February 26, 2014
Article By: Steve Lord
OSWEGO — Winter on the farm can be beautiful, when the sun reflects off the white snow, the stillness disturbed only occasionally by the wind’s howl or a rooster’s crow.
But spring is when it happens. As the snow melts, temperatures warm, plants begin to grow, and the animals come out to play. That’s when the action takes place.
And that will be particularly true this year at the Gilbert Gaylord historic house and farm, on Plainfield Road in Na-Au-Say Township, about four miles east of Oswego.
That’s when business partners Candice Hadley and Leigh Anne Scoughton will open the house and its grounds for weddings, receptions, parties, reunions, picnics — even bonfires.
“This will look totally different in the spring,” Scoughton says, waving her hand toward the grounds. “We will have lots of landscaping, a gazebo, a white picket fence … it’s going to be beautiful.”
It will also be an education of sorts for those who visit, both in small farm operation and history. The farm goes back to the early days of a pioneering Illinois, and the grand Italianate house goes back to 1865, when men were returning from the Civil War and America was on the mend.
The Kendall County Board recently paved the way for the opening by unanimously approving a special use for the facility, which sits at 1542 Plainfield Road east of Oswego.
The special use has conditions to make sure the five-acre house and farm grounds will not disrupt the neighborhood with its activities. Those conditions include limiting events to 100 persons or less, ending events at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends and allowing a lit sign to be lighted only during the event, and with a limit of 16 square feet.
Because there will not be events all the time, the principal use of the property will remain residential. Hadley lives in the house with her 20-year-old special needs son, Sam. He has cerebral palsy, but he will be part of the operation, too, along with friends of his from classes at Oswego High School.
Hadley says she plans to open a shop at the house that will have hours during events there, and feature home garden and artistic items. Sam and his friends will run the shop.
It’s a public rebirth of a property that Hadley operated as a bed and breakfast some 20 years ago when she first purchased it, but had to give up because of Sam’s needs.
“We wanted to do something to give back to the community,” Hadley says.
A historic site
The Gilbert Gaylord house certainly has a lot of history under its belt.
Gilbert Gaylord was born in 1821 in Fulton County, New York. He came to Na-Au-Say Township in Kendall County, near Oswego, in 1848.
He had married Mary Ann Cass a few years before purchasing the land in Illinois. They had five children at the Na-Au-Say Township farm. The family relocated to a farm in Aurora Township in Kane County in 1860, but moved back to the Na-Au-Say Township site near Oswego, likely about 1863.
In 1865, they built the Italianate house that stands there today.
Gilbert Gaylord died in 1879, and his youngest son, John Long Gaylord, lived there with his family. By the time Mary Ann died in 1900, the family had moved to Oswego, and was renting the house and farm in Na-Au-Say Township.
The land and home were rented until the mid-1960s, when the property was sold. At one time, a farmer renting the farm and house lived on the first floor, with the second floor used as furniture storage for the owners.
The house was sold twice more before Hadley, and Bob Johnson, purchased it in December 1993. Hadley had been living in a Victorian three-flat in Chicago, but had grown up in the country near the Quad Cities. The Gaylord House was a perfect combination of being in the country, and history.
“I grew up in a house built in the middle of an alfalfa field,” she says. “We played down at the crick.”
When Hadley closed her bed and breakfast operation after several years, she needed to make the house more accessible for Sam, who uses an electric-powered wheelchair.
She needed the house to somehow have modern accessibility features, but retain its historic nature. She found the perfect partner in architect Michael Lambert, of Arris Architects in Plainfield.
Lambert grew up across the street from the historic house. Not only does he specialize in historic preservation, but also handicapped accessibility.
She also found the perfect business partner for the new venture in Scoughton, who was a bus driver for Sam and other special needs kids.
Not everything at the farm is business. Hadley admits the chickens, rooster and ducks are “just for fun.” She plans to raise Alpacas on the farm in the future.