extravagant residence, built in 1883 by Mark Dunham (1842-1899),
stands as a monument to the once great horse business that
made the Dunham family rich and famous. Mark Dunham was
the youngest child of Solomon Dunham. Solomon had moved
to Chicago in 1835, and soon claimed land for himself in
the St. Charles area. On his newly aquired land, for which
he paid $1.25 per acre, the elder Dunham built a log cabin.
Later, this crude home would be replaced by a small brick
the death of his father, Mark Dunham inherited Oaklawn Farm.
Dunham had a great interest in horses, but especially a
breed know as the Percherons. These large draft horses from
France proved to be excellent in pulling farm equipment.
Dunham began importing and breeding these horses; in fact,
he was the first to do so. Not only did the horse breeding
earn Dunham vast sums of money, it also brought the gratitude
of both French and American people. The size of the farm
expanded to 2,000 acres and the breeding business flourished
until the early decades of the 20th century. Eventually,
the invention of the power tractor and other farm machinery
decreased the demand for such animals.
the height of business, Dunham decided to build a new home.
It was to be unlike any other in the area. The Dunhams based
the idea for the design of their new home on that of French
chateaux. With the assistance of Smith Hoag, an Elgin architect,
the home became a reality. The building, of brick, and stone,
with different colored slate roofing, stood surrounded by
woods, gardens, and a gently sloping lawn. The interior
sported parquet floors, statues, tapestries, and copies
of fine French artwork.
heyday, Dunham Castle played host to several famous people.
During the 1893 Colombian Exposition, a train from Chicago
to Wayne brought guests to see the Percheron horses. Those
that made the trip included Cyrus McCormick, George Pullman,
and the Duke of Veragua--a direct descendent of Christopher
Colombus. In the early 20th century, the residence served
as a retreat for such politicians as Adlai Stevenson and
the death of Mark Dunham in 1899, his son, Wirth, inherited
Dunham Castle. Upon Wirth's death in 1931, Dunham's Incorporated,
a real estate firm, was established. The firm sold parcels
of land for homes and estates to be built on. The Dunham
Woods Riding Club took over the original brick home of Solomon
Dunham in 1950. Meanwhile, the Castle fell under the ownership
of Mr. and Mrs. John Dole. In 1953, the home was converted
into four spacious apartments. Fortunately, no alteration
to the interior structure compromised the original character
of the house.
changing owners several times following its transformation
into apartments, the Griffins of Wayne bought the house
in 1976. During their ownership, the Griffins looked into
making the grand building into a museum, professional office,
or a private dining club. None of these ideas came to fruition.
In 1986, the home was again put up for sale. More than a
year later, David Armbrust of Glen Ellyn bought the home
for $750,000. The Armbrust family planned to restore the
building to its original purpose--a single family home.
can not conclude a brief history of Dunham Castle without
mentioning Jane Dunham. Much of the character of the residence
would have been destroyed had it not been for the foresight
and historical awareness of this lady. Miss Dunham grew
up in the Castle and had great memories of sliding down
the bannister. When the home was being divided up into apartments,
her insistance that the interior configuration be unchanged
preserved the home's integrity. Miss Dunham also stored
much of the family's furniture on the third floor of the
residence. When the Armbrusts bought the home in 1987 Miss
Dunham was delighted that her childhood home would again
be inhabited by a single family.
the decade prior to her death in 1995, Miss Dunham established
the Dunham-Hunt Museum in downtown St. Charles. It is the
existence of both this museum and the Dunham Castle that
celebrates the grand history of the Dunham family and its
great importance to the history of the area.
Charles Illinois p 113-114
Dunham Castle Vertical File
St. Charles Illinois p 105
Landmark Site--Dunham Castle..the Story-book Look Behind
the Tall Trees Where Army Trail and Dunham Rds Meet."
Fox Valley Airport Authority Oct. 1985.
Shirley. "A Prairie Princess Turned Preservationist."
Chicago Tribune 13 Aug. 1989, 18:1:4.
Charlotte. "For These New Owners, Their Home is a Castle."
Aurora-Beacon News 12 Sept. 1987, A2.
Carol. "Groovy Castle is Recognized." St. Charles
Chronicle 8 Aug. 1979, Our Towns Sect.
Carol. Dunham Castle: The Family, Grounds, and Building.
Katherine. "Landmark Up for Sale." Chicago Tribune
10 July 1986, 2:6B.
Bruce. "Splendor of Past Glory Lives on in West Suburban
Landmark 'Castle'." Chicago Tribune 31 May 1972,
Don. "Dunham Castle Valley Showplace, Started by Pioneer
in 1878." Aurora-Beacon News 13 August 1955,