DUNCAN MANOR, TOWANDA

2021 LANDMARKS ILLINOIS RICHARD H. DRIEHAUS FOUNDATION PRESERVATION AWARD FOR STEWARDSHIP

Through passion and creativity, David and Randi Howell have restored Duncan Manor, the 1866 Italianate farmhouse on old Route 66 near Towanda once listed on Landmarks Illinois’ Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. After purchasing the historic home in 2014, the couple embarked on a restoration project to make the then inhabitable home livable again. They began with installing heating, air conditioning, ventilation, plumbing, electricity and a new roof before moving on to more detailed preservation projects throughout the house. The Howells created a 501(c)3 foundation to keep this historically significant site open and accessible to the public. Today, the Duncan Manor is reopened and restored and is a popular and iconic destination for tours, concerts, weddings and other community events.

PROJECT PRINCIPALS

  • Randi & David Howell, Duncan Manor
  • Robert and Kathy Howell, Parents
  • Shelly Hershfelt, Parent
  • Dennis Barnard, Parent
  • Holly and Chris Bodily
  • Scott Myers and family
  • Harry Turner
  • Larum Dean
  • Mary Cluskey
  • Laura Rineer
  • John Sampson , John’s Plumbing
  • Mike and Mary Newman
  • Shane and Bridget Hawkins, Hawkins Paint Pros
  • Dan Bickerstaff
  • Ron Frazier
  • Nancy Miller
  • Stephanie Wood

LI ASKS: WHY IS THIS PLACE IMPORTANT TO YOU?

Randi & David Howell

We have heard two statements repeatedly since arriving on Duncan Manor’s doorstep: “It can’t be saved for less than a million dollars,” and “I was going to buy it, but….” Old buildings are being bulldozed without a second thought in our country because they are believed to be too expensive to upkeep. We think differently. If these historic structures die with us, we pass on no visual history of times past to our children. We fell in love with the beauty and resilience of this building, and we want other people to experience that same feeling again and again. Our history is important and is something that deserves to be preserved as do the buildings that represent our history. This house is our home, but it is a home we plan to share with the community as long as we are the stewards. Community goes further than the town in which we reside, we have discovered a preservation community on social media as well, and quickly realized that Duncan Manor has touched many hearts worldwide. Keeping this home and its history alive is important to us. Making sure that this beautiful piece of art is not turned into cornfields is important to us. Proving to the world that historic buildings can be an environmental benefit is important to us. We want to keep William Duncan’s story alive through our continued preservation efforts.

HOW DID SAVING THIS PLACE IMPACT PEOPLE IN YOUR COMMUNITY?

Randi & David Howell

Our goal is to become a place the community can visit for a reprieve from daily life. We believe we have been successful in achieving this goal thus far, but we definitely have more to offer.

Our first open house drew a crowd of 3,000 guests over two days, and from that point on our following grew. Over the past six years, we have held tours, open houses, intimate concerts, private dinners as well as weddings. We created Haunted History Tours with local theater troupe, Community Players Theater, and it became an annual event that kept guests coming back for more. A sold-out music festival, The Blues Bender, showcased local talent and became an event people are anxious for us to bring back. We always invite local businesses and vendors to set up booths to sell and promote their goods at each public event.

This house fascinates people and that is something that will never change. It’s idyllic location has made it a destination to watch for by people cruising Route 66, driving by on I55, or passing through via the Amtrak. Not only is it a local landmark, but a place admired worldwide. Through social media, we have developed a following well over 10,000 people and growing.

Duncan Manor has already provided many opportunities for others in our community and as we expand, it will continue to do so.

Learn more about the Duncan Manor

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