photo: Jack Hughes
Back March 26, 2007
Travel Blog

The House that Deere Built

John Deere built the world’s first successful self-scouring steel plow 170 years ago. He built a company to manufacture plows that became wildly successful. Deere & Company survived its founder and went on to design and produce a variety of agricultural equipment over the years. Today’s products range from state-of-the-art combines and field tractors to lawn and garden equipment.However, what caught the eye of Illinois architects was not the plow or the industrial corporation Deere built. It was the house he built.

Deere’s home, which dates back to 1836, still stands in Grand Detour. The Council of the American Institute of Architects thinks so highly of it that members placed it on their newly created list of 150 Great Illinois Places. 

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Oct. 31. This will give local residents and tourists another reason to reacquaint themselves with Deere’s reconstructed blacksmith shop, the museum that stands over the excavated remains of his original blacksmith shop, a gift shop, the beautifully manicured grounds and, of course, the Deere home itself.

The list, created by the Council of the American Institute of Architects to celebrate its 150th anniversary, was meant to convey a sense of history and a view of the future. About 75 AIA architects and members gathered at the Illinois State Library for the selections’ unveiling.

“We’ve got an early log building, and we’ve got a new Hindu temple,” said Mike Jackson of the AIA. “The range of places is quite distinctive.”

The list showcases the quality of the “built environment” in Illinois, including parks and urban design, he said.

For a region where log cabins were the rule before the Black Hawk War of 1832, Deere’s board-sided house was a welcome taste of New England. Deere, who moved to Illinois from Vermont, brought his preferences in buildings with him.

The original house was not the building people see today. It started small. Over the years, additions were built as Deere and his wife, Demarius, had more children. Visitors now are ushered through a home with four rooms on the first floor and two rooms upstairs, most likely used as bedrooms.

Antique furnishings are from the era when Deere’s family occupied the house. One can imagine Demarius looking up from her meal preparations one day in 1837 as John marched into the kitchen to announce his steel-bladed plow actually sliced through the heavy, sticky, sod-covered prairie soil without bogging down. Maybe it was seated around the kitchen table that the Deeres discussed their future plans for the invention.

The Deere site deserves all the recognition it can get. Though three tourist sites in our area lost out in the current Seven Wonders of Illinois contest, the John Deere home has emerged to carry the Sauk Valley banner statewide.

Next time you’re in the neighborhood, go see the house that John built.

Article Originally published by Sauk Valley Newspapers
Copyright © 2007 Sauk Valley Newspapers Publish
Date: 3/26/2007
Author: Editorial and by Olivia Cobiskey SVN Reporter

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