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posted: 4/16/2017 6:00 AM

Log cabin brought the Northwoods to the suburbs

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  • Kevin Sherman in the gathering room of his log cabin in Barrington Hills.

      Kevin Sherman in the gathering room of his log cabin in Barrington Hills.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The earliest known photo of the log cabin in Appleton, Wisconsin, before it was moved to Barrington Hills.

    The earliest known photo of the log cabin in Appleton, Wisconsin, before it was moved to Barrington Hills.
    Courtesy of Sherman family

  • Kevin Sherman in the gathering room of his log cabin in Barrington Hills.

      Kevin Sherman in the gathering room of his log cabin in Barrington Hills.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Sunroom of Kevin and Laurie Sherman's log cabin in Barrington Hills.

      Sunroom of Kevin and Laurie Sherman's log cabin in Barrington Hills.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Sunroom of Kevin and Laurie Sherman's log cabin in Barrington Hills.

      Sunroom of Kevin and Laurie Sherman's log cabin in Barrington Hills.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Kevin and Laurie Sherman's log cabin in Barrington Hills.

      Kevin and Laurie Sherman's log cabin in Barrington Hills.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Kevin and Laurie Sherman's log cabin in Barrington Hills.

      Kevin and Laurie Sherman's log cabin in Barrington Hills.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • One of the bedrooms in Kevin and Laurie Sherman's log cabin in Barrington Hills.

      One of the bedrooms in Kevin and Laurie Sherman's log cabin in Barrington Hills.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent

Authentic hand-hewn log homes that date back to the 1800s are few and far between in northern Illinois. Those that might have been built in this area back then have long since been torn down and replaced.

But there is currently such a home on the market in Barrington Hills.

The log cabin was originally built around 1855 in Appleton, Wisconsin, by Scandinavian or German settlers. It was disassembled, moved and rebuilt in Illinois in 1987.

As the story goes, Bill Ryan of Barrington met Bob Rainek of Wisconsin Historical Log Homes at a home show at Arlington Park. He purchased the historic building and had Rainek and his crew rebuild it on a new foundation on the Ryan family's 1.2-acre lot.

No details on the original owners or history of the home are available, despite inquiries to the Appleton Historical Society and other Wisconsin historical entities. But log cabin experts say log homes were generally built of oak, cedar or tamarack by Germans or Swedes because such buildings were common in their home countries. Log construction was not, however, widely practiced in England, so English settlers generally did not build them.

This particular home was built using white oak logs of varying circumferences with half-dovetail notches that fit together like a piece of furniture. The beauty of its interior is enhanced by the look of the carved logs with the mortar, much like exposed brick walls have recently acquired a cache.

Just like intricate woodwork in a grand Victorian is precious, so is the hand-craftsmanship involved in a cozy log cabin. They both reveal an important sense of history and our progress as humans.

The current owners, Kevin and Laurie Sherman, said it was "love at first sight" when they purchased the home from the Ryans in 1995. A licensed architect and general contractor, Sherman has designed and constructed many improvements and additions over the past 22 years.

"We came out to look at it out of curiosity and absolutely fell in love with the place," Kevin said recently. "It was all made of hand-hewn logs and I know the amount of labor involved in that -- and when you think that they were doing that all those years ago on the fringe of civilization and survived, it is even more impressive. They put their lives and soul into advancing civilization and creating the best lives they could."

Today the home features a cedar-shake roof with copper flashing, distressed pine plank floors, knotty pine plank interior doors and rough-sawn cedar window frames and sills. The basement recreation room boasts wainscoting made of salvaged barn wood and the home's two fireplaces both feature bricks salvaged from the old Chicago stockyards.

"We essentially remade the whole house. We put in recessed lighting that shines on the log walls for a more dramatic look," Kevin said. "We also made the large summer porch into a dining area and sunroom with heated slate floors and a tongue-in-groove knotty pine ceiling and we renovated the kitchen/gathering space, putting in new cabinets, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and radiant-heated floors."

In 2006 they added a wing over the 3.5-car garage. It includes an office and a large master bedroom suite with a huge dressing area. So the home now features five bedrooms (three on the second floor, one in the basement and the master on the main floor) and 4½ baths. Skylights dot the upper floor and there are picturesque nooks throughout the home.

"We pinch ourselves all the time that we are lucky enough to live here," Kevin said. "It is beautiful here all year because we have wildflowers, a 110-foot stream, a stream-fed pond with two waterfalls, stone retaining walls, a 5-foot fire ring with stone surround, a tree house, wood chip walking paths and a huge variety of trees."

The home is going to appeal to a niche buyer -- someone who really likes old homes and isn't afraid of them, said Lori Rowe of Coldwell Banker in Long Grove. She is the log cabin's listing agent.

"It needs to find a buyer who likes homes which have a story to tell and who is attracted to homes with old craftsmanship," she said. "This particular home features historic architecture but it has been perfectly blended in a period-appropriate manner -- with modern amenities. The Shermans have maintained the integrity of the log cabin when they have made their upgrades and additions."

Because it is so unique, it was difficult to price, Rowe admitted. After studying other historic homes that have sold, she and the Shermans settled on an asking price of $795,000.

"It is not that easy to find a cool, historically significant house, if that is what you want," Rowe said. Similarly, it can be a challenge to find the right buyer. So, Rowe hired a drone to fly over the property and photograph the scope of it and she is making significant use of all types of advertising, including targeted websites, Facebook, other forms of social media, as well as conventional media and word-of-mouth.

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