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A historic honor

Historic Polo home earns a spot on the national register

POLO – The home of Polo's first doctor was one of 30 Illinois sites to be added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced today.

The Dr. William Wallace Burns House, built in 1854 at 201 N. Franklin Ave., is the first brick home built in the village.

Burns lived in Polo between 1854 and 1868, and conducted his practice out of his modest two-story house. As an allopathic physician, he was trained to treat a wide variety of illnesses, and he also served as a surgeon during the Civil War.

He returned to Polo after the war and his practice flourished. He later built a more ostentatious house that since has been demolished.

Burns also worked to make the town flourish, Polo Historical Society curator Betty Obendorf said in a recent column published in Ogle County Newspapers.

"He pushed for better schools and stood out in public life. He became a mayor, president of the town council, and a member of the Polo School Board," Obendorf wrote. "Under his leadership, he built the finest and most expensive school on Congress Street.

"This gave Polo prominence and state recognition."

Because of his leadership, the society bought Burns House in 1986; it was listed on the National Register on Aug. 27. It now houses the Blackhawk Waterways tourism agency.

The home is one nine sites in Polo to be listed on the national register, and one of two sites in Ogle County to earn the distinction in 2018: Rochelle's Downtown Historic District was listed on Dec. 31.

The district "is locally significant as a physical exemplification of Rochelle's evolution over time as a vibrant local commercial and governmental center in Ogle County in the 19th and 20th centuries," the IDNR said in today's news release.

It includes commercial buildings, the City and Town Hall, the former Rochelle Fire Department; the town's historic United States Post Office and the Masonic Temple.

"Dominant styles include the Italianate and Vernacular Commercial, but there are examples of the Queen Anne, Arts and Crafts, Romanesque Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival, Classical Revival, Art Deco, Mid-Century Modern, and Colonial Revival, the release said.

Places are added to the register by the National Park Service based on recommendations from the State Historic Preservation Office, a division of the IDNR.

Another nearby site, the 1906 Hampshire Colony Congregational Church in Princeton, was added tot he list on Aug. 28.

It's "a noteworthy example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, identified by its rounded arches at the entrances and windows, hipped roof with side gables, and square towers," the release said.

"The church is also significant for its construction with concrete blocks that resembled stone."

The church was dedicated in 1906; its clock tower was completed in 1911.

Places are added to the register by the National Park Service based on recommendations from the State Historic Preservation Office, a division of the IDNR. In general, properties must be older than 50 to be eligible.

Being on the list places no obligations on private property owners, but does make properties eligible for financial incentives.

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