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posted: 9/14/2017 10:54 AM

'Munsters Mansion' in St. Charles gets a makeover

'Munsters Mansion' in St. Charles gets a makeover as Robin's Nest moves in

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  • The former dark green color and mysterious look of the house at 405 S. Seventh St. in St. Charles caused some to dub it the "Munsters Mansion."

      The former dark green color and mysterious look of the house at 405 S. Seventh St. in St. Charles caused some to dub it the "Munsters Mansion."
    Rick West | Staff Photographer, 2007

  • Today, the 1890s Victorian home has been given a new look with a coat of beige paint.

      Today, the 1890s Victorian home has been given a new look with a coat of beige paint.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer


The large house at the southwest corner of Seventh and Oak streets in St. Charles had been dark green for the past 50 to 60 years, making it stand out as a somewhat mysterious looking "mansion."

In fact, any kids who grew up in that neighborhood over the years had come to joke that the home looked like the "Munsters Mansion" from that 1960s comedy.

It was a fairly accurate way to describe this interesting house.

But it has turned a different shade now. The house, operating as a Robin's Nest assisted living site, is now beige.

It's an entirely new look for that building (an excellent one, by the way). It certainly causes a double-take from those who have driven by or lived near it for years.

The last time I spoke to the homeowner there, Annshirley Bowie, she was packing her bags in 2008 to move to Ohio to be close to her son because of her health problems.

Bowie had a run-in with the St. Charles Historic Preservation Commission when she wanted to sell to a developer who was looking to level the place and put up a bunch of new homes in that area.

As would be expected, the historic commission had a certain fondness for this Victorian-style house that was originally built in the 1890s. But they also were cognizant of Bowie's needs to move on, especially when plenty of neighbors and St. Charles residents aware of her plight spoke out for her in support.

When the commission backed off on the preservation hard line, the developer had already moved onto other things and Bowie was left with a house she couldn't move quickly enough in a dire economy and real estate market. Certainly not quick enough to fit in with her plans to move. She left it to other family members to sell, and she moved to Ohio.

We can't say for sure how it worked out for Bowie, but it all worked out well for the neighborhood and city because Robin's Nest eventually took over the property, and it has been a home for the elderly ever since.

And it looks to have new life at the moment.

Take care of it:

It makes sense that Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke would want some more teeth behind the city's desire for residents to take care of their property -- especially those who haven't done anything to improve their property and follow city codes after requests from the city to do so

After all, no one wants to deal with what St. Charles has in a couple of cases through the years with the Cliff McIlvaine property along Prairie Street, which was a decades-long home addition project, or when Sebastian Karsch's property north of the city had become akin to a junk yard and he ignored orders for years to clean it up.

(Despite the woes the city had with Karsch, no one wanted to see this eccentric fellow meet his demise the way he did -- being killed while riding his bike when struck by an allegedly drunken driver in West Chicago.)

All of these issues are different, and city departments have to be careful in how they handle them. But they all boil down to a basic question: How do you want the neighborhoods in your city to reflect on an overall image?

That's kind of where Schielke is at in trying to determine the best way to keep his city looking nice and dealing with stubborn residents who can't align with that way of thinking or, in some cases, don't have the financial wherewithal to do it.

Ultimately, most residents would find it reasonable to expect everyone to show some care for property and image.

Busy town:

Speaking of Batavia, there sure is a lot going on with sidewalks and gutters under repair and the work at the corner of Washington and Wilson streets for the future One Washington Place project, including the vacant Marathon gas station being torn down near that spot.

As long as there is so much activity, let me throw this idea out there yet again: Don't be afraid to bring up the need for another river crossing at some point.

Getting through the downtown along Wilson Street at rush hour remains one of the more rugged traffic jams in the entire region.

Book celebrates congregation:

Don Brod, a former Northern Illinois University journalism instructor and department head, has put his editing skills to work yet again.

And it ties in nicely with the Unitarian Universalist Society's 175th anniversary.

Brod edited a book of excerpts from fellow church members titled "Lighting the Chalice," which celebrates the founding of the congregation and the fact that the UUS-Geneva church has been at the corner of Second and James streets since 1843, a year after the congregation's founding.

A book launch party is planned at the church at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17.

In addition to an overview of the church's history, the book focuses on the last quarter century in explaining how the church has evolved and addressed some unique challenges.

Finding another spot:

The Spirit of Halloween store has taken up shop in the empty Office Depot site in the retail strip along Fabyan Parkway at Randall Road, after years of making its seasonal presence in the former Circuit City site.

It was almost an automatic move for the Halloween costume and supplies shop, considering that the Circuit City spot has been vacant for nearly a decade.

But that Circuit City site will soon have a new occupant as Sierra Trading Post is prepping the store to move in. A few months ago, word was that Sierra wanted to be up and running prior to Black Friday when the holiday shopping season moves into high gear.

Either way, the Spirit of Halloween found new digs not very far from the place it had called home for years.

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