From the moment you approach the Weber House and Garden arched gateway, surrounded by shrubbery and flowering plants, you know you’re in for a special treat. A button on a call box instructs you to “press to speak.” That’s to get the attention of Ted Weber, who most likely is toiling on the two-acre garden that surrounds the Streator, Illinois, Storybook house. Ted will lead you on a tour through the garden and house and entertain you with stories and conversation throughout the tour.
What is a Storybook House?
Ted describes a Storybook house as one that isn’t of a specific architectural style. Rather, it borrows bits and pieces of other styles and combines them in a way that creates a quaint look. Ted’s parents built the Weber House in 1938, and the combination of Tudor and other styles—and a candy-apple red arched front door—does make it look like a house out of a fairy tale.
Exploring the Weber Garden
Although Ted’s parents built the house and nicely landscaped it, Ted created the garden you see today. An English Garden, in the Arts and Crafts Style, surrounds the home. Hedges, shrubs, annuals, and perennials work together to create beauty and surprise around every corner and in every nook of the garden.
It’s amazing that one person created and maintains this garden so beautifully. “Everything that you see here I’ve done,” Ted explained. “There isn’t a stick, stone, plant, anything that I haven’t done myself and continue to do.”
Ted began working on the garden about 35 years ago. “I’m having a great deal of fun creating the garden. I can’t imagine not having the garden. I would much rather be doing this than anything else.”
Ted’s creativity and love for the garden are obvious in the garden’s details: paths leading through archways and arbors, sweet autumn clematis covered walls, Luytens benches placed strategically in a garden nook.
Weber Garden Slideshow
One garden path leads to a playhouse that matches the style of the Storybook house. It’s a playhouse that every child would love to have. Ted’s parents built the playhouse for him in 1941. “And then my sister came along, and I had to learn to share,” Ted jokingly laments. A glass panel has replaced the door to provide a good view inside the building filled with an unbelievable collection of treasured toys.
Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls share a chair in the playhouse. The daughter of Johnny Gruelle, the man who created Raggedy Ann and Andy over a hundred years ago, gifted the dolls to the Webers. The founder of Home Run Inn Pizza gave the clown painting that hangs over the fireplace mantle to Ted. And, a baseball bat in the playhouse belonged to Ted’s father as a boy.
Luther Hall and Imaginary Punch
Another building, Luther Hall, is named for a beloved pet cat. Luther lived at Weber House for eighteen years before passing on. Guests used to enjoy punch in Luther Hall after the garden tour. However, the pandemic put an end to serving real punch. And that’s when Ted said he started serving “imaginary punch” instead.
Updating the Storybook House to a Time Past
Following the garden tour, Ted invites you into his home. “The home’s interior was designed to appear to be a house that came from Tudor times,” Ted explained. The Tudor period lasted from 1485 through 1603. He explained that if a home from that period had actually been lived in for 500 years, it would have been modernized along the way. So, “some of the rooms now have been updated to the 18th or early 19th century.”
These Stories Aren’t Fairy Tales
Although the term Storybook house has to do with the architectural style, it can also pertain to the stories Ted tells during the home tour. They aren’t fairy tales, though. These are true stories of Ted’s working life and the celebrities he rubbed elbows with. “I can drop names faster than most of you can buy hats. I knew everybody.”
Ted worked in radio, interviewing celebrities, and he became friends with several of them. In fact, he has named rooms in the home after some of his favorites. The entry hall is named Shadow Hall, after Bret Morrison. Morrison played the part of The Shadow on the old-time radio show by the same name. Ted inherited some walking sticks from Morrison, which are on display in the hall. Another room is named for Myrna Loy, who shared many Sunday suppers at the Weber house while she starred in a Chicago play. Memorabilia from the 1950’s Kukla, Fran, and Ollie television show fills a bedroom by the same name. Ted was good friends with Burr Tillstrom and Fran Allison. Burr created the Kukla, Fran, and Ollie show and acted as puppeteer, while Fran starred in the show.
If You Visit the Weber House and Garden
The Weber House and Garden, located at 1503 N Baker Street, in Streator, Illinois, is about two hours southwest of Chicago and a half hour southeast of Starved Rock State Park. Tours are available seven days a week, April through October. Cash (preferred) and checks are accepted. Check the website for tour times and admission fees.