|The previous location of the Haish mansion, as it stands today. The carriage house still stands to the right side. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
When people find out that my maiden name is Haish, or that I research Jacob Haish, the number one question I hear is "what happened to the Haish mansion?" And rightfully so, as the house was razed in 1961 and many of us never even had a glimpse of it.
Many people think there's a conspiracy story behind it, because Ellwood's mansion remains, and what do we have to show for Haish? Unfortunately for the Haish mansion, the true story is much simpler.
The house, located on the corner of Third and Pine streets in DeKalb, was three stories tall. Haish, a carpenter, chose to model his home after memories of castles from his homeland of Germany. Learn more about the house's beautiful architecture here, here, and here.
Haish built the house in 1884 and lived there happily until his death in 1926. In his will, he left lifetime use of the house to his longtime housekeeper Anna Anderson. The will also allowed for money from Haish's estate to be used to keep the home "in as good condition as when received by her."
DeKalb historian Steve Bigolin said Haish missed one big element when preparing his will.
"He didn't think beyond when Anna Anderson would die," he said.
Anderson died in 1953, and at that time the Haish estate trustees needed to liquidate all assets in order to make the Jacob Haish Memorial Hospital, a big intention in his will, come to reality. There were no further instructions provided as what to do with the house after Anderson's death, so it simply became another asset.
"They had the right to sell it," Bigolin said.
The mansion and the carriage house were put on the market in 1955, after the mansion had been used as a rental for a few years. There was a combined asking price of $45,000 for the two buildings, or the carriage house for $20,000 and the mansion for $25,000. The carriage house was sold to a private individual, and still stands to this day.
The neighboring First Lutheran Church purchased the Haish mansion, and the building's next life began. First, the estate held an auction to sell off items remaining in the home, and then the church would use the house for a parsonage and location for Sunday school classes, as well as other church activities. Within time, however, the large building became a drain of the church's limited resources.
Church leaders began to realize the condition of the house was deteriorating and the work and cost of upkeep was more than they could handle. Ultimately, it was decided to put the house on the market. In early 1961 they put the house on the market for $25,000, just to recoup their original purchase cost. They were not interested in a profit.
There were no interested buyers.
|Haish house after demolition in 1961. | Photo courtesy of Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives
The church decided to demolish the home for a parking lot in 1961. A certainly divided decision amongst church members, a decision that is still hotly discussed to this day, but one that made economic sense for a church.
Click to see more blog posts about the Haish mansion.