Designated historically and architecturally significant, the property at 666 Mawman Avenue was recently honored with the Lake Bluff History Museum’s Distinguished Homes Award.
In today’s perspective, builder Henry Ostrander knew the value of location in real estate. When he built his house in 1854, the expanding railway system connecting Chicago to Waukegan was being built.
The Mawman home soon became a rooming house and tavern for railroad workers until the track was completed in 1855. Ostrander then made it is home, and donated a small portion of his fifty acres for a train depot on the condition that the area be called Rockland. It is assumed he choose the name from his hometown of Rockland, NY.
Ostrander became the Station Master of the depot as well as the Postmaster and ran a stage coach to Libertyville from his home, located in the middle of the original town center, the section of Mawman Road north of State Route 176.
Mawmans Buy Home in 1866
In 1866 the Ostranders sold out to Edward and Margaret Mawman, who moved the house away from the tracks, to its present location. For more than 121 years Mawmans lived in the home until the family sold it in 1987. The first native born Lake Bluff Village President in 1925, was born in the old Ostrander property.
In 1992, when Sheila and Roy Brandon purchased the oldest home in Lake Bluff, the advice they received was “not to try to straighten it; whatever it is it is.”
Knowing the property had been maintained by the previous owners, the Brandon’s, natives of Poole Dorset, England who moved to Lake Bluff in 1989 did not hesitate to buy the home when it came on the market at the same time their rental lease was expiring.
“It had a European feel of coziness as well as looking traditionally American,” Roy Brandon said. While renting, we’d walk our dog at night on Mawman, “We would see children playing and lights on all over the house, it looked lovely” said Sheila Bradon.
Once purchased, respecting the historic style was second nature to the England natives. Sheila, an artist by trade, drew out her vision of what the kitchen should look like. “In Old World Wisconsin they don’t have Formica or plastic in the kitchen,” she said.
Brandon designed a space where custom made drawers and cubbies were installed in the enlarged kitchen area. “I even wanted a basket for a trash can,” she said. “In 1854, they had baskets not plastic, but the family did not go for that.”
Brandons Maintain Landscaping
The Brandons have taken out a few trees but for the most part the landscaping has been kept wild like, simple as it should be, according to the Brandons.
“We did recover the barn, gave it a new roof, put brick over the dirt floor and on the path on the side and took down a tree that lifted the shed in the back of the barn,” Sheila said. It still has original sliding windows, hay loft, knob and tube wiring, and a space for the livestock in the back. In front is the antique water pump. An oil painting of the barn hangs in Sheila Brandon’s family room.
The rambling basement rooms, original skinny wood doors and rough cut support beams add to the charm.
“The house is nearly identical to its original design,” said Vliet Museum Distinguished Home Award Judge Paul Bergmann.