Corn Sheller.

And here come the photos...

Thanks to the engine collectors who keep this great history preserved and running for the rest of us to enjoy!!

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Invite to Hop at Haish Opera House

Front of the card

Back of the card

Compliments of the DeKalb Social Club

You are cordially invited by the DeKalb Social Club to be present with Ladies at their Fourth Social Hop, to be held in Haish's Opera House, Friday Evening, Dec. 26th, 1879.

Thanks to Kevin Haish for sharing.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

More Haish postcards

The Haish School | Courtesy of Eva Johnson, "TheFamilyLibrarian"

Jacob Haish Company | Courtesy of Eva Johnson, "TheFamilyLibrarian"

The Haish Memorial Library | Courtesy of Eva Johnson, "TheFamilyLibrarian"

Haish's New Electric Power and Gas Engine Plant | Courtesy of Eva Johnson, "TheFamilyLibrarian"
Thanks to Eva Johnson, curator of an incredible DeKalb County postcards Flickr site, for sharing these postcards with us. Click the images to enlarge, and see her collection by clicking HERE