Geneva church to show off renovations to 1854 house

Frances Lawson

You can tell David Walker is a project coordinator when he walks around the renovated Larrabee House on St. Mark’s Church campus near downtown Geneva. “We need to get this floor cleaned up a little bit,” Walker says as he heads down a hallway connecting the church to the historic […]

You can tell David Walker is a project coordinator when he walks around the renovated Larrabee House on St. Mark’s Church campus near downtown Geneva.

“We need to get this floor cleaned up a little bit,” Walker says as he heads down a hallway connecting the church to the historic house at 327 S. Fourth St.

He tells St. Mark’s rector, Father Mark Tusken, to remind him to contact someone about another minor fix needed. He wonders out loud about the lack of some plantings in the walkway at the hallway entrance but mostly continues to marvel at how the long project to restore Larrabee all worked out.

Walker had plenty to do with the magnificent transformation of this 1854 building. Its history is not lost on Walker or anyone else at St. Mark’s who realized there was an opportunity for the congregation to create a space to serve the church and community well into the future.

William Larrabee was Geneva’s mayor in 1869, and his home has always caught the eye of historians and residents, especially those making their way toward The Little Traveler across the street.

St. Mark’s purchased that house, called the Blatner House at the time, in 1960 for $70,000 to create a home for the parish rector.

It took the better part of 2019 to get the estimated $1.3 million renovation project through the city’s historic preservation commission and city planners. The extensive work finally allowed for an occupancy permit in early August of 2020. It was just in time to be in the throes of COVID-19, so the church couldn’t open its arms to the community and show off the renovated building.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

The church hopes to atone for the delay in the reveal by holding a ribbon-cutting and opening ceremony planned for 10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 12. If COVID-19 outbreaks don’t create more lockdown scenarios over the next few months, it is hoped that service clubs and various organizations or businesses will take advantage of the meeting room inside the house.

“There are not a lot of places to hold a meeting in downtown Geneva,” Walker said. “The new library has some meeting space, but there is nothing within a block of downtown.”

Walker noted that the late Bob Untiedt, owner of Graham’s Chocolate, was building a larger space for meetings in the second level of his renovated Graham’s 318 Coffeehouse.

“It was like we were in a contest to see who could get done first,” Walker joked. “We had a great relationship with Bob and Graham’s and actually helped each other with our projects.”

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

The Larrabee House now brings the community meeting room, an area for teens and some library space connected to a site for Sunday school classes.

Tusken marvels at what Walker, project general manager Arney Silvestri and the work crews delivered to the Episcopal congregation.

“This church started in the 1830s, and the building of the chapel was in 1868, so that was 153 years ago,” Tusken said. “I don’t think there is another business, school or bank that has been in the same spot in town for 153 years.”

That was a mindset that guided the Larrabee House project, Tusken noted. “When doing an addition like this, you can’t just think about the next 10 years or the next generation. You have to think about the next 100 years.”

For his part, Walker feels he will ultimately be leaving behind something that turned out the way he wanted it to.

“I give a lot of credit to Arney Silvestri on this, but when he said what his vision was for something, it was what I saw too,” Walker said. “We had some general renderings of what it would look like, and I think it turned out as close to what we wanted as possible.”

They want riders, volunteers

Another physically challenged child will receive an adaptive bike as part of a contest connected to the annual Everybody Rides event Sunday, Aug. 15, at the Bike Rack in St. Charles.

It marks the ninth year that Bike Rack owner Hal Honeyman and his family have hosted the Project Mobility event as an all-inclusive bike ride for children and adults riding various distances or participating virtually.

“We have a couple hundred riders signed up this year, and we would like more riders,” said Tammie Simmons, sister of Honeyman and an organizer of the event, along with daughter Katherine Reda. “The all-virtual event went well last year, and we wanted to add that option this year,” Simmons said.

“We are concerned about the new COVID strain and have to be cautious, as there are so many unknowns, so we have to go back to some things we had in place before.”

Each year, Freedom Concepts has provided a three-wheeler bike as a giveaway through a contest on Facebook.

As far as riding an adaptive bike, The Bike Rack brings enough equipment for those who may register but not own a bicycle they can ride.

Those interested in participating or volunteering can register on the everybodyride.org website or contact Reda at (630) 464-2991.

Getting to the final inning

As he prepares himself for retirement from a job in which he was on his feet most of the time, Dan Klinkhamer of St. Charles is thankful for a key thing.

“I still have my original knees,” Klinkhamer said, though he admits that working 30 seasons and an estimated 2,300 games as a security guard and then chief security officer for the Kane County Cougars at Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva has “taken its toll.”

There would be one other aspect that Klinkhamer, a former commander in the St. Charles Police Department, would know about his long stint with the Cougars.

“The pork chops are as good as ever,” he noted.

Klinkhamer has fewer than 20 games left to work, finishing with a longevity mark that runs parallel with his policing career. He was with the police for 29 years, with the Cougars for 30 years, and did both jobs simultaneously for about 12 years.

So what do we say about that kind of commitment to keeping people safe? This is a guy who knows about security and, by way of spending that much time at a ballpark, surely knows his baseball.

Penny candy heaven

When I enter the Pearly Gates to meet my maker, he may ask what I felt was the most wonderful thing of my life besides the obvious family, friends and pets that most others would gush about.

At least in part, my heaven on earth from early years to the present day is coming upon a display of penny candy and the joy of picking out what you want.

It may not actually cost a penny now, but the concept is the same as the corner store in my Chicago neighborhood in the 1950s.

That’s why it’s been great to hear that Hearth & Hammer General at 319 Main St. in Batavia has added a candy selection. This store boasts a rotating selection of penny candy and chocolate bars. It’s not open every day of the week, so you have to pick your spots between noon and 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

For those who like this sort of candy selection, don’t forget that Rocket Fizz in St. Charles had one of the best in the area. But that store is in an ownership transition, so we have to wait and see how that one plays out. There may be a few others in the Tri-Cities that I have not yet visited.

Of course, the Little Popcorn Store on Front Street in Wheaton has long been a great destination to take a young kid for penny candy.

I also went into Naperville Nuts and Sweets not long ago, and I’d still stop in there for the licorice anytime I’m in town.

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