If you are interested in Palatine's history, a visit with the head of the historical society at the George S. Clayson House Museum likely will leave you wanting to know more.
Marilyn Pedersen has been collecting, communicating and cataloguing things of the past since she became involved in the Palatine Historical Society in 1977.
"I wasn't very interested in the history [of Palatine] when I decided to volunteer in the late 1970s," Pedersen said. "A friend of mine kept pushing me to do it."
"Back then it was a group of women volunteers and we were meeting in a little old house near Tamarack, but we had to find a new place to gather," Pedersen said.
The group was interested in Clayson House, 224 E. Palatine Rd., which was built in 1873 and was one of the oldest (and vacant) houses in town. Pedersen said the historical society thought it would be a perfect place to call home.
The house was owned by the Clayson family until about 1880. Pedersen said the Claysons moved to Arizona and that George S. Clayson was buried in Tucson. The Wolf family bought the house after the Claysons left, and kept it in their family for 65 years until the mid 1940s.
"After the Wolfs sold it, the house was cut up and made into a boarding house during the war," Pedersen said.
The house then became a mecca for local hippies in the sixties, and Pedersen said after that, it fell into disrepair. Despite all the work ahead of them, the Palatine Historical Society purchased Clayson House in 1976.
There were many issues that had to be dealt with including the removal of asbestos siding, repairing of a bad roof and water damaged wood floors that needed replacing.
"I offered to put ads in the paper to help raise funds for the restoration, and then I found myself on the roof helping to fix it," Pedersen said.
"We raised over $200,000 in private donations, by knocking on doors and in some cases begging," Pedersen said.
The group hired a restoration architect who drew plans and worked up how to rebuild porches and rejuvenate the inside and outside of the house. The architect did paint scrapings to find out the original paint colors, and put in brackets and stairs, Pedersen said.
The house had to be to be replastered, all of the wood trim was hand painted and the wood floors and baseboards were replaced.
"We were advised (by the architect) that to recreate them correctly, the baseboards would have to be ten inches tall because the ceilings are ten feet tall; an inch per foot," said Pedersen.
In 1985, Pedersen and other volunteers came to Clayson House to find the front staircase, balusters and doorbell had been sawed off and were gone. It remained a mystery until over a year ago, when Pedersen said she received some packages in the mail.
"I got a bunch of huge boxes that said 'fresh flowers' on them. Everyone thought I had just gotten a lot of flowers from someone," Pedersen said.
Inside the boxes was the staircase, the balusters and the doorbell, Pedersen said.
The unknown assailant anonymously wrote that the items were taken to save them, because it appeared to them at the time the home was going to be torn down. Pedersen said the person then explained he or she had always planned on finding a use for the items, but got tired of lugging them around.
"Now, all of them have been incorporated into the restored fire station," said Pedersen. The restored fire station is adjacent to the Clayson House to the west.
In 1986, Pedersen was made museum coordinator of the Clayson House, and that is when some of the interesting and spooky stories began..
After Halloween each year, Pedersen said she would get compliments on the "scary" person who would peer out of the upstairs window. But she said no person, or even a mannequin, was ever placed in the window to frighten people over the holiday.
Pedersen said a group of knitters used to use the upstairs of Clayson House to gather and knit, until one day when a phonograph in the room started spinning around by itself.
It had no record in it, and the crank that powered it was broken at the time. The knitters stopped coming by to knit, Pedersen said.
The Clayson House also began receiving unusual donations.
"Once I had body baskets left outside the front door," Pedersen said. The baskets were used in the late 1800s to transport dead bodies out of homes after wakes were held.
The historical society's policy is to collect anything that is from Palatine's past, and they also will take items that date at or before 1880.
There are plenty of Palatine stories to hear at the historical society. Residents can learn about the murder at Dick's Tavern in the 1930s which is now Lamplighters. Or read about Charles Sidney Cutting, who started Palatine High School in what is the current village hall building, and whom Cutting Hall is named after.
Events that Pedersen has planned for 2011 will include the traditional Victorian Teas in April and the Cemetery Walk in May.
In June, Pedersen would like to have a garden walk as well as putting together a July 4th float for the Independence Day parade. A history crawl is tentatively planned for September.
More information on all of these events will be publicized in the coming months.
Pedersen, who was born in Chicago, has been married to her husband Alfred since 1936. They moved to Palatine in the 1960s and have six children and 12 grandchildren.
"I love Palatine; I love the downtown area and the people who live here and those who take interest in our history," she said. "I am always interested because every day is a different day. It is never dull. Palatine's future will be bright."