A NEW LIFE FOR AN OLD FARM

In 1918, slot machine magnate, Ode D. Jennings, bought  a 250-acre farm along Schaumburg Road that he used as his retreat from the big business world of Chicago.  He lived there until his death in 1953.   Despite his demise almost 60 years ago, Mr. Jennings and his farm continue to have an impact on the village of Schaumburg.

Upon his passing, his estate was put in trust for his wife.  Jeanette Jennings moved to Ft. Lauderdale, FL and is believed to have died around 1962.  Fortuitously, the farm property was then sold to Campanelli Brothers who proceeded to develop another phase of Weathersfield, the first subdivision in Schaumburg.  The Jennings farm served as much of the acreage for these early homes.  However, it was through the generosity of the Campanelli Brothers that an 11 acre complex that included “a large barn, farm house, garages, silo, wagon barns, chauffeur’s garage and guest house” were donated to the village for governmental use.  (Chicago Tribune, 10/19/1963)

Work was immediately begun in a two-phase approach to develop a Schaumburg Community Center.  According to the Tribune article, Mayor Robert Atcher said, “The first phase consists of renovation of the barn interior.  The lower level houses a meeting hall, a court room, and a police station, with bath facilities.  On the main level are a 500 seat recreation hall with stage, dressing rooms, a coat check room and a large kitchen.”  The photo below shows Mayor Atcher standing at the counter of the police station in the lower level of the barn. 

A Hoffman Herald article of August 29, 1963 also mentioned six police offices on the lower level.  The barn’s exterior, according to the Chicago Tribune article, was “virtually reconstructed” and a silo and windmill were retained to “preserve a rural appearance.”

No one knows for sure when the barn was originally built but, in an article from the Chicago Tribune dated 8/14/1966, Mayor Atcher is quoted as saying, “The barn is about 50 or 60 years old.  The farmers who built it came here about 1900.  It is a tremendously solid barn.”  This quote suggests that the barn was built before the arrival of the Jennings in 1918.

Other buildings were also involved in the million dollar remodeling that was done at cost by Campanelli Brothers.  The 14-room house, built around 1925, was redesigned for use as a Youth Center.  Another building housed the office of Village Clerk, Lucille Dobeck, the only full-time employee who was not a police officer.

A seven room house/garage once used by a farm employee, was renovated for occupancy by the civic center caretaker and his family.  In addition, a two-car garage was to be used as a warming house for the ice skating rink which was to be built on the grounds in the winter of 1963.  The rink would be “near other outdoor recreation facilities, including a baseball diamond, tennis courts and a swimming pool which [was] to be built in time for a Memorial Day opening.” (Hoffman Herald, August 29, 1963)  These outdoor developments were part of the second phase of the Community Center plan.

Uses for all of the buildings have changed over the years.  The Jennings house was used for some village offices until 1971 when the village moved into its Municipal Center on East Schaumburg Road.  “The house was then leased to the Schaumburg Park District for a number of uses, including a pre-school and for youth programs.  Since 1983, the house has been leased to a nonprofit organization.

The caretaker’s house was used for village offices until 1971.  The Building Department (surely crucial during the development heyday of the 1960s and 70s) was located on the first floor and Mayor Atcher had his office on the second floor.  In the intervening years, the building was used for a number of purposes including the home of the village’s Family Counseling Center.  In 2011, thanks to a reasonable rent of $1 a year and many donated construction hours and materials, it once again underwent a major renovation and opened as the offices for the Schaumburg Athletic Association.

The magnificent white barn is now used as a senior center on the main floor and a teen activity center in the basement.  This happened after the meeting hall was moved to the municipal center in 1971.  The police department also moved in 1976 when a Public Safety building was erected on Schaumburg Road.

Over the years the buildings of the Jennings farm have been used for multiple community purposes.  Countless numbers of Schaumburg residents and employees have moved through the various doors of the main house, the caretaker’s house and the barn.  Yet a visit to this quiet, shady area in the middle of a bustling village is enough to remind you why Ode D. Jennings, the gentleman farmer, bought the land in the first place.

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