Derby Days

What we are enjoying today is the history of yesterday. What we are doing today, becomes the history of tomorrow.” — John Weiss, Chairmain – Rt. 66 Preservation Committee of Illinois

If you have yet to visit the historic home and sprawling grounds known as Duncan Manor, your next opportunity is coming this spring – and you may want to don your best derby duds and garden attire in the spirit of the event. Derby Days, a Kentucky Derby inspired garden party and vendor open house, will take place May 4th and 5th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. The event is open to the public.

Guests are invited to spend the afternoon at the manor enjoying live music, a cash bar, food vendors, local businesses, artisans, handmade and vintage goods, silent auction, lawn games, a hat contest and more. All funds raised will go towards what owners Dave and Randi Howell call a much larger vision for the unique property – one that will open it to the community on a more frequent basis.

Right now the number of public events is limited due to zoning constraints – namely the lack of ADA accessible restrooms. But the Howells are working to change that by raising funds to make these necessary improvements. 

Just past Towanda via Old Route 66 or Interstate 55, stands Duncan Manor. Built in 1866, the beautiful Italianate farmhouse sits on a hill surrounded by cornfields – an iconic vestige of times past. 

William Duncan chose this tract of land with intentionality. He not only wanted his home to stand out, but had hopes that it would be a place for fostering community and entertaining.  Unfortunately, Duncan never had the chance see this dream fully come to fruition, as he died suddenly in 1876. 

That’s why the Howells feel their role as owners and stewards of the house is one that reaches far into the past – as well as the future. 

“This home has a rich history…and due to his death, kind of an unfulfilled dream of Mr. Duncan’s,” said Dave Howell. “We feel we’ve been given the opportunity to do all that we can to make his vision for the manor a reality. And to see it continue on long after we are gone.”

They believe the first step in accomplishing that vision is to raise the funding needed to build compliant bathrooms, which will sit adjacent to the existing pole barn. The goal is to have these bathrooms in place by fall of 2019, with a spring 2020 grand opening. They envision the space will be used for educational, cultural, recreational events, classes and tours.  

As a 501c3 Not for Profit Organization focused on historic preservation, all the monies raised will go right back into these improvements. 

“We look forward to working with the community to create more opportunities for current and future generations to experience this local landmark,” said Randi Howell. “Rather than sitting a neglected building that passers-by wonder about, it can be a piece of history that all can appreciate.” 

Derby Days:
Entrance fee is $15 at the gate or $10 a person with groups of 4 or more.  Children 10 and under are free.

Interested in being a vendor, donating an item for the silent auction, or learning more about sponsoring Duncan Manor or the event you may contact David and Randi Howell.

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