A historic log home that had stood in O’Fallon since perhaps the mid-1800s is being razed, but some of the material could find new life somewhere else.
When exactly the home at 412 S. Oak St. was built, or even if that was its original location, is unclear.
The house could be as old as O’Fallon itself.
“The log cabin was put on a brick foundation later in its life, which dates back to about mid-1850s,” said Paul McCleery, the current owner of the property.
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“The landlord told us it was one of the first 50 houses in O’Fallon, so there’s a lot of history there,” said Kathy Riedle, whose family lived in the home from 1994-2008.
The first lots in O’Fallon were sold at public auction in 1854 with the first public school built in 1861. O’Fallon was incorporated as a village in 1874.
Brian Keller, president of the O’Fallon Historical Society and O’Fallon History Museum curator, said the lot where the log cabin home is currently wasn’t part of the original town.
“It’s Deppe’s Addition to O’Fallon Station, dating to 1866,” Keller said.
However, Keller noted that “moving buildings around wasn’t uncommon” during that time frame.
“It could have been built there, or it could have been moved there,” said Keller. “I’m sure there are other log structures hiding behind siding in the older parts of O’Fallon still.”
According to St. Clair County property records, the two-story, three-bedroom home was built in 1877. But those records likely refer to the clapboard siding facade and other additions that, for more than a century, have hidden the log structure underneath.
“I could just envision the people back then and over time sitting on that back porch,” said McCleery, who along with his wife, Jeanne, own Paul and Jeanne Rentals LLC. They purchased the home last summer with plans to expand their local rental cache. It was when they were taking the side off, they found the home’s log skeleton.
“We always knew there was history there, but we were surprised to see what it looked like underneath the siding,” said Russell Riedle, Kathy’s husband.
“When I realized what was hidden under the surface, I turned to my wife and said, ‘I just can’t tear this history down and throw it in dumpsters. It’d be a cryin’ shame,’” McCleery said.
The building had extensive water and termite damage, so saving structure in its entirety was not an option. However, McCleery reached out to local historical societies for help with ideas of preserving at least parts property.
It took many months, but McCleery found Dave Green, of Carlinville, who has worked in O’Fallon for nearly 20 years.
“He really loves doing this sort of preservation work with old barns and homes,” McCleery said. “He is the right man for the job, and I know he’ll do it right.”
“In essence, I’ve always been a treasure hunter at heart,” Green said. “And you never know what you’re going to find.”
Green said he’s the “go-to-guy” when farmers or people know they are at a point when an old barn or home needs to come down.
“It’s through word of mouth, usually, because this is a hobby for me, not a job,” said Green, whose wife, Sasha, and three kids pitch in on projects too. “I save the foundation stones, the glass — anything really that has historical value or is interesting, like old wood and such.”
Two treasures Green found in the home he is donating to the O’Fallon History Museum. One is an old bottle. The second, which Green found inside the fireplace, was a heart-shaped padlock with “D.M. & Co.” embossed on the front, a signature of Davenport Mallory & Co. padlocks dating back to the 1860s.
Green said the tear down on S. Oak Street is still a work in progress.
“I still have to cut and collect whatever good sections, like the original floor joists, and then haul them home to be stored over the weekends,” he said.
Green said there are not enough good logs to put it all back together again, but what is left could also be reused to help build another structure or repurposed for smaller projects.
“It’s old-growth wood with the axe marks on them — it’s just classic,” said Green.
“I wish those logs could talk,” said McCleery. “I bet they’d have a lot to say.”
Green said that whatever logs he doesn’t use himself, he is willing to part with.
“They’re not spoken for at this point,” said Green.
McCleery said he’s just happy they will keep on telling their story.
“I’m very excited that we were able to help preserve history,” McCleery said.
As far as the future of lots, McCleery said they will be green space for now, until the economy improves. Eventually, he hopes to build two houses on the property that will match the neighborhood’s other homes.