Thinking outside the barn

Local couple to turn century-old farmstead into event center

Huntley, its leaders say, is “The Friendly Village with Country Charm.”

What does that really mean?

Chris and Barbara Lincoln have an answer to that question – buy a century-old farm and transform it into a major event site, and do it in historical restoration style.

The middle-aged Huntley couple is planning a unique “thinking outside the box” project. They plan to turn 2.75 acres of an old dairy farm into a venue for wedding receptions, corporate meetings, graduations, family reunions, and other gatherings. If their ambitious idea is approved by the village and at least one state agency, it would bring a unique and fascinating new facility to Huntley, which is experiencing major commercial, industrial, and residential growth in the past two decades.

This property was owned in the 1800s by John Conley, one of the area’s most prominent early settlers. More recently, it was operated as a dairy farm by the Heimsoth family. The village’s history is dominated by the dairy farm empire created here by enterprising farmers and builders from the early 1800s to the late 20th century.

This site was annexed by the village in 1995, when village leaders were anticipating development at the north end of the community.

“This expectation has come true with the development of the Talamore subdivision and now this proposal from the Lincolns,” said Charles Nordman, director of the village’s director of development services.

The proposal got an initial informal go-ahead from village trustees on November 2 and is in the village’s economic development review process. No activity in that process is expected until early next year, Nordman said.

Chris Lincoln is corporate vice president of purchasing for Glenview-based Ryan Building Group, one of the nation’s largest national home building organizations. Barb, as she likes to be called, is a creative interior designer who decorated model homes for home builders for many years. The couple came to Huntley about three years ago, living in a house near the village square.

They were driving on Route 47 one day in 2016 when they passed several farm buildings fronted by eight pillars. After inspecting the property and talking to the present owners, they bought 2.75 acres for $250,000 from the Wilkerson family, which has been using it as a tree-trimming business in recent years.

The Lincolns like the village’s “country charm” personality.

“We admire the history that is evident here in so many ways,” Barb Lincoln said. “At first, we thought the barn would be a great place for our kids, who are now college-age, when they get married. Then that idea quickly grew into a plan to transform the property into a unique business venture. We both have backgrounds in building design and development.”

“This project was originally Barb’s idea, and she’s kind of the project manager,” Chris said. “I can contribute with knowledge of construction and mechanical systems. I like to make ideas come to life with work and planning.”

The farm is located at 8401 N. Route 47, about a quarter-mile north of the Talamore residential development on Huntley’s far north side. The Lincolns purchased 2.75 acres for $250,000 in October 2016. They spent $100,l000 to renovate the farmhouse and moved in last April. The next step was to seek permission from the village for the transformation work.

At an informal meeting earlier this fall, village trustees reportedly liked the idea as a needed addition to the community, but they warned that the development approval process would be lengthy and detailed.

The property contains several buildings that need extensive repairs. The Lincolns plan to convert a large barn into a multi-level banquet and meeting hall that retains a rustic style but adds modern facilities. A one-time milk storage area would be converted into a bride’s room for weddings. They want to transform a smaller barn into a cocktail bar for smaller entertainment and social events, convert part of a corn crib into a groom’s room for weddings, and build a wrap-around porch on three sides of the house. Another red building would be transformed into a storage area. A landscaped courtyard would be created outside the large barn, right along Route 47.

Their proposal includes gravel parking areas behind the buildings, a septic system, and landscaped areas for small outdoor weddings and parties. The brick silo next to the large barn would be removed.

“We want to recreate an atmosphere of history and peaceful charm,” Barb said. “We hope people who come here will feel a sense of peaceful harmony.”

Huntley mixes history with robust industrial and commercial expansion with its location at the northwest edge of the Chicago suburban area. Evidence of the region’s early dairy farming history are still visible all across the area. Some abandoned, crumbling farm buildings remain, even inside the village limits. Other farms are operated by tenant farmers, some farmhouses have been renovated and rented, and Sun City’s 2,700 acres are located on land where farming activities were conducted as recently as 40 years ago.

The “rustic charm” concept is real, and would be enhanced significantly if the dream can be translated into reality some time next year, Barb said. When they bought the property more than a year ago, the Lincolns thought they might open their new “agribusiness” next summer. Now, however, they estimate that the approvals and renovations will take at least another year.

For major event venues, you need a creative name. Barb said they have chosen “Lincoln Farmstead.”

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