The Biddlecom Residence
614 N. Genesee Street
Landmarked March 21, 2011
Built in 1872, the Biddlecom Residence at 614 N. Genesee is an excellent example of the Italianate style which dominated American house construction at that time and was popular in Waukegan from about 1870 to 1890. The Biddlecom House epitomizes the Italianate style with its low-pitched, heavily bracketed roof, square tower, and arched windows.
On the east, south, and north façades the roofline is low-pitched and hipped. The rear of the house is gabled on the north end of the west façade and a shed roof covers the south end of the west façade over the back porch. The sunroom on the south façade has a mansard style roof with fish-scale patterned wooden shingles. The wide overhanging eaves are supported throughout by large ornate brackets, many with intaglio carved designs.
The primary (east) façade of the house is dominated by a three-story square tower. The tower's new roof, installed in 2006, is a replacement for the original, which blew off in the 1930's. The new tower roof is a metal replica with decorative trim and three oculus windows, each above a slight gable on the three visible sides of the tower. The tower's mansard is covered with fish-scale patterned wooden shingles to match those on the south-facing sunroom mansard.
Beneath the tower on the primary (east) façade is an elaborate front entry portico with Italianate style columns framing a pair of double doors with glass panels. Surrounding the doors are intaglio designs matching the roof brackets. Above the front portico is a second-story balcony outlined with cast iron cresting. Behind the balcony is a pair of arched windows framed by heavy hood molds.
The more than 40 windows in the Biddlecom House provide the final major Italianate style element. All elevations except the west façade contain the tall, thin, arched windows, topped with arched hood molding. The paired balcony windows on the east façade have an even more elaborate enframement that contains a small round teardrop glass pane at the top.
Between 1890 and 1900, there was an addition to the rear of the house which probably replaced the original kitchen. A canopy over the front door was removed and a huge wrap-around porch was added to the front. This included the current porte cochere on the north façade and ran all the way around to the south side of the house. In the 1930's, the wrap-around porch was replaced and a new canopy put over the front door. This may have been when the south side was enclosed to make a sunroom. In 2000, the pitch of the sunroom roof was changed and fish-scale patterned wooden shingles were installed on its mansard. At that time there was also a restoration of the front porch, installation of roof cresting, and a new back porch built in the Victorian style. In 2006, the tower roof was replaced.
The only other permanent structure on the property is a single-story, wood frame, two-car garage to the rear of the west façade. Like the house, the garage has exterior wood cladding and a low roofline. The garage does not detract from the architectural integrity of the house but it is not part of this nomination.
The property at 614 N. Genesee was owned before 1850 by James and Margaret McKay. It was sold to James Osier in 1850, and he sold it to Mary and Saul Flinn in 1852. The Flinns sold the property to Harriet Biddlecom, a widow, in April 1872.
The house at 614 N. Genesee was built by Brown and Benjamin Porter in 1872. Based on a diary kept by David Simpson, an employee of the Porter Brothers, they also built 628 N. Genesee (constructed between 1867 and 1885), 408 N. Sheridan (1875), and 710 N. Sheridan (1872). The style is also found in houses at 946 N. Sheridan (1876) and 509 N. Genesee (1872).
The Porter Brothers built 614 N. Genesee for Harriet Biddlecom, the widow of James Biddlecom, an early settler in Lake County, Illinois. James Biddlecom served as Lake County Clerk and helped found the First National Bank of Waukegan. Harriet Biddlecom died in 1874 and title of the property passed to her son, Milton P. Biddlecom and his wife Clara. Title of the property eventually passed to another son, Jerome C. Biddlecom, who had operated the "Genuine Hat Store" in Chicago with his brother, Milton, from 1872 until he returned to Waukegan in 1876 to marry Almeda B. Shaul, a daughter of Johnson and Julia J. Shaul of Waukegan. The next year he opened a clothing store in Waukegan with Thomas H. Lindsey. The store, called Lindsey and Biddlecom, was located on the west side of Genesee Street, 11 doors south of Madison Avenue (now the site of a parking lot). Jerome and Almeda Biddlecom had a son, Willard, born in 1878 and a daughter, Belle, born in 1883.
The Jerome Biddlecoms lived at 614 N. Genesee until 1922 when they sold it to John S. and Mary T. Whyte. This is approximately the time that Waukegan streets were renumbered and the house, which previously had the address of 713 N. Genesee, became 614 N. Genesee.
The Whytes sold the property to George S. and Lucile McGaughey in 1936. McGaughey, a lawyer born in Madison County, Illinois, in 1899, joined the legal firm of Runyard and Behama in Waukegan in 1928, the year he married Lucile Belton of Champaign. They had three children: Eugene, Betty, and Joyce. In 1931 George McGaughey became the First Assistant State's Attorney and by 1935 he opened a private practice at 226 W. Washington and was appointed Corporation Counsel for the City of Waukegan. The McGaughey family lived in the house until 1977. The current owner, Harry Came, purchased the property in 1994 from the McGaugheys. Harry Came said that one of the saddest elements of his house was the truncated roof on top the central tower. It just didn't look right. You could tell something was missing. Harry vowed that one day he would make the roof whole again.
After doing some research and finding a photo from the 1930's showing the original Second Empire concave mansard tower with roundel windows, Harry hired an architect and master carpenter. The project began to take shape with drawings for this mansard tower. The carpenter built the tower on the ground. It would then be air-lifted in place upon completion. Round cedar shingles were installed on the sides with copper for the little gabled roofs on the bottom of each side, as well as for the hip roof and the finial on top of the tower.