Schaumburg and what it has to offer has definitely been in the news in the past couple of weeks. Two weeks ago the blog took you to a Chicago Tribune article about the upcoming renovation at Woodfield. This week it’s taking you to a Daily Herald article about part of an episode of “Empire” being filmed at the Merkle cabin at Spring Valley. The cabin is being incorporated into the show as a weekend hideaway for two of its characters. Judging by the photo above, it’s a perfect idea. Thumbs up to the location scouts on pursuing the unusual!
The Adirondack-style Merkle cabin was built in 1927 by John Redeker, the great grandson of Johann Boeger, the original land grant owner of the Spring Valley property. Around the same time, Redeker began propagating parts of the property into large peony fields with the intent of starting a wholesale flower and root business. Unfortunately Redeker died in 1930 and the business lasted for only a couple more years.
In 1942 the Redeker family then decided to sell portions of the property to Frank Merkle and family. This included the cabin which the Merkle family used as a weekend getaway for many years. Frank’s son, Bill, describes the cabin in his book, Frank and Leona, as “the magnificent log cabin with matched cypress logs and a huge fieldstone fireplace. With the cattails and rushes, the view of the cabin from across the pond was stunning.”
“Originally, the cabin, which measured about twenty feet square, was partitioned into three rooms, with a tiny sleeping room at the northeast corner containing the trap door to the basement, a kitchen, and a living room. These partitions were removed separately after we took over the farm. The cabin had been built in 1928 [Merkle’s date], and the brick addition was constructed in 1946. The first year or two, there was no electric power or phone, and water was run by gravity from the well across the small pond into the basement (summer only). An outhouse was located in the apple orchard just west of the cabin. It was all very charming and rustic and we began by going out there weekends during the summer, and ‘camping’ in the cabin. We cleared the brush and weed trees from around the cabin and the grass leading down to the water of the two nearby ponds. We kept it mowed down with a gas powered hand pushed mower, and in a few years with a John Deere tractor with a lifting sickle bar on the side. The grass became a very credible lawn.”
The Merkle family held the property for 35 years, making countless trips from Evanston to their personal, family retreat enjoying all the rural countryside had to offer. After Frank Merkle’s death, the property was eventually acquired by the Schaumburg Park District in 1979.
One year later in 1980, the cabin was vandalized and a fire destroyed the guest house/hunting lodge behind the cabin. The Schaumburg Jaycees donated time and many of the building materials used in the renovation of the Merkle Cabin. The Spring Valley Nature Club also took it on as a project as well as the
Schaumburg Professional Firefighters Association.
In 1983 Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary opened and programs were held in the Merkle Cabin which operated as a temporary nature center and administrative office. Park District programs continue to be held in the Cabin to this day. The uniqueness of this structure lends itself nicely to the enclave that is Spring Valley. It’s wonderful that others outside of our area appreciate what it has to offer too!
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library