Country club hills officials consider converting ex-farm to museum site – daily southtown

In 2007, Country Club Hills purchased the property for $365,000, with possible plans then to convert it into an equestrian center, officials said.

Now, officials said they believe a museum might better suit the community.

Ford said an agreement with Stelter allows her to remain in the home until her death, at which time the city will begin converting the home and grounds. Some renovations are scheduled for this spring, but the city will take care not to disturb Stelter, Ford said..

“What we’ll do now is make sure the property is maintained,” Ford said. “We have it in our budget this year to have the exterior of the house painted… and that can be done while she’s still living there. As far as anything else, we would not change anything else until we have possession of the property. We would not want to disturb her lifestyle…”

Plans for what would be the southwest suburbs’ first indoor go-kart track featuring electric go-karts are racing ahead.

Mokena officials last month approved a special use permit for Accelerate Indoor Speedway, a proposed 75,000-square-foot facility that also would have a restaurant, arcade and… (Mike Nolan)

Even though Stelter is aging, she keeps active. She continues maintains her home and its bordering flower beds with flowers dating back to the bulbs shipped from Germany in the 1840s.

Stelter said she works at St. John’s Lutheran School where she is one of two monitors starting at 6:30 a. m. for up to 25 kindergarten through eighth grade students.

As a former Matteson resident, Stelter also became a member of the Matteson Historical Society about 15 years ago and remains active with that group. She brought her experience to the Country Club Hills Historic Commission several years ago.

“I figured I could add and help with whatever I know,” she said.

The woman, who married into the Stelter family in 1942, said she and other members of the commission are working on compiling information for a book about Country Club Hills.

As a long-time Country Club Hills resident, Stelter brings some valuable memories to the commission’s work of her life with her husband William, deceased in 1996, and their children, Bill and Dorothy. She said she remembers having no refrigeration until after World War II, using water from the hand dug well and carbide gas systems for lighting until they were proven to be too dangerous for home use.

Having had no luck finding someone willing to keep Balmoral Park operating as a harness racing track, owners of the historic park near Crete have set a June 2 auction for the property.

A New York firm, Keen-Summit Capital Partners, has been hired to solicit bids for the nearly 200-acre property… (Mike Nolan)

Surrounded by farmland until development happened in the 1950s, Stelter said her children had no playmates other than each other. She remembers having an unobstructed view of St. John’s Lutheran Church steeple from her home, the oldest church in Country Club Hills, as she looked across the open fields.

Memories are aplenty, but Stelter defers to her son, Bill Stelter, for hard facts about the history of the farm. The 70-year-old man, now of Lemont, said he has been working on the family history since childhood and is putting it into a book called “Cooper’s Grove Stories,” specifically so his grandchildren will know their family history.

Bill Stelter said the home is currently on two acres of the original 120 acre homestead.

The 153-year-old farmhouse was preceded by a log cabin built by the Stelters when the land was homesteaded in 1849, and there is a deed signed by President Millard Fillmore to prove it, Bill Stelter said.

The land was farmed for four generations, and just about everything from beef cattle to chicken’s eggs and vegetables was sold to local stores to make a living, he said.

Mary Kuta, Country Club Hills Commission chairperson, said the commission wants to keep the rich history alive for the residents of Country Club Hills. She said the commission has visited several other historical societies and “picked their brains” to prepare for the site’s historical future.

“We’ve been working behind the scenes, learning how to set up (a historical society and museum),” Kuta said.

She said the city’s plans for renovating go beyond the farmhouse to include the grounds. One of her ideas that met with the approval of both the commission and the mayor is to plant vegetable gardens on the property that can be maintained and harvested by local schoolchildren, so they know “this is where your food comes from,” she said.

Ford said he agrees that one of the best uses of the land will be to help educate the city’s schoolchildren.

“I would love to see our local kids who probably never been involved in growing anything to get involved in something like that,” Ford said.

The historic commission is seeking any artifacts that reflect the area’s history from its earliest roots, Kuta said. She said photographs, especially of the early settlers and early police and fire departments, would be appreciated. Kuta can be contacted at (708) 799-5025.

.