The Road Show Scenic Designation Highlights the Historic Buildings along McHenry's Plum Tree Road
Donovan, Deborah, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Deborah Donovan Daily Herald Staff Writer
Trees, especially old oaks, create canopies along McHenry County's first official scenic drive, while historic farm buildings peek out here and there.
Today Plum Tree Road in Barrington Hills and Fox River Grove will be officially dedicated in a ceremony as perhaps the first scenic road in Illinois.
The road is a typical blacktop - 18 to 20 feet wide and about 1 3/4 miles long - and runs from Algonquin and Braeburn roads in Fox River Grove east to Kelsey Road and Northwest Highway (U.S. Route 14) in Barrington Hills. A small chunk of the road skirts the eastern part of Lake County.
The scenic drive designation was established a few years ago to raise awareness of the beauty of the county and some of its historic features, said Gloria Mack, chairman of the McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission.
"It's a ceremonial-type designation with no restrictions," Mack said. "We hope people involved will appreciate and take care of the road."
Along the scenic drive, Bonnie Duresa is more interested in the vintage chicken coop behind one Fox River Grove house than she is in the huge Sanfilippo estate or the abode of a privacy-seeking television celebrity who lives up a hill.
Duresa spearheaded the application through the county commission and ended up becoming a member of the commission herself.
She says she sought this designation for two reasons - first, she hopes people will see the designation signs at each end and drive slowly along the road. (The speed limit has been lowered to 25 mph.) Second, appreciation of the sights and history might contribute to their preservation.
While all of the buildings are on private property, most of them are visible from the road, especially in the winter when the trees are bare.
Duresa recommends walking or riding a horse or bicycle along the scenic drive to make the most of the views.
Resident Jim Grosse and his family moved into one of the first homes in Fox River Grove's Foxmoor Estates, bordering the road, in 1990. His son, Chris, came running up and said there was a small house in the woods.
Grosse was skeptical, but it turns out there is a little wooden chicken coop among the trees, which is visible from the road.
A small brick smokehouse stands beside the Grosses' small swimming pool and near it is a stone carriage house.
Duresa believes the carriage house was built by a family named Houghtailing around 1890. The smokehouse and chicken coop are attributed to later owners, named the Jiras from about 1920.
One source says John Houghtailing acquired land in the area in 1856.
Grosse found evidence of the farmhouse foundation right behind his own house. An old windmill and milk house are on a neighbor's property, and in dry weather a path can still be seen across the suburban lawns.
Grosse, who builds exhibits for trade shows, said he appreciates the old buildings and says the farm outbuildings survived during development because it would have been costly to tear them down.
Not far east of Grosse's house, also on the north side of the road, is a grove of trees.
Duresa said this is visible on satellite maps of the area and is a strip of land donated by an early settler so children could walk to Oak Glen School.
The school building, now a home, is still on Algonquin Road near Fox River Grove's water tower. A small cemetery also is there.
The path is now part of the border between Barrington Hills and Fox River Grove. …