The historic and enormous Old Gillett Farm on top of Elkhart Hill just east of Elkhart, Illinois, will be sold at auction in August.
The house isn’t on Route 66. But driving down the Mother Road, it’s hard to miss Elkhart Hill. It rises 200 feet above the surrounding prairie and reportedly is the tallest hill between Chicago and St. Louis along the Interstate 55 corridor.
The fee just to join the auction could range as high as $150,000.
The Springfield State Journal-Register explains the Old Gillett Farm main home’s significance:
Gillett House is not the typical piece of central Illinois real estate. At 10,000 square feet, the home includes seven bedrooms, five full baths, a library, a powder room, a spacious kitchen, tennis court, a water tower-turned-art studio and wrap-around, screened-in porch. Nearby Drake House, also included in the auction, has three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and a swimming pool. […]
“You don’t see this in the Midwest very often. You see it on the East Coast, or they exist way out in mountain country where oil barons lived,” said Michael Fine, principal and managing partner with Fine & Company LLC, the firm hired to conduct the auction.
Talk around town is a buyer turning the property into a bed-and-breakfast, a vineyard, a ranch or a conservancy district.
KTVI-TV in St. Louis ticks of the plethora of celebrities who’ve been at the mansion over the years.
John Dean Gillette, called the cattle king of the world helped make this location what it is today back in 1860.
His friend, Abraham Lincoln stayed here at old Gillette farm. […]
Did I mention there`s a tennis court that Cary Grant played on?
Or that Ernest Hemingway would stop here on his way to Florida.
Or how`s about Marshall Field who would take his private train car and stop here for mint juleps on the way to the Kentucky Derby. […]
Former Illinois Governor Oglesby lived in one of the former houses adjoining this site.
As for the hill itself, it’s a leftover mound of earth from thousands of years ago when glaciers flattened the rest of the surrounding area. On a clear day, one can see the tallest buildings of downtown Springfield from more than 20 miles away.
The Illinois Times a few years ago published a history of the town and Elkhart Hill, including the fact it is home to old-growth timber and several endangered plants.
The Hill was first home to Kickapoo Indians around 1763, and to the white men who came after. Although the American Indians are gone, they left behind the remains of a village, with its artifacts and burial mounds — as well as a name for The Hill.
Tradition has it that during an annual hunting trip, an Indian chief’s daughter, White Blossom, was forced to choose between two competing suitors. White Blossom decided that the warrior whose arrow could pierce the heart of an elk that happened to be passing by would win her hand. The suitor from White Blossom’s own tribe, the Illinois, and his rival from the Ohio Shawnee, both took aim at the elk, and the Illini’s arrow hit its mark in the animal’s heart. From that day forward, the warrior and his young wife took the elk heart as their totem and The Hill was forever known as Elkhart Hill.
The writer also reports a bison trail crossed a part of the property that became the Edwards Trace — a precursor to Route 66 and Interstate 55.
Relatives of the original Gillett family have decided to put the Gillett Farm up for sale — either in one big piece or 10 tracts.
The town of Elkhart never has boasted more than 600 residents. But its downtown just off Route 66 remains well-preserved, and it contains a surprisingly lively business district.
(Image of the Gillett Farm via Fine and Co.)