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Ben Fuller Farmhouse



HISTORIC BEN FULLER FARMHOUSE

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Benjamin Fuller is known as the founder of Fullersburg. He arrived in 1835, returned east, and brought his entire family back with him with the exception of one married sister. There were 13 in the family and it took 17 weeks to travel from New York. The oldest daughters came by boat through the Great Lakes and the rest by covered wagon. Benjamin Fuller served as postmaster, innkeeper and storekeeper. He platted the town and changed its name from Brush Hill to Fullersburg in 1851, although the Post Office did not change the name until 1858. (Excerpt from the Salt Creek Greenway Master Plan)

Ben Fuller started several businesses in the area and owned most of the land in the center of town. One of his early enterprises was "The Farmer's House", a grocery which is the pioneer word for a bar or saloon. Today, the structure is known as the York Tavern and is privately owned.

HISTORIC SIGNIFANCE

Benjamin Fuller built his Greek Revival style farmhouse in c.1840. The farmhouse was originally located at 948 North York Road. The house was built using a new technique invented in Chicago called "balloon frame" construction. This revolutionized the construction of wood buildings worldwide by using cheap, machine cut 2x4s in place of tedious hand hewn joints and massive timbers of braced frame and post and girt construction. According to some historic architects, the Ben Fuller house is probably the oldest remaining example of balloon frame construction in the world. All known earlier buildings of this style are believed to have been demolished. The architectural style of Greek revival is rare in Illinois because it was popular only from 1830 to l860, a time when few buildings were being built.

To save the farmhouse from demolition by encroaching commercial development, the structure was relocated to land owned by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County on the parking lot east of the Graue Mill in 1980.

OLD FULLERSBURG

The center of old Fullersburg, located at what is the present day intersection of Ogden Avenue and York Road, was situated at the cross roads of two Indian trails. Ben Fuller platted this area around the crossroads in 1851. This location, as well as its one day's distance from Chicago, meant that it served as both a trading center for area settlers and a way station for travelers. In 1834, the town was a stagecoach destination from Chicago with regular service established by 1836. Wagon and coach traffic got so heavy that a plank road was privately built from Chicago to Naperville, reaching Fullersburg in 1850. A toll house was erected at the eastern edge of Fullersburg near the Cook County line. At this time over 500 horse and oxen teams passed by each day. Many herds of cattle were also driven to market over the road to Chicago. (See *footnote for more information)

Many notable people passed through Fullersburg including Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. Lincoln spoke from a hotel porch in 1858 on his way west to Ottawa. By 1860, Fullersburg had become one of the leading communities of DuPage County. Its buildings included 15 to 20 houses, two hotels, three taverns, a post office, a blacksmith shop, a school, a cemetery and a grist mill.

Today, only five original buildings of Old Fullersburg remain, including the Ben Fuller Farmhouse.

RESTORATION OF THE BEN FULLER FARMHOUSE

The Ben Fuller Museum Association began the restoration of the Ben Fuller Farmhouse after it was moved to its present location. The exterior of the structure was restored under the guidance of preservation architect, Wilbert Hasbrouck.

Architectural drawings for restoration of the interior are complete, including reconstruction of the summer kitchen lost to fire in 1980 and a landscape plan for the surrounding grounds to be restored to native plants and early settlement gardens.

The Fullersburg Historic Foundation is committed to continue the restoration and adaptive re-use of the Ben Fuller Farmhouse.

RESTORATION PLANS AND GOALS

Coordinate all plans and activities with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County with the approval of the Village of Oak Brook
Fund an interior historic structure survey and feasibility study
Apply for grants and raise funds through private sector capital campaigns
Develop an outreach program involving historic and open space organizations, corporate partners, civic and public service groups and individuals
Develop interactive interpretative programs and exhibits
Recruit and involve volunteers

THE BEN FULLER ORIENTATION CENTER AND MUSEUM

The Fullersburg Historic District represents a very significant chapter in the origins of eastern DuPage County and combines early settlement history and scenic open space unequaled in northeastern Illinois. The attractions of the District draw many thousands of people annually, including school groups, senior groups, artists, photographers, nature enthusiasts, birders, trail users, history buffs, families and more. The Ben Fuller Farmhouse is ideally located at the east side of the Graue Mill parking lot to serve visitors as:
Introduction to the history of Fullersburg and the gateway to the Fullersburg Historic District, including the Graue Mill, Miller's House, York Tavern and the Fullersburg Nature Center
An interpretative and gathering center for visitors
The staging area for the Fullersburg Historic District Self-walking Tour
-  Information about the legend of Salt Creek
-  Information about Native American tribes inhabiting the region in pre-settlement times, including the Village of Sauganakka and its occupancy from the late 1600's through 1833, and the relocation of Native American peoples westward along Ogden Avenue following the Blackhawk War
-  Information about the historic Graue Dam and the construction of the present-day dam by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in 1934
-  Information about famous visitors and founders, including renowned international dancer, Loie Fuller, niece of Benjamin Fuller
-  Information about the Mammoth Spring Ice Company
-  Information about the old country Victorian church on the County Line built in 188l now conducting services as The Faith Fellowship Church and the old settler cemetery on the hill located behind the church
-  Information about the Low German speaking settlers from Hanover of northwest Germany who farmed in the Fullesburg area
-  The opportunity to stage historic reenactments about life in Old Fullersburg
-  Reference to the role Fullersburg played during the Civil War era, including the Underground Railroad

Today, the last five surviving buildings which comprise the original Fullersburg community are considered to be the largest grouping of pioneer buildings anywhere in the Metropolitan Chicago area with four of the five buildings still situated at their historic locations. A restored Ben Fuller Orientation Center and Museum would ensure that the fascinating and unique history of this region would never be forgotten, and in the years to come, could be passed along to future generations to appreciate and know.

Footnote

Because the Naperville Road (Ogden Avenue) was the main trail west from Chicago, it was the first road to be covered with wooden planks by the South Western Plank Road Company, and consequently called the Southwestern Plank Road. The road was completed in 1850 and extended from Bull's Head Tavern at Ogden and Madison in Chicago to Brush Hill (Fullersburg).

The Southwestern Plank Road was a one lane road, eight feet wide and constructed of planks three inches thick. A toll gate was located at Joliet and Ogden Avenues and charged the following tolls:

37 cents - Carriage pulled by two horses
25 cents - Carriage, cart or buggy pulled by one horse
10 cents - Horse and rider
4 cents - Head of cattle
3 cents - Sheep

The plank road was later connected to another plank road at Fullersburg. This was the Oswego Plank Road and reached Naperville.

(Excerpt from Portage, Pioneers and Pubs, A History of Lyons, Illinois by Rose Marie Benedetti and Virginia C. Bulat - 1963.

Photo credit: Jean Follett

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