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  • Writer's pictureKatharine Korte Andrew

The History of 505 South County Line Road

Early History

The residence at 505 South County Line Road was built in 1901 by the Lemuel Hinton Freer family on about 50 acres of land. It included multiple barns and world-famous kennels. The original structure stood four stories tall over a basement.

Freer bought the land from Mr. Phipps. Previously, the land was owned by M. J. Morris, who had begun to build a home there, but construction was halted because of the “Panic of 1893,” an economic depression that hit America in 1893 and continued to 1897.

To design the home, Freer employed La Grange-based architect Joseph Corson Llewellyn, who was known for his work on industrial buildings.

505 South County Line Road, circa 1910.
505 South County Line Road, circa 1910.

Builder and First Owner: Lemuel Hinton Freer and Family

Lemuel Hinton Freer was one of Hinsdale’s most prominent and well-respected residents in the early 1900s. His family has a deep history in the development of the region.

Lemuel Hinton Freer, circa 1915.
Lemuel Hinton Freer, circa 1915.

His father, L. C. Paine Freer, was one of Chicago’s pioneers, settling there in 1836. L. C. Paine Freer was also one of the first men admitted to the Illinois bar and heavily invested in land, most of which laid within today’s Chicago “loop.” L. C. Paine Freer was born in New York State and studied law with James H. Collins, a lawyer who became known as the attorney you wanted in Chicago if you were arrested for sheltering freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad. L. C. Paine Freer was known to chase slave-catchers on horseback and helped free multiple people escape slavery.

Lemuel Hinton Freer's father Lemuel Covell Paine Freer
Lemuel Hinton Freer's father Lemuel Covell Paine Freer.

Lemuel was born in Chicago and gained his business education there. However, at 28 years old, he experienced contracted tuberculosis and in hopes of curing it, he moved to Colorado, acquiring a large ranch there. In 1870, he married Clara Raymond Fowler in Canyon City, Colorado. They had four children together: Mabel, Raymond, Margaret, and Elsie. After the death of his first wife, he married Mae Bradford, with whom he had two children: Norman and Bradford “Bunt.”

In 1893, the Freer family left Colorado and returned to the Chicago area, settling in La Grange until about 1902, when Lemuel built his first Hinsdale home, the present 505 South County Line Road.

According to his obituary,

“Mr. Freer was a man of rare culture, a lover of the fine things of life, and his wealth enabled him to surround himself and family with treasures of art and literature that were daily a source of deep enjoyment to him. He loved the quiet suburban life, which he lived with a delightful simplicity. Those who knew Mr. Freer intimately best appreciated his rare character and kindly nature. Many philanthropies benefited from his gifts, made without ostentation and many unknown even to his own family. While never accepting official positions in either the civic or social organizations of Hinsdale, Mr. Freer ever had a deep interest in every worth-while movement in this suburb and was closely attached to many of the movements that are developing this suburb into its present municipal and community superiority.”

Photograph of the Freer family.
The Freer Family around 1914.

The Freer Family around 1914: Row 1 (L-R): Norman Freer Margaret Freer Grulee, Lemuel Raymond Freer Sr., Elise Freer Howe, William Bradford Freer, Mabel Freer Dyas (holding Elizabeth Freer Dyas), Clifford Grulee Sr., Frederick George Dyas Sr., and Roland Howe holding Hinton Howe.

Row 2 (L-R): Marjorie Story Freer (holding Lemuel Raymond Freer Jr.), Mary Bradford Freer holding Jane Freer Dyas, Margaret Freer Howe, Lemuel Hinton Freer holding Frederick George Dyas Jr. and Mary Freer Grulee.

Row 3 (L-R): Catherine Freer Howe, Clifford Grulee Jr., and Roland Howe Jr.

Architect & Contractor

To design the home, Freer employed La Grange-based architect Joseph Corson Llewellyn, who was known for his work on industrial buildings. At the time he was commissioned to design the Freer home, he was the head of the Chicago Architectural Club and had just been appointed president of the Architectural League of America.

Unfortunately, no known photographs of Llewellyn have been identified, however, the Art Institute of Chicago’s digital collections does have two photographs of the staff of J. C. Llewellyn and Associates.

Llewellyn became known for his designs of school buildings, many of which were around the Chicagoland area, including the Aurora School District 131 high school building (1911-1912), Brookfield School District 95 building and addition (1921-1927), Crystal Lake Community High School (1922-1923), two grammar school buildings in Downers Grove (1928), Dundee Community High School (1921), additions to the Lyons Township High School, and more. He also designed multiple churches in DuPage County and worked with many companies in Chicago on their industrial buildings.

Llewellyn's sketch for Lyons Township High School
Llewellyn's sketch for Lyons Township High School

The work carried out in building the estate at 505 South County Line Road was done by Adolph Froscher. Froscher was a well-known contractor in Hinsdale and was a member of the Hinsdale Board of Trustees for many years. Froscher was born in Germany in 1843 and served in the army there as a corporal. After his service, he came to Chicago in 1869 and later, in the early 1870s, came to Fullersburg where he married Dorothea Wegener, whose father was a millwright at Graue Mill during its haydays.

Graue Mill, where Adolph Froscher's father-in-law was a millwright.
Graue Mill, where Adolph Froscher's father-in-law was a millwright.

Froscher was often employed to build circular stairs for church steeples throughout Hinsdale and the surrounding areas, possibly the only individual skilled enough for this work. While he had no academic training as an architect or engineer, he was extremely accomplished. Other buildings in the area credited to Adolph Froscher included the former Hinsdale Club, Barth Pharmacy, 318 South Garfield, 104 East Fourth, 333 South Park, 222 East Sixth, 106 East Eighth, 8 East Third, and more.

Early History: A Four-Story Home

The home, coach house, and two additional homes on the south side of 505 South County Line Road were designed by Joseph Corson Llewellyn and built by Adolph Forscher. These two additional homes, at 611 and 625 South County Line Road, were occupied by the grown and married children of Lemuel Hinton Freer. Llewellyn also designed the stable, silo, and gardener’s cottage. The stable and silo were connected and had a basement and two stories, including an office space.

505 S. County Line Rd., circa 1914.

Joseph Corson Llewellyn designed the four-story red brick house in an “L” shape, with the two main facades being the west facade abutting County Line Road and the north facade along the home’s driveway. At the time of the original construction, the home had a gable roof system that followed the “L” shape of the building.

According to a descendant of the Freers, there was a large fireplace at the south end of the living room on the first floor. A hallway connected the front entrance to the living room and the living room opened onto the large dining room, which, in turn, opened onto the heated sun porch, which had both east and south exposures. A spiral staircase led from the front hall to a long hallway on the second floor of the home. There, Mrs. Mae Freer’s sitting room and bedroom were opposite the staircase with bedrooms on either side of her quarters. The third floor contained the billiard table and ballroom, while the fourth floor housed the live-in servants. A bowling alley was located in the basement of the home.

Plans drafted by Llewellyn show that the second floor of the home contained a linen room and large cedar-lined closet, sun room, bedroom, library, multiple family bedrooms, three bathrooms, and at least four dressing rooms or large closets.

In 1910, the home was the setting of the wedding of Mabel Freer, Lemuel’s daughter, and Dr. Frederick George Dyas.

“Mom recalls the angst of family holiday dinners. Grandmother Freer (Mae) required everyone at the table to move to a new seat between courses, sort of musical chairs. Mae’s objective was to have all family members converse with each other. This was not a popular ritual. Tableware and silverware had to be moved, creating quite a mess. Something was always left behind or ‘lost’. Mae had definite ideas and no one dared to express displeasure.”

--Quote from Carol Markman Jacus, “The Freer Family Home”; report to the Hinsdale Historical Society, 2001; A.; 505 South County Line Road; House Files; Archives, Hinsdale Historical Society, Hinsdale, Illinois.

“Grandfather Freer (Lemuel) could be equally stern. When one of the children complained that the chocolate sauce on ice cream tasted ‘funny,’ Grandfather said, ‘Nonsense! It’s perfectly delicious!’ However, when he was served that same sauce, it became quite clear that it was gravy!”

--Quote from Carol Markman Jacus, “The Freer Family Home”; report to the Hinsdale Historical Society, 2001; A.; 505 South County Line Road; House Files; Archives, Hinsdale Historical Society, Hinsdale, Illinois.

Early Residents: Freer Staff

The Freer family were not the only occupants of the home in its early years, as they had a large staff, including Irish-born chauffeur James Kinney and gardener William Eggert.

The gardener and the cook, Harry and Mary Miller, lived in an English Tudor-style cottage at the northeast corner of the lot. Harry was responsible for the maintenance of the grounds, the greenhouse, and did heavy chores indoors, while Mary was in charge of the kitchen and “supervised the young Irish girls, recent immigrants, in the Freer employ.”

1915-1918: Roger Charles Sullivan

Roger Charles Sullivan, wife, and daughter. Circa 1914.
Roger Charles Sullivan, wife, and daughter. Circa 1914.

By 1915, the Freer family moved from the home and sold it to Roger Charles Sullivan. Sullivan was the owner of the Sawyer Biscuit Company, which later became part of Keebler, former president of the Ogden Gas Company, and a leading political figure in Chicago. At the time of his residency here, he was the so-called “democratic boss of Chicago politics” and had just narrowly lost a race for a senate seat in the elections of 1914. Sullivan dominated the Illinois Democratic Party for two decades and was a national figure during the age when urban Democratic organizations reached the height of their power and prestige.

At the time of his acquisition of 505 South County Line Road, the home was “not yet quite finished.”

It is unclear how long Sullivan occupied the home, but within a few years, Francis Stuyvesant Peabody acquired the home for his son Stuyvesant Peabody, known then as “Jack.”

1918-1934: The Peabodys

It is unclear how long Sullivan occupied the home, but within a few years, Francis Stuyvesant Peabody acquired the home for his son Stuyvesant Peabody, also known as “Jack.”

Francis Stuyvesant Peabody was the founder of the Peabody Coal Company and built the Mayslake estate in what is now Oak Brook. By the time he acquired the home his son, Stuyvesant “Jack”, had succeeded his father as president of the company. Stuyvesant had earlier married Anita Healy, daughter of Patrick J. Healy.

Stuyvesant "Jack" Peabody

During World War I, Stuyvesant "Jack" Peabody served as a Captain in the Chemical Warfare Service.

Architect: David Adler

After acquiring the home, the Peabody’s asked David Adler to redesign and renovate the main floor of the home.

David Adler was an American architect who practiced mostly within the Chicagoland area. He was born in Milwaukee and trained in Europe. He was prolific throughout his over thirty-five-year career, designing over 200 buildings. Adler began his career as an architect for Howard Van Doren Shaw in Chicago, who was considered the foremost architect of country houses in the Chicago area. Later, Adler himself became “considered one of America’s premiere 'Great House' architects, David Adler (1882-1949) left behind a legacy of grandeur and elegance that has never been equaled.” At least 12 of his works are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Adler’s clients included many of America’s leading entrepreneurs, including Stuyvescant “Jack” Peabody. Interestingly enough, while being Chicago’s “society architect,” he shunned public attention, and his clients were never solicited–they could have hired anyone, but they hired him. Adler was friends with many Modern architects including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who he recommended to head the new architecture school of the Armour Institute of Technology (now IIT) in Chicago. While close to many Modern architects, Adler chose to work mostly within the classic vocabulary, inspired by the architecture of the past. Adler was also a long-time board member of the Art Institute of Chicago.

David Adler
David Adler

1918-1920s: Adler’s Renovations

After acquiring the home, the Peabody’s asked David Adler to redesign and renovate the main floor of the home. Adler put pillars on the front of the house. Adler also brought paneling from an old library in England, installing it in the Library in what had originally been the entrance hall and adjoining parlor in 1919. Adler built the ladies’ drawing room using the outer form of the original house and adapting it to its current octagonal design. While he redesigned the entrance hall, Adler was not permitted to move or change the original staircase. He also renovated the living room and dining rooms. It is known that Adler intended to remodel the upper floors of the house, but this was never carried out and they remained largely untouched, for reasons unknown.

The Peabodys continued to use the Freer’s ballroom, which was located on the third floor, not as a dance floor, however, but as a boxing ring that had been built in the space. In the 1920s, The Players of Hinsdale, a theater group, performed comedies and plays on the lawn of the residence, including a three-act comedy by Edmond Rostand entitled “Romantics.”

The Peabodys sold the home in 1934 to William W. Thompson and his wife, Florence.

Removal of the Upper Floors

The reasons for the removal of the third and fourth floors are largely unknown.

One source states that in the early 1930s, the occupants, the Raymond family, who were likely renters of the home, suffered financial hardships and were unable to heat the upper floors or repair a major leak in the ballroom. Thus, the floors fell into disrepair and were removed.

Another source identifies the top two floors as being in a state of disrepair and due to this was skillfully and expertly removed, the brick was sold and the material was recycled into another home built in Hinsdale (address unknown, but allegedly since demolished).

A third source alleges that a fire destroyed a significant portion of the ballroom, causing its removal.

Another account states that “it was believed that the Duncans removed the top floor of the home (containing a ballroom) in the late 1930’s.”

An additional story comes from a descendant of the Duncan Family, who owned the home beginning in 1934, who stated that by the time the Duncans moved in, the third and fourth stories were gone and it was theorized that William W. Thompson “was trying to sell this enormous home and acres of property during the Depression; according to rumors floating around the home, he believed that by removing the top stories (and ‘extravagant’ features like a ballroom) would help to sell it.”

505 S. County Line Rd., circa 1935-1945, after the removal of the upper floors.
505 S. County Line Rd., circa 1935-1945, after the removal of the upper floors.

1930s-1974: Later Owners

In 1934, the Peabodys sold the home to Florence and William W. Thompson. While the Thompsons owned the home, they rented out the house. Two families who have been identified as occupying the home while the Thompsons owned the property were the Phelps family and the Raymond family. The Phelps family had previously rented the “Hallmark House” at 142 East First Street.

The Raymond family occupied the home in the 1930s. In 1935, the Raymond’s daughter married Fred Krehbiel’s uncle, Bill Veeck in the home. In the late 1930s, the Raymonds could no longer afford to maintain the home and moved.

In 1944, the property was sold to Mrs. Vacia Duncan. The Duncans owned the home until their death, upon which the property was transferred to their daughter, Wilma Duncan Castle. Vacia and her and her husband were the founders of the former Spinning Wheel Restaurant.

1974-2023: The Krehbiels

Fred and Kay Krehbiel purchased the home in 1974. When they bought the home, it still had some of its original elements of the old house, including the maid’s bedrooms, and cedar-lined room-sized closets, but these were gradually altered as the home was restored.

Extensive work was carried out on the home beginning in the 1980s overseen by architect Thomas Beeby, a partner in the Chicago firm of Hammond, Beeby and Babka. They added, among a complete addition to the home, two sun rooms, the guest apartments, and made major changes throughout the home. One thing that they didn’t change was the old bowling alley that was installed in the basement.

Fred and Kay Krehbiel.
Fred and Kay Krehbiel.

Fred Krehbiel was the nephew of Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck and headed Molex, an electronic components company founded by his grandfather in 1938. Fred found great success in taking the business internationally during his time as president and CEO.

Additional renovations and decorative changes were made by the Krehbiels, designed by Imogen Taylor and Colin Orchard, decorators for the London-based design firm Colefax and Fowler, founded by Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler. They collaborated with the Kreihbals not just on their Hinsdale home, but also on their homes in Palm Beach and Ireland.

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