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Article updated: 5/5/2013 7:55 AM

Public tours of Dunham Castle give glimpses of old glory

By Elena Ferrarin

Wandering through the rooms of Dunham Castle in Wayne, it's easy to imagine its long gone glory days, elegant soirees with ladies in gloves and men in long coattails.

Today, only glimpses remain of the home's past grandeur, along with a lot of peeling paint, exposed beams and half-finished restoration work.

Catherine Forrest of South Elgin was among those who took advantage of a rare opportunity to tour the castle on Saturday. The castle will be open for tours today, too.

Forrest said she had always wanted to check out the castle's interior. "I love it. It's absolutely gorgeous," she said. Still, it broke her heart to see its poor condition, she added.

"It's pretty dilapidated," said visitor Zach Hartley of St. Charles. "It was interesting. I wish we could have seen more, I wish we could have seen the third floor."

Leslie Ebersole of real estate agency Baird & Warner said the third floor was off-limits because of safety concerns due to poor lighting. A two-day engineering study deemed the castle structurally sound, she added.

The three-story limestone and brick castle was built in 1885 by Mark Dunham, who inherited a farm from his father and expanded its land to 2,000 acres by building a Percherons horse breeding business.

After the death of Mark Dunham's son Wirth, Dunham Inc. was established and much of the land was sold in small parcels in 1933, Ebersole said.

The castle -- which sits on 15 acres and whose floors are more than 4,000 square feet each -- was converted into four apartments in 1953 and went through several owners until the Armbrust family of Glen Ellyn bought it in 1987. The property went into foreclosure about a year ago, Ebersole said.

A potential buyer has submitted a letter of intent to buy the castle, currently listed at $1.8 million, she said.

However, the village of Wayne has to first approve a zoning change to allow it to become a space for events, a move that would also require the approval of owners of 60 percent of the land that was divvied up in 1933, she said. "It's just an old Illinois law, but that's what has to happen," she said.

The real estate agency is planning two public meetings by the third week of June to present the buyer's plans, Ebersole said.

This weekend's public tours benefit the missions of the Little Home Church by the Wayside in Wayne, said church member Mary Roach, who grew up in Wayne. Roach said she's in favor of turning Dunham Castle into a space for events.

"I want to see it continue to stand and flourish as is. I don't think it's a single-family home opportunity in this economy," she said. "I think if it's done well, it could be spectacular."

Tours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Dunham Castle, 5N648 Dunham Road in Wayne. Tickets are $25 at the door.

Ÿ Daily Herald photographer Laura Stoecker contributed to this report.

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