WAYNE – Leslie Ebersole knew people were interested in seeing Dunham Castle, but the public's response to its weekend holiday reception was more than she expected.
At least 575 people attended the event, which exceeded her expectations three to four times, she said.
Ebersole, of Baird & Warner Real Estate, opened the bank-owned, historical single-family home at the request of Alex's Army.
This group of about 25 Batavia High School and Marmion Academy seniors began participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life when their friend, Alex Kintz, was diagnosed with bone cancer. Kintz, a Batavia eighth-grader, died in 2009.
Over the years, Alex's Army has raised nearly $83,000. The team hopes to reach $100,000 for its sixth and final year.
Alex's mother, Melinda Kintz, said she has told the boys they don't have to continue the team. But, she said, they keep showing up.
"It's been great," Kintz said.
Team members Conor Clingen and Will Vacek said the experience has been fun. They enjoy working with their friends for a good cause, they said.
"I want to come to these things," Vacek said.
Sunday, he and Clingen were stationed on Dunham Castle's second floor near the main staircase to help direct foot traffic.
"People seem really interested in the house," Clingen said, adding many had questions about its history.
Built in the 1880s by Mark Dunham, the single-family, 12,000-square-foot brick-and-limestone home stands three stories tall.
Sunday, visitors could see the original marble and onyx fireplaces that were built for coal, tapestries from the 1880s that hung over walls and a square grand piano that cost $800 to ship from Europe.
The first floor was furnished with items collected by the Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore. General manager Randy Hamann said it was "miraculous" some of the items, such as a velvet couch, were donated in time for the event. In all, he said, the store brought over three truckloads of items.
"We're happy to help," Hamann said.
While visitors saw much of Dunham Castle, the third floor and several other areas were blocked from public viewing. The age of the home was apparent, as there were cracks in the walls, loose steps and other damage to the house.
Ebersole said Dunham Castle shows the hidden side of the foreclosure crisis. Although it doesn't compare to people losing their homes, she said, the deterioration of historical properties "is still quite sad."
She hopes to find people who will invest in Dunham Castle, she said.
"We only have some of these in the world," she said.
Visit www.5n648dunhamroad.bairdwarner.com for more information about Dunham Castle.