- Associated Press - Saturday, July 22, 2017

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) - When Jane Adams looks back on the Carbondale of her youth, she remembers an era marked by forward-thinking innovation.

Adams, a retired Southern Illinois University professor and former city councilwoman, grew up on a farm in Ava and started coming to Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship with her family in the 1950s, right when “things were really bursting out,” she said.

“Delyte Morris had started the emeritus program where he brought in people who were real luminaries, and several of them went to the Unitarian Fellowship and gave lectures there regularly,” Adams said. “Bucky Fuller gave lectures from time to time, and philosophers and educational philosophers. They were starting the Dewey Center, Morris Library - all of that was happening. . It was a place you could go and you could do things.”

Adams and her husband, photographer D. Gorton, helped establish the downtown Arbor District. The couple has painstakingly restored several historic homes in Carbondale, mostly along Cherry Street; they’ve sold a few and rent out the others to professors, graduate students and members of the community.

In December, the Carbondale City Council approved an ordinance establishing the licensing process for short-term vacation rental units within the city, allowing homeowners to rent out units on websites like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway.

The couple seized the opportunity and took on a new project: renovating their detached 1967 pool house as a short-term rental.

Their Elm Street property, which Gorton refers to as a “compound,” is steeped in history. The original 50-year-old pool was built by the family of Dr. Leo J. Brown, who co-founded the Carbondale Clinic and Memorial Hospital. The property’s courtyard features the bricks that originally paved Walnut Street, and the expansive garden, teeming with vegetables and herbs, was first cultivated in the 1850s.

Gorton and Adams sought to renovate the 800-square-foot pool house while staying true to its mid-century modern aesthetic and design. But the space fuses the old with the new: it’s also a fully equipped smart home.

“It was built in 1967, but everything you’ll see is connected to my iPhone. . So I can open the doors, close the doors, I can turn the temperature up and down, I can turn the TVs on and off, lights come on and off - the idea being that it’s the greatest experience for my guests but also the least amount of, hopefully, the least amount of work for me and Jane,” Gorton said.

With SIU enrollment numbers plunging and the downstate region feeling the pinch of the state budget impasse, Gorton and Adams regard the Aug. 21 solar eclipse - an event projected to draw as many as 50,000 people to the city - as a chance to show visitors the best side of Carbondale: one that honors the innovative spirit of the city’s past and also looks to the future.

“There was a chance here - and what Mayor (Mike) Henry says is, it’s the last best chance we’ve got - to renovate Carbondale, to make a difference and make a change; basically to change the story of what people think of Carbondale. I don’t want to dwell on the negatives, but people think it’s crime-ridden, people think it’s ugly. We’re exactly the opposite here. . We made this as beautiful as we could make it, and we welcome people to come to Carbondale and see what we have to offer,” Gorton said.

They hope other property owners will follow in their footsteps.

“Imagine having 20 or 30 of these in Carbondale,” Gorton said. “I don’t even think it would hurt the hotel industry. I think we’re different from hotels, we don’t give the same experience.”

“People do not know - and people in Carbondale do not know - that this older part of town can be really beautiful. Really lovely. That this was Carbondale, this kind of thing was Carbondale, and of course Elm Street’s the sweetest street in Carbondale . and so we need to understand that because then we can imagine how to make the whole town sing again, which it did,” Adams said.

Traces of that mid-century modern design can be found in so many of the city’s homes, she said.

“You don’t see it anymore, but it’s there. The bones are there,” Adams said.

They hope to make the rental available within about three weeks, most likely through Airbnb, HomeAway and their own website, which they’re currently in the process of building.

Carbondale had a history of being out in front since it was founded. . And because I grew up with that, and I know how it enlarges the imagination and makes people want to stay here and be here and come here, I want to reclaim that. And so this is our little piece,” Adams said.


Source: The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan, https://bit.ly/2u1tEw6


Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com

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