Dunham Castle Wayne IL: History

Dunham Castle was built in 1883 by Mark Dunham (1842-1899). This stately residence stands as a monument to the once great horse business that made the Dunham family rich and famous. Mark Dunham inherited Oak Lawn Farm from his father Solomon Dunham who settled in the 1830s in the St. Chalres area along the Fox River.

Mark Dunham was especially interested in a horse breed known as Percherons. These large draft horses from France were highly valuable for the pulling the equipment used to farm the prairies. The size of the farm expanded to 2,000 acres and the breeding business flourished until the early decades of the 20th century.

Mark Dunham built his monumental home based on the French chateaux he saw during his travels in France. With the assistance of Smith Hoag, an Elgin architect, the limestone and brick home was decorated with the finest parquet floors, statues, tapestries, and artwork.

Following the death of Mark Dunham in 1899, his son, Wirth, inherited Dunham Castle. Upon Wirth’s death in 1931, Dunham’s Incorporated was established to sell parcels of land for development. Most of what is now known as the Village of Wayne was zoned for minimum four acre parcels to preserve a sophisticated and yet rural equestrian life style.

The Dunham Woods Riding Club took over the original brick home of Solomon Dunham in 1950. The buildings on the Club property are now part of the National Historic District that includes the Castle.

In 1953, the home was converted into four spacious apartments. Fortunately, no alteration to the interior structure compromised the original character of the house. After changing owners several times following its transformation into apartments, the Griffins of Wayne bought the house in 1976. During their ownership, the Griffins looked into making the grand building into a museum, professional office, or a private dining club. None of these ideas came to fruition. In 1986, the home was again put up for sale.

The Armbrust family of Glen Ellyn bought the property in 1987 to convert the building back into a single family home. In the past 25 years extensive effort was made to rebuild the home from the inside out to preserve it for future generations. Unfortunately, business setbacks that troubled so many families in the past few years required that the property be returned to bank who held the mortgage.