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Proposed program would highlight history of McHenry subdivisions

McHENRY – Eddie Peabody was known as the King of the Banjo with a career spanning five decades. He was recognized by President Dwight Eisenhower. And he had a summer home in McHenry.

Peabody was a member of the McHenry Country Club, and he had a house nearby in the McHenry Country Club Estates subdivision, McHenry Landmark Commission Chairman Pat Wirtz said.

The Landmark Commission is hoping to piece together the history of McHenry's neighborhoods and subdivisions in a new program its still in the very initial stages of developing, Wirtz said.

The idea was suggested by Nancy Fike, a former commission member who served as the McHenry County Historical Society and Museum's administrator from 1986 to her retirement last year.

She also proposed putting signs in the neighborhoods and on the city's website highlighting who the initial builders in their area were and what it means to McHenry.

She would like to see the commission be proactive instead of reactive to the preservation of the city's historic areas, she told the committee at its May meeting.

A few months later, the commission is laying the framework for its members hope will be an ongoing program, starting with a few subdivisions and eventually reaching the 25 subdivisions that meet the criteria, Wirtz said.

To qualify for the honorary program -- which wouldn't affect an owners usage of the property and wouldn't put them on historic registries like the National Registry of Historic Places -- the neighborhoods must date back to the 20th century or earlier and be located in the corporate limits or immediately adjacent.

Residents will be asked to look for information like the subdivision's name, when it was platted, who the developers were, what the boundaries were, the origin of the street names, type of architecture, who the architects and builders were, the earliest dates of construction and who some of the first owners are, Wirtz said.

"There's stuff like there out there [like Eddie Peabody], and it's just fun to find the history," he said. "We're history nuts, no doubt."

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