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Our History

1856-The Bell Farm

There were many reasons why they left home, mainly the German immigrant families who settled on the western shores of Lake Michigan in Wilmette (then known as Gross Point) found fertile land that reminded them of their homeland along the Moselle River in Germany where they grew grapes, fruits, vegetables, and flowers and raised cows and horses. My great, great, great grandfather Johann Heinzen born in Trier, Germany in 1794, buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Wilmette in 1878 was a middle-aged man when he left Trier with his son to journey for two months across the Atlantic Ocean to a port in Texas, then travel by horse and buggy to Gross Point, Illinois. In 1855 they bought twenty four acres of land from a Mr. McDaniel, an early pioneer and sub-divider of Wilmette. The land was located directly south of what is now Park Avenue in Kenilworth, fourteen acres were west of the North Western railway and nine acres were to the east. The forested land had to be cleared for farming and only one of the trees from the original forest was left standing near the house. It is not known where their original house stood as it no longer exists, but it housed the older Johann, his son, Johann and Catherine Hennes, the girl he met and married and with whom he had eight children.

It was the custom of German farmers that the entire family worked the farm and they would buy land in their own vicinity for their siblings and children to be able to farm together for generations. When one of Johann and Catherine's daughters, Gertrude married Edward Bell, a farmhouse was erected on the family land to accommodate the new couple. In 1856 the first part (the eastern section) of this sturdy farmhouse was built with just a kitchen on the first floor and two bedrooms upstairs. As this new family grew and needed more space, the western (or right hand side) of the home was expanded with more bedrooms. Around the house were planted apple, cherry, and peach trees as well as currant and gooseberry bushes. Besides the two houses on this acreage, there was a large barn which held thirty head of cattle and one hundred tons of hay. This home, located at 1611 Greenwood Avenue in Wilmette and known as the Bell Farm is the second oldest house still standing in Wilmette today.

The home was remodeled and featured in Better Homes and Gardens in 1940. The owners stated that with the low ceiling height of 7'3' in the dining room, the home did not meet code. But they cherished the historic feel of the home and remodeled around the dining room. They expanded the first floor living spaces and moved the bedrooms upstairs. The home had another facelift in the 1980's leaving it pretty much as it looks today.