Sunday, September 29, 2019

Jacob Haish sites (DeKalb and beyond)

Below is a list of Jacob Haish sites in DeKalb and beyond, taken from a presentation I gave at Glidden Homestead in Sept. 2019. These are just a few examples of Jacob Haish history that are still present today.

DeKalb Public Library (Haish Memorial Library) and Jacob Haish historical marker
309 Oak St., DeKalb

The Haish Memorial Library, now known as the DeKalb Public Library, was built because of a $150,000 donation from Jacob Haish in his will, when he died in 1926. The library was dedicated in 1931, and the original building still features the Haish name on the outside of the building, as well as a dedication inside. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

In 2017 a historical marker was dedicated to Haish, which was fitting because there is no museum or other location dedicated in his honor. The marker was placed by the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association to tell Haish's story to passerby. The marker's text was written by Haish relative Jeff Marshall, and mentions Haish's "inventive genius" and "eccentric personality." It also notes Haish's contributions to farming equipment creations, Northern Illinois University, and other DeKalb buildings.

Former location of Haish mansion
Corner of Third and Pine streets, DeKalb

The Haish mansion was located on the corner of Third and Pine streets in DeKalb, and was three stories tall. Haish, a carpenter, chose to model his home after memories of castles from his homeland of Germany. He left the house to his housekeeper, Anna Anderson, in his will. 

There was no plan for the mansion after her death, however, so the home had to be sold to pay for other projects Haish mentioned in his will. The neighboring First Lutheran Church purchased the home and used it for years as a parsonage and school. However, the house would need costly repairs, which the church couldn't afford. When there were no interested buyers, the church decided to demolish the mansion for a parking lot in 1961, and it still remains that way today.

Carriage house
Next to the parking lot on corner of Third and Pine streets, DeKalb

The neighboring carriage house is the only remaining part of the Haish mansion. Today it is still in use as apartment complexes.

Haish portrait

Founders Memorial Library, 217 Normal Road, DeKalb

Founders Memorial Library on the NIU campus is now home to a Jacob Haish portrait, but it took many years for it to get there. The portrait was originally located in the Haish mansion, and it could be seen when you first opened the front door. The portrait remained there until the house was about to be demolished in 1961. It has been said the members of the local Masonic lodge (which Haish had been a member of) snuck into the home shortly before demolition and took it. It remained in the DeKalb lodge until 2018, when it was placed in the Founders Library, along with images of other NIU/DeKalb founders Joseph Glidden and Isaac Ellwood. It can now be viewed in the library during open hours. It does have a large tear, and NIU is looking for monetary donations to fund the reported $22,000 worth of repairs needed.

Haish Gymnasium

303 S. Ninth St., DeKalb

Haish Elementary School was opened in the 300 block of South 9th Street in DeKalb in 1903. It would be torn down in 1975, but the Haish gymnasium, which was part of the school, still remains. Today it functions as a fitness center and is owned by the DeKalb Park District.

Jacob & Sophia Haish burial monument (Fairview Cemetery)

509 N. First St., DeKalb

Sophia died in 1918, and Jacob died in 1926, just 18 days short of his 100th birthday. Sophia and Jacob were buried in the Fairview Memorial Cemetery on the south side of DeKalb. Jacob had the design of his monument copyrighted, which you can see on the monument itself. The monument features an urn design with an inscription, which describes Jacob’s life as distinguished for his contributions to the barbed wire industry, and “the history of wire fencing would be incomplete without the record of his achievements in that field.”

The burial monument is in the very back of the cemetery, as Jacob was under the impression that the new cemetery would be built from that direction, and that his monument would be featured at the front. That was changed later, and his monument is now located in the rear of the cemetery lot, near the pet cemetery. 

Furniture from Haish Mansion (Ellwood House Visitors' Center)

509 N. First Street, DeKalb 

The Ellwood House Visitors’ Center is home to a display of furniture that once resided in the Haish mansion. Many of the items from the mansion were purchased in an auction after Jacob’s death. Paul Nehring purchased quite a bit of the furniture, and his wife Shirley Hamilton Nehring, used it in their home, which is on the museum grounds. After that home was donated to the museum in 2011, the furniture was sold to the Ellwood House so that it could be on display. These items can be viewed during the Visitors Center hours.

Statues from the Haish mansion (Red Barn Golf Course)

12379 Wagon Wheel Road, Rockton, IL

Antique collector Walter Williamson owned the Wagon Wheel Resort in Rockton. He purchased scavenger's rights to the Haish mansion before its demolition in 1961, and filled multiple trucks with decor and fixtures from the house. These two statues are now on display at the golf course in Rockton. They once stood proudly outside of the Haish mansion door. 

Chandeliers and woodwork from the Haish mansion (China Palace Restaurant)

625 S. Blackhawk Boulevard, Rockton, IL

More Walter Wiliamson items are on display at the China Palace Restaurant, including woodwork and chandeliers. All of these items must be worth well more than the $1,200 Williamson spent for his scavenger's rights.

Looking for more information on Jacob Haish sites?
DeKalb County History Center/Joiner History Room
NIU Regional History Center
DeKalb Public Library
Historian Steve Bigolin

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Event: Photo tour of Haish sites

Portrait of Jacob Haish | Photo by Jessi LaRue

Take a tour of Jacob Haish sites and landmarks and never leave your seat. 

At 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 8 at the Glidden Homestead, Jessi Haish LaRue will give a virtual tour on inventor, manufacturer, and DeKalb benefactor Jacob Haish. She will show some landmarks in DeKalb and beyond that tell Haish’s life story and show his philanthropy. 

LaRue, a Haish family descendant, is a writer who blogs regularly about Jacob Haish at The blog shares photos, interviews and news articles which relate to Haish's life. LaRue has been documenting her 4th great uncle's story since early 2016 in an attempt to spread the story of the "underdog of barbed wire." 

“Jessi has spent great effort and care finding, visiting, and documenting Haish sites,” says Rob Glover, executive director of Glidden Homestead. “Her ‘virtual tour’ will help you see these sites more completely and leave you wanting to see them in person.” 

Haish is renowned for his “S barb” patented in 1875. Jacob Haish was born March 9, 1827, in Germany and came to America in 1835 when he was nine years old. In his youth, he learned the carpentry trade from his father and “possessed natural mechanical ingenuity and displayed ready aptitude in the use of tools.” At 19, he moved to Illinois and then to DeKalb in 1853 where he entered the lumber business. He built many of the city’s most notable buildings, past and present, including the Glidden Homestead.
His first barbed wire patent is dated January 20, 1874. His “S barb” was patented August 31, 1875. He followed these with many later designs for wire and other innovative devices. 

Also on Sunday, noon-4, you can tour the home where Joseph Glidden and his family lived when he created his most famous invention, see a working onsite blacksmith shop, and walk where Glidden walked. Joseph Glidden developed barbed wire in DeKalb in 1873 and went on to patent numerous other inventions. Glidden’s brick barn, where an archaeological excavation has taking place, can be considered the monument for the invention of barbed wire, a symbol of innovation in the Midwest, the workshop of an iconic inventor. Programs at Glidden Homestead are made possible in part by the Mary E. Stevens Concert and Lecture Fund.

A full season of programs highlighting “Center of It All” continues at the Glidden Homestead in 2019. A program listing can be found at http://www.gliddenhomestead .org/events.html. The Glidden Homestead, located at 921 W Lincoln Hwy, is open Tuesdays 10-2 or by special arrangement. Admission is $4 per adult and free for children younger than 14. For more information, visit or e-mail or call (815) 756-7904.