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Historic Elsah home gets new life with new owners

Historic Elsah home gets new life with new owners

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Situated at the foot of a steep slope that looms just a few feet past the back wall of the house, the peach-colored gothic revival home in the center of Elsah enjoys an unusual history.

Built in 1892 it was the home of James and Julia Piggott, with James being a direct descendant of the pioneering Piggott family that was instrumental in settling the area in the late 1700s.

Rick and Sherri Forsee moved into their 1890s home in Elsah in 2019.

Still in the extended Piggott family almost 80 years later, the residence had been vacant for more than a decade, ransacked on several occasions, and neglected to the point the city was considering demolishing the home. At some point, according to historical documents, the house had even slid into the street and had to be pushed back.

Alfred Mack, a local resident with a desire to save the historically significant home, tried to purchase the property in 1970, only to discover the deed was divided by several Piggott relations. Some owned as little as a 1/12 share. After an arduous search to contact all owners and secure a clear title, he purchased the property and undertook a complete restoration.

“He took it down to the studs before restoring the home,” says current owner Sherri Forsee, showing a photo with all the siding removed and only the skeleton framework remaining. “It looked like a bird cage.”

By 2019 the restored house had sold several times and had been used as a rental home for five years.

At Home with Rick and Sherri Forsee

The wood ceiling in the dining room is original to the home. The dining room is thought to have been the original kitchen. After the couple moved in they had plantation shutters installed on most windows.

Hillary Levin, Post-Dispatch

At the same time, the Forsees were planning to move from Florida to Elsah, a tiny town just north of Alton. “We had lived in the St. Louis area for many years and always loved this little town,” Sherri says.

They purchased a vacant lot in the village and had hired an architect to design and build their dream home, but felt building estimates were too far above the median price of a home, and that it would not have been a wise investment.

“When I listed the lot for sale on Zillow it sold in 20 minutes to a fellow who plans to plant apple trees on it. During the conversation he told me his mother owned a home in Elsah she was interested in selling,” Rick recalls, still amazed at the coincidence. “I was in Florida, but Sherri checked it and structurally it was in good shape. Visualizing the potential, we purchased our home within a few days after we sold the lot,” Rick says.

Over the past two years the couple have restored the interior, with Rick doing much of the work himself.

Projects have included updating the kitchen and bathrooms, moving electrical outlets, replacing moulding and flooring tile, and installing plantation shutters on all windows.

Also, every inch of the inside has been painted, including one ceiling Rick painted seven times. “It just kept absorbing each coat of paint,” he recalls.

On the first floor the house includes a kitchen (that was an addition to the original home), the dining room (which may have been the original kitchen) and living room. A narrow stairway in the dining room leads steeply upstairs to two bedrooms and bath.

A first-floor door leads to a secluded porch with an especially ornate white gingerbread railing around a gray deck floor. A second stairway off the kitchen opens into a cozy attic room.

Décor is minimalist and contemporary, with accents changing by the season. “I decorate for Thanksgiving and Christmas and several other holidays,” Sherri says.

She also loves flowers, and a portion of the lot has become her first real garden.

“After we completed updating the home, the son of a lady who had lived here came by for a visit. When we went into the garage he reached up over the door and pulled down a diary he had kept and apparently forgotten about. He was relieved no one had discovered it and read it,” Sherri says.

At Home with Rick and Sherri Forsee

Rick and Sherri Forsee, at their home, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in Elsah, Ill. Photo by Hillary Levin,

Rick and Sherri Forsee

Occupations • Rick has been in consumer finance positions throughout his career. Sherri’s professional life has been in nursing, and for many years she worked as a nurse practitioner. She recently retired and is writing a book tracing the life of her father in World War II.

Home • Elsah

Family • The Forsees' life together actually began when they grew up living two blocks apart. Rick was in ninth grade when he proposed. “I married up,” Sherri says. “He always had a new bicycle and mine were hand-me-downs.” Married for 48 years, the couple have two daughters and six grandchildren.

At Home with Rick and Sherri Forsee

The home of Rick and Sherri Forsee Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in Elsah, Ill., can be seen through the window of the town's little general store. Photo by Hillary Levin,

Elsah Holiday Walk

What • While homes will not be open due to the ongoing pandemic, self-guided walking maps will be available and four historic buildings and the two town churches will be open, as will be the village’s unique shops. Village carolers will be singing songs of the season and the two bed-and-breakfasts in town will be serving cookies and treats.

When • Noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 4

Tickets • Free but reservations required at or picked up the walk at the Elsah Civic Center, 51 Mill Street.

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