The Ellwood House Museum offers educational programs for learners of all ages. 

Ellwood Explorers

generously funded by the cy miller foundation

Ellwood Explorers is a series of family programs offered each summer between the months of May and August.

Ellwood Explorers takes place whether it's rain or shine! All outdoor programs will be moved into the Visitor Center in case of bad weather. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Programs are free of charge. For more information please call the museum at 815-756-4609 or email Tricia Runzel, Curator of Education and Interpretation at trunzel@ellwoodhouse.org.

Lunch at the Little House
Saturday, May 27 at 11:00 AM

Spend the afternoon at everyone's favorite playhouse, the 1891 Little House. Learn about nineteenth century games and try out reproduction toys. Families are welcome to bring a lunch and enjoy it under a shady tree on the grounds of scenic Ellwood Park. All ages are welcome.

Hidden Technology
Tuesday, June 13 at 11:00 AM

Hidden in the servant areas of the mansion are many pieces of technology. In this program, children will learn about these elements of servant life. After exploring, children will use their imagination to dream up and craft new technologies for the Ellwood servants to use. All ages are welcome.

Countries of Curiosity
Wednesday, June 21 at 11:00 AM

Pack your steamer trunk! Travel the world with the Ellwoods and learn about the fun souvenirs Harriet Ellwood collected for her Curiosity Shop. Then, travel to a country Harriet never saw and create a souvenir of your own. All ages are welcome.

Summer Selections
Thursday, July 6 at 11:00 AM
Presented with the Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic, NIU

Gather in the living room of the Ellwood-Nehring House to hear the reading of bestselling children's book The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. After the story, create related arts and crafts and enjoy a snack. Ages 2 and up with parent and/or guardian.

BLOCK Fest® 
Friday, July 21 at 10:30 AM
Presented with the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement

Explore the many possibilities of block building in this fun event for children ages 8 months to 8 years. This hands-on program promotes early math and science skills. Perhaps we'll even find a budding architect! Registration is required for this program. See below.

Ellwood Explorers at the 48th Annual Ice Cream Social
Sunday, August 6 at 1:00 PM

Learn to hand-churn your own ice cream! During this year's Ice Cream Social, children are invited to make their own ice cream sundae just like the Ellwoods and their staff did 100 years ago. All ages are welcome.



School Tours

At the root of our tours and programs is an emphasis on the story of the Ellwood House, the history of the Ellwood family, their barbed wire business, and the exploration of our collective history.


School field trips are free of charge.

Group Size

The maximum group size we can accommodate is 45 students. If you would like to bring more than 45 students, please book them in two groups in back to back sessions, or in two groups on two separate days.


We appreciate chaperones, but we ask that you limit parent chaperones to 2 adults per visit. This number, of course, does not include teachers and staff.


We prefer to host field trips in the morning and can begin as early as 9:00 AM. School tours cannot be scheduled for 1:00 PM or 3:00 PM. School tours are available Tuesday through Friday.
The museum is closed on Mondays.

Food & Drink

Bagged lunches can be brought with you and eaten on the grounds. The Visitor Center meeting room may be available as a backup in case of inclement weather. Please contact our office about using the meeting room.

Special Programming

Ellwood House offers tours specifically desgined for grades 2nd through 5th. To schedule a program for another age group, please call Tricia Runzel at 815-756-4609 or email trunzel@ellwoodhouse.org.

History Detectives

Become a detective! Be assigned a lead investigator who will walk you through the Ellwood Mansion and guide you on your
fact-finding mission.

2nd and 3rd Grade Program

Students have the opportunity to examine historic photographs and objects within the mansion to discover what families did for fun one hundred years ago. Tour the Ellwood House to see significant pieces of family history passed down through multiple generations.

The purpose of this program

To introduce students to Isaac Ellwood and the barbed wire industry in DeKalb, explaining why the mansion exists today, and why Isaac Ellwood was important. Introducing students to historic photographs and artifacts in order to seek out answers to historical questions. Touring the mansion to gain a greater understanding of historic pastimes, hobbies, and entertainment through the examination of the historic house and artifacts. Students will recognize how the pastimes of the past relate to their lives today.

Program Logistics

The program is 1 hour and 30 minutes. Please allow for 2 hours to be spent at the museum. 45 students max per group visit. Please call our office 815-756-4609 or email Tricia Runzel at trunzel@ellwoodhouse.org for more information or to book this program.

Hard Work

Learn to properly set the dining room table, write a menu, change a diaper and more. You better learn your jobs quickly & efficiently, as there is no room for error when you are a servant.


Students see and feel what life was like for those individuals who worked for the Ellwood family. Try out jobs done by Ellwood House staff. Learn to properly set the dining room table, write a menu, change a diaper and more. Tour the Ellwood House's interesting work areas in the basement and view the staff living quarters on multiple levels of the mansion.


To familiarize students with differences in lifestyle between the Ellwood family and their working class servants/staff. Students will gain an appreciation for the complexity and physicality of working at Ellwood House. Students will also learn about the immigration experience and how education, language, and practical skills determine the types of jobs available to the Ellwood House staff.


The program is 1 hour and 30 minutes. Please allow for 2 hours to be spent at the museum. 45 students max per group visit. Please call our office 815-756-4609 or email Tricia Runzel at trunzel@ellwoodhouse.org for more information or to book this program.

Creatures & Creations

Find many hidden animals within the architecture and ornate detailing of the Ellwood House, then come to the Visitor Center
for an art project based on what you saw!

have you heard there are animals in the ellwood House?

Take a tour and find lions, dragons, sea creatures, and other creatures carved into wood, painted on canvas, and hidden where you least expect them. After your hunt, head to the Visitor Center to create your own take-home art project!


$5 per person (family program developed for ages 6 and up)


This one-hour program may be booked as a private tour for groups of six or more.


For more information or to schedule this tour, call Tricia Runzel at 815-756-4609 or email to trunzel@ellwoodhouse.org.

Local Lore
2017 adult lecture series

Presented by the Ellwood house museum in partnership with DeKalb Area Historic Sites and Museums

Local Lore is a series of adult lecture programs. Once a month, a knowledgeable speaker will present an hour-long program about history relevant to DeKalb County. All programs are free of charge and take place in the Ellwood House Museum Visitor Center, unless otherwise stated. Participants are welcome to bring a sack lunch to each program. For more information, call (815) 756-4609 or email trunzel@ellwoodhouse.org.

Partially funded by the mary e. stevens concert & lecture fund

Open House
Wednesday, March 15 at noon

Join the DeKalb Area Historic Sites for a preview of this year's Local Lore. Representatives from each of the historic sites will be in attendance. Refreshments and hors d'oeurves will be provided.


The Women Behind the Big Three:
Harriet Ellwood, Luncinda Glidden, and Sophia Haish
Friday, March 24 at noon
Speakers: Rob Glover, Jessi Haish LaRue, and Tricia Runzel

In honor of Women's History Month, learn about the wives of DeKalb's Big Three. Join staff members from the Ellwood House Museum and Glidden Homestead, along with a Haish descendant, for a special look at the women married to DeKalb's most famous residents.


Historic Egyptian Theatre Tour
Thursday, April 13 at noon
Speaker: Alex Nerad

Join Egyptian Theatre Executive Director, Alex Nerad, for a behind-the-scenes look at the architecture and history of one of DeKalb's most iconic buildings. Tour meets at the Egyptian Theatre.


Digging In: Archaeology at the Glidden Homestead
Thursday, May 18 at noon
Speaker: Rob Glover

A simple invention in an old barn put DeKalb on the map. Today, Glidden Homestead is digging into that barn's deeper history to give a full picture of Joseph Glidden's historic invention. Join the Homestead's executive director, Rob Glover, for the 2017 update on this exciting archaeology project. 


DeKalb's Finn Town
Tuesday, June 6 at noon
Speaker: Dr. Diane Rodgers

At the turn of the 20th century, DeKalb was such a hot-spot for Finnish immigrants that they had their own "town" in today's Pleasant Street neighborhood. In this talk, NIU professor Diane Rodgers will explore the neighborhood's unique history and share her own efforts to preserve Majakka Hall.

The Winged Ear Logo: Origin and Evolution of a Global Classic
Thursday, July 13 at noon
Speaker: Donna Langford

DEKALB corn's winged ear logo is recognized worldwide and has its roots in our hometown. Donna Langford of DAAHA will explore how this unique logo came to be and how it has evolved over the last 80 years.


County Seat through the Eyes of the Joiner History Room
Saturday, August 26 at noon
Speaker: Sue Breese

Have you ever wondered why Sycamore is the county seat? Sue Breese of the Joiner History Room will delve into the 20th century battle between DeKalb and Sycamore and the historically contentious decision to build the courthouse in Sycamore.


Our House is Your House! 160 Years at 205 Pine Street
Wednesday, September 20 at noon
Speakers: Gurler Heritage Association board members

Learn the history of the Gurler family in DeKalb, the unique role of the Gurler Heritage Association within our community, and how you can be a part of the Gurler House's pioneer legacy.


History of the DeKalb Fire Department
Friday, October 20 at noon
Speaker: Lt. Luke Howieson

The DeKalb Fire Department has been saving lives for over 100 years. In honor of Fire Prevention Month, join firefighter Luke Howieson for a presentation on the history of our local Fire Department and a glimpse into the unique treasures preserved by the DeKalb Firefighters Historical Foundation.


Sycamore's Garnsey Homes
Thursday, November 16 at noon
Speaker: Steve Bigolin

Did you know the Ellwood Mansion's architect also designed two homes in Sycamore? Join local historian Steve Bigolin for an in-depth look at the architecture and residents of 420 Somonauk Street and the Boynton House on North Main Street.