(Pictured (Left to right): Joe Daviess Conservation Foundation Director of Land & Conservation Jim Johannsen, Landmarks Illinois Director of Reinvestment Suzanne Germann, Joe Daviess Conservation Foundation Executive Director Steve Barg, Charles Wenner House owners Brian McCormick and Rob Latousek, and Joe Daviess Conservation Foundation Board President Emily Painter at the Charles Wenner House in Galena in October 2022.)
December 8, 2022
(This article originally appeared in our November 2022 edition of our print newsletter, The Arch. Read The Arch here. )
While studying in the preservation program at the University of Illinois’ School of Architecture in 1984, Brian McCormick listed the Charles Wenner House in the National Register of Historic Places for a class project. Little did he know, it would turn into a lifelong project to restore the 1850s farmhouse and surrounding farmland in rural Jo Daviess County.
The house, with twenty-inch thick walls constructed of locally quarried limestone, represents a vernacular type dwelling constructed by settlers who came to Galena to work the lead mines. The house has a storied past as a residence, corn crib, and sitting vacant for many years before Brian and his husband Rob Latousek began their restoration project. The house and surrounding land have been in Latousek’s family for generations. Brian spent most of his career as a preservation architect at the Wisconsin Historical Society while working on the farmhouse with Rob on the weekends.
Brian and Rob have donated a preservation easement to Landmarks Illinois on the house to ensure its preservation while also making a donation of a conservation easement on the surrounding 68-acre property to the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation (JDCF). This partnership between the property owners, JDCF and LI is a model for others who wish to protect a historic structure in its natural environment. This is only the second time that LI has entered into a partnership of this kind. The other property is in suburban DuPage County.
While much of the City of Galena is located within a National Register Historic District and Landmarks Illinois holds easements on four properties in the downtown, the Charles Wenner House is the only property protected with a preservation easement and the only property listed in the National Register outside of the downtown.