Job Opportunity: Historic Landscape Gardener (posted 2/15/2024)

Historic Landscape Gardener

Full-time, non-exempt. Work occurs onsite and in person.

Reports to: Executive Director


The Smeja Homestead Foundation, a private nonprofit operating foundation, owns 560 acres of land along the Kishwaukee and Rock rivers in Rockford, Illinois. The property includes the 26-acre Esta Barrett Manor and Gardens, a historic country house and adjoining 160-acre farmstead, laid out by landscape gardener, O. C. Simonds, one of the leaders of the natural landscaping movement of the early twentieth century. The remaining 373 acres of land are wooded bluffs, land enrolled in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program, floodplain forest, and an archeological site that is a designated Land & Water Reserve. Much of the site is focused on the naturalized landscape with a sustainability emphasis, while the sunken garden and its heirloom plantings were the pride of Esta Barrett. The historic site will be rebranded from Indian Hill Manor to Esta Barrett Manor and Gardens in the spring of 2024.

Position Summary:

The Smeja Homestead Foundation is seeking a Historic Landscape Gardener to restore and maintain the integrity of the manor grounds and gardens, work day-to-day to plant, prune, weed, and make the core 5-acre manor grounds, sunken garden, and surrounding beds presentable to the visiting public, assist with interpretive programming, and help to plan for future projects.

Essential Functions:

Oversee the management of and perform cyclical, seasonal, and emergency maintenance of the manor grounds and gardens. This includes maintaining the legacy of historic plantings: lawns, flower beds, planters, borders, trees, and other plantings while developing strategies for the naturalistic parts of the grounds.

  • Secure and manage contractors and service providers to maintain the grounds and gardens.
  • Participate in the development of the annual budget and contribute to annual long-range budgeting and planning efforts, gathering cost estimates for capital improvement projects and ongoing operations.
  • Recruit, train, and supervise landscape volunteers and interns, while being mindful of the safe handling of equipment and materials.
  • Work with staff on logistics related to tours, events, and special property uses to ensure safe and rewarding experiences for audiences and visitors; assist with holiday decorating of the interior and exterior of the manor.
  • Conduct educational and interpretive programs in cooperation with the executive director, and lead garden and natural area tours.
  • Build a plant database beginning with the sunken garden and expand to other key areas of the developed landscape over time. Report changes to the accessioned plant collections including additions and removals; maintain labeling on specimen plants and interpretive displays.
  • Other job-related duties as assigned may be necessary to further the mission and vision of the Smeja Homestead Foundation.

Qualifications and Experience:

  • An Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Horticulture, Plant Ecology, Natural Landscaping, Forestry, Natural Resources, or a similar field. Experience can be a suitable substitute for an academic degree.
  • Ability to operate and maintain various types of tools and equipment safely and efficiently (e.g. tractors, mowers, chainsaws, and hand tools.)
  • Working knowledge of native plants indigenous to northern Illinois, and ability to identify and manage invasive species.
  • Required pesticide applicators’ license and/or certifications, or ability to obtain a license.
  • Previous experience working with the public and volunteers is desired.
  • Possess a valid driver’s license and own a vehicle.
  • Occasional weekends, evenings, and planned special event dates are required.
  • Strong supervisory skills. Ability to prioritize tasks and delegate them when appropriate.
  • Basic computer skills and use of email, Microsoft Office, and internet browsers.

 Physical Requirements:

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. While performing the duties of this job the employee must be able to frequently lift/carry up to 40 lbs. unassisted. The employee will frequently perform moderate physical activity and occasionally somewhat strenuous daily activities that require considerable use of their arms and legs, moving their whole body, climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, bending, and handling of tools and chemicals.

Working Conditions:

Work will be performed mostly outdoors, and the employee will be exposed to changing weather conditions (rain, sun, wind, snow, heat, humidity, etc.) and certain types of pollen and allergens. The job requires that the employee follow standard safety procedures, be alert, and take necessary precautions (e.g. wearing/using protective clothes, gloves, and equipment, hearing and eye protection, respirators) to avoid possible injuries or health problems that may result from walking on irregular ground, exposure to irritants and chemicals, working around moving equipment and power tools, exposure to extreme cold and heat for periods of more than one hour, noise, or atmospheric conditions that may affect the respiratory system.

 Compensation: This is a full-time permanent position. Salary range: $40,000 – $45,000 (annually based on a 40-hour week). Benefits include a stipend for health insurance and paid time off. A pre-employment background check is required.

 Non-Discrimination Policy: The Foundation does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, status as an individual with a disability, military or veteran status, genetic information, or other protected classes under the law.

 To Apply: Please send a cover letter, resume, and three references to Brian Reis, Executive Director, Smeja Homestead Foundation at with “Historic Landscape Gardener” in the subject line.

Application Deadline: March 18, 2024

Esta Barrett Manor and Gardens, Smeja Homestead Foundation, Inc.

6901 Kishwaukee Road

Rockford, IL 61109


Robert Grese Elected to Smeja Homestead Foundation Board

September 25, 2023

Rockford – Robert E. Grese, Emeritus Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, has been elected to the Board of the Smeja Homestead Foundation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to historic preservation and conservation of the cultural landscape.

Grese has a Master of Science degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a special interest in the use of natural landscaping in garden design. He is an expert on the works of renowned landscape designers Jens Jensen and O. C. Simonds, pioneers in using native plants and natural landscapes in designing cemeteries, parks, and private estates in the Midwest.

Grese retired as a professor and Director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, University of Michigan, in 2020. Nichols Arboretum was designed by O. C. Simonds, who also laid out the Ann Arbor campus. Grese taught for 34 years in the landscape architecture program and is a strong advocate of ecologically-based design and natural area restoration. He is a member of the Alliance of Historic Landscape Preservation and the American Society of Landscape Architects and is an Honorary Director of the Garden Club of America.

“Bob is an incredible educator and knowledgeable in the principles of O. C. Simonds, the landscape designer who made our historic site special,” said Brian Reis, Executive Director of the Smeja Homestead Foundation. “He brings a depth of understanding to our organization that will be extremely helpful as we restore and rehabilitate the gardens and grounds and develop new programming in the coming years. I am delighted that he has joined the board.”

The Smeja Homestead Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation that promotes historic preservation and land conservation in northern Illinois. It is the owner of the Charles & Esta Barrett estate, a 1918 historic manor and farm with grounds designed by O. C. Simonds. The site is located on a bluff overlooking the Kishwaukee River southwest of Rockford, Illinois, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For more information or to book a tour visit

New Director of Indian Hill Manor & Farm Announced

Brian A. Reis has joined the Smeja Homestead Foundation as the newly appointed Executive Director, it was announced today.  Reis previously served as Executive Director of the Ellwood House Museum in Dekalb, Illinois for twelve years and before that he was Curator of Special Collections for the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust in Oak Park, Illinois. The Foundation is the owner of the historic Indian Hill Manor & Farm located on the Kishwaukee River southwest of Rockford, Illinois.

“We are excited to have someone with Brian’s background and experience to implement a new vision for the Foundation and Indian Hill Manor & Farm,” said Jerry Paulson, President of the Foundation. “He will be responsible for developing new programs for the historic manor and grounds, and the adjacent historic farm, and for creating programs and educational opportunities for those interested in historic preservation, natural landscaping, and the history of farming in the region,” he said.

While serving as Executive Director of the Ellwood House Museum, Reis steered the organization in an expansion of programing, acquisition of additional property, and a capital campaign for the restoration of spaces within the 1879 Ellwood mansion.  While with the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust he served in a leadership role for programing for the 100th-anniversary of Wright’s Robie House, and interpretation of the historic sites.

Brian lives with his wife in St. Charles, Illinois and has a Master of Arts in Art History and a Certificate of Museum Studies from Northern Illinois University. “I am fascinated by old buildings and historic sites,” said Reis. “My goal has always been to share the value of these spaces with the public and to find ways to connect them with their surrounding communities.”

The Smeja Homestead Foundation is a private operating foundation established in 2001 to preserve Indian Hill Manor & Farm and to promote historic preservation and land conservation in the region. The historic site includes the manor, built in 1918 as a rural retreat for Charles C. Barrett and his wife, an early 20th century farm, and grounds and gardens laid out by noted landscape designer O.C. Simonds.

Old Barn Survey in Kishwaukee Area

The private foundation that owns the historic Indian Hill Manor and Farm is conducting a survey of historic barns and other farm buildings in the rural area around the old village of Kishwaukee. The area covered by the survey includes parts of southwest Rockford Township, northeast Marion Township, and northwest Scott Township, bounded by the Kishwaukee and Rock Rivers, Illinois Rt. 72 and U.S. 251.

Indian Hill Manor Barn

Indian Hill Manor Barn

The Smeja Foundation, owner of Indian Hill Manor and Farm, has hired Andrew Rogers, an architecture student at Judson University, to conduct the inventory. Rogers is a resident of the Kishwaukee community who is studying for his degree in Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. He will be contacting land owners between June 15th and August 1st to arrange to meet with them and to gather information about the old barns and other farm buildings on their property.

“The foundation is interested in knowing more about the history of the Kishwaukee area, and farming and farm families are an important part of that history”, said Jerry Paulson, Interim Executive Director of the Smeja Foundation. “Participation in the survey is voluntary, and all information that is collected will remain confidential. We hope to use it as the basis of developing a program to preserve and restore the farmsteads that are an important part of the rural landscape of our area,” he explained.

The Smeja Foundation was founded in 2001 to preserve Indian Hill Manor & Farm and the history of the Kishwaukee community. It is a private foundation that promotes historic preservation, conservation, agricultural education and protection of archeological sites. For more information about the barn survey contact Jerry Paulson at 815-964-6464 or

Indian Hill Manor: A Crossroads of History, Mystery and Two Rivers

Northwest Quarterly Summer-Fall 2017 by Janine Pumilia, Manager Editor

Used with permission of Northwest Quarterly Magazine

For thousands of years, native people enjoyed the scenic juncture where the Rock and Kishwaukee rivers meet. Step inside the stately manor atop its bluffs, and see why wealthy Chicagoans Charles and Esta Barrett’s gentleman’s farm and has much to teach us about ourselves.

The term “country gentleman farmer” isn’t used much today. What do you picture when you hear it? Finely dressed aristocrats throwing lavish parties on lush lawns?

That image wouldn’t be wrong, but it would be incomplete. There’s more to know about these “hobby farms” that once dotted our landscape. While it’s true they were typically owned by wealthy Chicagoans who sought an escape from the hot and dirty city, they also helped to advance U.S. farming practices.

“Average farmers couldn’t afford to fail, so they stuck with the best farming methods they knew and didn’t experiment much,” explains Jill Smeja Gnesda of the Smeja Family Foundation, owner of Indian Hill Manor & Farm Historic District. “But gentleman farmers could take risks. They experimented. They tested new theories and spread the word about their successes.”

Then came the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

“After the Great Depression, these estates mostly died out,” says Bonnie Smeja, Jill’s sister. “Very few examples are still intact. That’s just one reason we think Indian Hill is worthy of preservation.”

Located at 6901 Kishwaukee Road, Rockford, high above the confluence of the Kishwaukee and Rock rivers, Indian Hill Manor & Farm Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Rich in early 1900s history, it includes a manor house, coach house, dairy farm and 50-acre Indian Hill Forest Preserve, the latter managed by Forest Preserves of Winnebago County.

The Manor & Gardens
The handsome Colonial Revival-style brick manor house was designed by renowned architect Charles W. Bradley of Rockford, whose firm was founded in 1854 and still exists today as Bradley & Bradley Architects. The solidly built manor has seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, six fireplaces and oodles of charm.

“One of my favorite rooms is the large screened-in porch with original wicker furniture,” says Bonnie.

That porch overlooks a formal sunken garden designed by O.C. Simonds, a famous landscaper who helped to design Morton Arboretum and Chicago’s Lincoln Park, as well as many parks and estates along the Rock River. In some ways, the sunken garden is a smaller version of Rockford’s 1909 Sinnissippi Rose Garden, with its graceful fountain, white-painted pergola, sundial and trellises. The first lady of the original estate, Esta Reed, filled the garden with roses, irises, peonies and other perennials.

“The landscape design of Indian Hill Manor integrated the buildings into the natural surroundings, enhanced the views of the river and forest, and emphasized the use of native trees and shrubs instead of the showy flowers and exotic plants that were popular in formal Victorian gardens at the turn of the century,” explains Jerry Paulson, a consultant to the Smeja Family Foundation. Paulson retired as executive director of the Natural Land Institute in 2013 and has spent the past few years researching the natural and cultural history of Indian Hill Manor and its surroundings.

The manor was completed at the end of World War I, a time when many Americans were keenly aware of the toll that settlement had taken on the landscape and wildlife – and on the native people who had lived here for thousands of years. Conservation efforts were afoot; the Illinois state park system was established in 1909, the national park system in 1916.

Not far from Indian Hill, sculptor Lorado Taft’s Eagle’s Nest Art Colony thrived in what’s now Lowden State Park; in 1908, Taft erected “The Eternal Indian” high on a bluff overlooking the Rock River. Today we call it “Black Hawk Statue.”

In 1917, Rockford was in its heyday as a premier U.S. city. Camp Grant opened as one of the largest Army training facilities in the nation, just a short jaunt from Indian Hill Manor. “It was also the era of women’s suffrage,” notes Jill. “Women were demanding the vote and a larger role in society.”

As things turned out, a woman was at the helm of Indian Hill Manor & Farm for the first three decades of its existence.

The Founders
The Smeja family is working to piece together a more complete history of Indian Hill Manor and its surrounding area, but many mysteries remain. They welcome input from those who may have relevant photos, artifacts or memories of the property and its founding family.

Already, many anecdotes, original furnishings and other objects have found their way back to the estate.

“Unfortunately, some of the documentation about the house and the people who lived here was destroyed by a descendant who didn’t think anyone would care about it,” says Jill. “Such a shame.”

Here’s what we do know.

Indian Hill Manor was built with Chicago money. Businessman Charles C. Barrett, president of DeVoe and Raynolds Paint Co., lived at a posh address on Astor Street and ran with the Gold Coast crowd after the turn of the century.

He married a talented singer/actress named Esta Reed, originally from southern Indiana, who had performed throughout Europe. She was divorced and had a son named Harry Reed. Charles was 59 and Esta was 46 when they married in 1914. They immediately searched for a rural location on which to build a country estate and found it at the confluence of the Kishwaukee and Rock rivers. They registered the site as “Indian Hill Farm” in 1915 and hired a renowned Rockford architect to design their new home.

Tragically, Charles had lived in his beautiful new country home for only a few months, in 1918, when he died from Spanish flu. Ravaging soldiers in crowded World War I foxholes, the pandemic had spread across the globe with moving troops, killing 675,000 Americans, including more than 1,000 at Camp Grant in September 1918 alone.

After her husband’s death, Esta Reed made Indian Hill Manor her permanent home.

“She was part farm girl, part socialite,” says Bonnie. “She not only enjoyed gardening but also bred Guernsey cows, entering them in competitions. There were a lot of women farmers in this area who enjoyed competing with one another.” Among them were women in the family of Ralph Emerson, a Rockford industrialist whose family farm was across the street from Indian Hill.

“Esta lost no time taking her place in Rockford society,” adds Jill. “She became a valued member of groups like Mendelssohn, Rockford Country Club and Rockford Garden Club.”

Perhaps because she understood the challenge of being a single mother – this is only conjecture – Esta Reed co-founded Rockford Day Nursery, one of the first social service agencies to provide child day care in Rockford, says Paulson. She hosted lavish events in her sunken garden to raise money for various charities and managed Indian Hill until 1947, when she died in an auto accident in Florida at age 79.

Esta’s son, Harry Reed, with wife Lillian, managed the estate until his death in 1969.

The Reeds’ only child and heir, Charles “Chuck” B. Reed, a World War II veteran, Boy Scout troop leader and firearm safety instructor, devoted himself to conservation. He was far less interested in the manor house than in the beautiful property surrounding it. He hosted camps and Scout jamborees in the woods and on the large lawns.

“He enrolled farmland north of Kishwaukee Road into the federal Conservation Reserve Program, planting thousands of pines, walnuts and other trees,” says Paulson. “He managed the property for maximum wildlife protection.”

Because Chuck Reed wanted the property to become a model farm for soil and wildlife conservation, he donated 50 acres of the farm to the Natural Land Institute (NLI) in 1989; The NLI later gave that land to the Forest Preserve District of Winnebago County to manage, and it became Indian Hill Forest Preserve.

It was Chuck Reed who sold the manor, coach house and 60 acres to Bill and Lucile Smeja in 1971. Most of the rooms had remained unchanged since his grandmother Esta’s death in 1947.

Many original features of the century-old manor house still exist, adding to its historic significance. For example, everything in the kitchen is original except the countertops.

As she leads a tour, Jill Smeja opens the door of an original icebox to show how ice deliverymen accessed and filled it from outdoors. The 1920s electric stove still functions (shown left) and there’s a dedicated grease pit outside a special dishwashing room off the kitchen.

Other original modern conveniences in the 1918 home include a central hot water heating system, central vacuum, commercial-grade gas clothing dryers, an intercom system and a tin-lined laundry chute. Gas light fixtures were built in anticipation of electrical conversion. The home’s original boiler still exists, although a more efficient heating system with central air later replaced it.

As she climbs to the wide second-floor landing of the home, Jill raps on a wall to demonstrate how solid it sounds. Underfoot, 2-by-8-inch oak planks are laid on their sides, rather than wide-side-up, resulting in a floor that’s 8 inches deep, its underside lined with concrete. And why not? The Great Chicago Fire had occurred less than 50 years earlier and country gentleman farmers could afford the most fireproof construction available.

“This architect typically designed commercial structures like orphanages, using steel girders and concrete that won’t burn,” Jill explains. “He seemed to take that same approach here.”

The Smeja Family
Since their mother Lucile’s death in 2007, the five surviving children of the late Bill and Lucile Smeja have worked hard to form a foundation, list Indian Hill on the National Register of Historic Places, acquire property that was once part of the original estate, form local partnerships, and restore significant structures, starting with the historically important James Way dairy barn.

“We were all grown by the time our parents bought Indian Hill Manor in 1971, but we spent time here with them and appreciated the uniqueness of the property,” explains Bonnie Smeja.

“We grew up in an apartment over Dad’s business in Elmhurst,” adds Jill Smeja Gnesda. “This property was a white elephant on the market when our folks bought it. They were looking for a farmhouse in the Boone County area, because the Chicago area had become so congested. This home with 60 acres was priced at only $100,000, because the owner really wanted it to remain a single-family estate and not be subdivided. My folks knew a bargain and bought it before they’d set foot inside the house. As it turned out, they really loved the house and spent the rest of their lives here, restoring it room by room.”

Bill died in 1997, Lucile 10 years later.

Bill’s career began with ownership of one gas station. After World War II, he sold cars and ran a well-drilling business during the housing boom. In time, he and Lucile learned how to develop real estate together.

“Through Dad’s businesses, we kids learned to appreciate historic preservation and land conservation,” says Jill. “Our brother even restored my dad’s old one-room schoolhouse in Bensenville, Ill., as his Eagle Scout project. We all know how special this place is and want to see it preserved.”

Do you have knowledge, photos or artifacts to contribute to the Indian Hill Manor & Farm Historic District? If so, please call the Smeja Family Foundation at (815) 964-6464.

How Geology Impacts Our Local History
If you ask Jerry Paulson about the history of Indian Hill Manor, he just might begin the story 30,000 years ago, when a glacier changed the southward path of the Rock and Kishwaukee rivers and reversed the course of Kilbuck Creek.

“Most of what people have experienced here, over the centuries, traces back to the geology,” he says.

The end result of glacial activity is a scenic stretch where two rivers converge. Handsome limestone bluffs rise some 170 feet above the riverbanks and many outcroppings of exposed bedrock dot the area.

Indian Hill Manor sits atop an island of bedrock the rivers left behind when they cut new southwesterly channels. The topography of this historic district varies from sand dunes and flat glacial terraces to wetland expanses that likely delayed the development of roads and farms. The swampy areas encouraged mosquitos to breed, causing many settlers to perish from a malaria-like fever they called “ague.” This malady is blamed for at least one of the false starts of the non-existent town of Kishwaukee, since its chief promoter, George Lee, died young from the fever.

From a settler’s perspective, anyone living on top of the bedrock had to drill down through 250 feet of rock to reach the water table for a well. Such drills simply didn’t exist in the 1800s, one more obstacle faced by those who had hoped to settle Kishwaukee in what’s now the Indian Hill Manor vicinity.

In all, four attempts at settling the town of Kishwaukee failed.

“Native Americans followed river valleys and so did settlers,” Paulson says. “Artifacts from the area – once used by mastodon and mammoth hunters – date as far back as 12,000 B.C. Explorers and fur traders reported large Indian villages and clusters of burial mounds along the Rock and Kishwaukee rivers.”

“It’s one of the highest points in Winnebago County and was an excellent overlook – a place where native people could clearly see canoes coming down both rivers,” adds Jill Smeja.

Among native tribes here were Sauk, Fox, Winnebago, Potawatomi, Chippewa, Ottawa and Menomonee. The first of the Black Hawk War battles played out three miles southwest of Indian Hill Manor on Stillman Creek, followed by the eradication of all native people from Illinois, by the mid-1830s. So complete was their displacement that Illinois, unlike all of its neighbor states, is home to zero reservations.

A Century Later, Farm Life Continues
At the heart of Indian Hill Farm is a “James Way” dairy barn that represented all things modern when it was built. The design was developed by Wisconsin native William D. James during the Sanitary Milk Movement. His chief aim was to keep cows healthy and happy by providing plenty of ventilation and using materials like concrete and steel that are easier for farmers to clean.

James’ barn also introduced adjustable cow stalls, with a rotating stanchion, in 1903. The president of Kent Manufacturing, in Fort Atkinson, Wis., recognized its potential and invited James to join his firm; sales increased by 30 percent each year thereafter and the company changed its name to the James Manufacturing Company. The term “James Way” came to mean high quality farm equipment, in the vernacular, and other companies copied the innovations.

Indian Hill Farm was home to horses, sheep, pigs and chickens. Today, students from the Stillman Valley High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) are often at the farm working with animals, studying soil samples, growing crops and taking part in other agriculture educational activities.

Several crops can grow here, despite a lack of the rich, black soil common to our region. Jerry Paulson, consultant to the Smeja Family Foundation, explains, “As the last glacier retreated from the region, torrents of glacier melt water came down the Rock and Kishwaukee river valleys, forming new channels and creating terraces of outwash sand and gravel south and east of Indian Hill Manor.

“Silt and sand from this outwash river blew up onto the bedrock island, where the manor now sits, covering it with 10 to 20 feet of finely textured wind-blown deposits, called ‘loess.’”

The Smeja Family Foundation brought the farm back into the fold in 2010, purchasing it from a descendant of Indian Hill founders Charles and Esta Barrett. The Smejas have spent years stabilizing and restoring the barns and other buildings, with help from FFA students from Stillman Valley High School.

“They use the farm and grounds for workdays, FFA projects and industrial arts classes, as well as to learn about horticulture, animals and farming,” says Paulson. “Part of the cropland on the farm is leased to the FFA each year, with profits going to support their work.”

Where Nature and History Meet
“Along with being a rare remaining example of a country gentleman’s farm, Indian Hill is unique because of its geographic location,” says Paulson. “It’s located at the confluence of two rivers. Settlement has always followed rivers and this area has a rich history of native people living here for thousands of years.”

This is a special place that sparks curiosity about many subjects – a jewel with many facets. It adds to our knowledge of local geology, archaeology, architecture, landscaping, farm practices, land conservation, social culture and early settlement patterns.

Says Paulson, “This really is a place where nature and history meet.”

Plan a Visit
Indian Hill Manor & Farm Historic District is open for docent-led tours on Tuesdays through Oct. 3. The hour long tours begin at 10 a.m and 1 p.m., with a 10-person maximum and three-person minimum. Pre-registration is required. The cash-only fee is $7 for adults and $5 for seniors over age 62. Register online at

The manor is also available for light rental use by groups with an interest in gardening, history or conservation. It is not available for private parties, weddings or commercial uses.

Smeja Foundation supports old barn survey in Kishwaukee area

Andrew Rogers, an architecture student at Judson University, will be conducting the survey.

The private foundation that owns the historic Indian Hill Manor and Farm on Kishwaukee Road, southwest of Rockford, is conducting a survey of historic barns and other farm buildings in the rural area around the old village of Kishwaukee. The area covered by the survey includes parts of southwest Rockford Township, northeast Marion Township, and northwest Scott Township, bounded by the Kishwaukee and Rock Rivers, Illinois Rt. 72 and U.S. 251

The Smeja Foundation, owner of Indian Hill Manor and Farm, has hired Andrew Rogers, an architecture student at Judson University, to conduct the inventory. Rogers is a resident of the Kishwaukee community who is studying for his degree in Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. He will be contacting land owners between June 15th and August 1st to arrange to meet with them and to gather information about the old barns and other farm buildings on their property.

“The foundation is interested in knowing more about the history of the Kishwaukee area, and farming and farm families are an important part of that history”, said Jerry Paulson, Interim Executive Director of the Smeja Foundation. “Participation in the survey is voluntary, and all information that is collected will remain confidential. We hope to use it as the basis of developing a program to preserve and restore the farmsteads that are an important part of the rural landscape of our area,” he explained.