Schmidt-Burnham Log House

The Schmidt-Burnham Log House, August 2021

ABOUT
The Schmidt-Burnham Log House is the oldest log structure in Cook County, Illinois. Built c. 1837, it was the longest occupied home in northern Illinois until the daughter of Anita Willets-Burnham gifted it to the Winnetka Historical Society in 2001. The Log House opened to the public in 2006 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

VISIT
Location:
1140 Willow Road, Winnetka, IL 60093 (Crow Island Woods)
Hours:
Sundays 2-4, October 10th – November 21st 2021
Parking:
There is limited parking available on the gravel drive to the west of the Log House. Additional parking is available on Euclid to the west or on Willow Road just east of the gravel entrance to Crow Island Woods.

Our Reopening Celebration is Oct 2nd, 2-4. For more information about this event and to register, CLICK HERE.

If you are interested in a guided tour or scheduling a group visit, contact us at curator@winnetkahistory.org or call 847-446-0001.

Earliest known photo of the Schmidt-Burnham Log House, c. 1890.

HISTORY
The Schmidt-Burnham Log House is named for the Schmidt family, who lived in the house from 1841 to 1870, and the Burnham family, who called it home from 1917 to 2001. The Log House was originally part of a German immigrant settlement on Ridge Road near the present-day Indian Hill Club.

Peter Schmidt and his four children were the first documented residents. They immigrated from Trier, Germany and purchased the house in 1841 along with several acres of land. They lived in the Log House until 1870 when it was sold to local farmer Michael Schaefer. CLICK HERE to learn more about the Schmidt family’s life at the Log House, and CLICK HERE to see what Winnetka was like when the Schmidts lived here in the 19th century.

Decades later, well-known artist Anita Willets-Burnham “discovered” the house while on a painting trip. She purchased the home in 1917 for $25 and moved it to 1407 Tower Road at a cost of $100. Anita and her husband Alfred raised their four
children in the house. Members of the Burnham family resided there until 2001. CLICK HERE to learn more about Burnham family and CLICK HERE to scroll through the Burnham image gallery. To ensure the Log House would be preserved, the Burnham family donated it to the Winnetka Historical Society in 2001. In 2003, the Historical Society moved it to Crow Island Woods, where it remains today.

Northeast corner, 2021

CONSTRUCTION
The front of the Log House is made of solid white oak logs that were taken from the wooded area near the house’s first location. Each hand-hewn log is square cut with square notched lap joint corners. Beams are joined by wooden pegs.

Gaps in the logs were originally filled with pieces of wood or stone and a mixture of clay, sand, water, and straw, which has since been replaced with modern sealant to protect the structure.

RENOVATION
The house has undergone many changes over the years. The Schmidts added clapboard siding, a wood floor, and raised the ceiling. After moving it to Tower Road, the Burnhams removed the siding, built the addition on the back of the house, and added heating, plumbing, and electricity.

PRESERVATION
The Schmidt-Burnham Log House has been remarkably preserved thanks to restoration efforts by the Winnetka Historical Society. Today, the exterior looks much like it did in the early 20th century. The c. 1837 axe cut marks are still visible on the square-cut logs on the original part of the house. The Burnham’s 1917 addition also remains intact.

West side, 2013.

Gazette Articles about the Log House:
Burnham Log House: 170 Years of LivingSummer 1999

Ann Hibbard Burnham SmithFall 2001

Schmidt-Burnham Log House Opens to PublicFall 2006

Gazette articles about Anita Willets Burnham:
Anita Willets BurnhamSummer 1999

Hope Amidst Hardship: The Indomitable Character of Anita Willets-BurnhamFall 2020