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BEYOND THE LISTING: Utica home has privacy and nature

If your vision of a dream home has 100-year-old oak trees and views of Starved Rock, the I&M Canal and Utica's Towpath, you'll love the roughly 2,400-square-foot, one-story home, all on a five-acre wooded lot at 201 Woodland Drive in Oak Bluff Estates in Utica.

The three-bedroom, two-bath home was designed with a main floor laundry, loft and finished walk-out basement and only minutes away from three parks (Starved Rock, Buffalo Rock and Matthiessen state parks), wineries and great restaurants. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy camping areas, horseback riding and boating/canoeing on the Illinois River. Interstates 80 and 39 are nearby, providing an easy commute.

With its three-level deck, you might feel like you're on a permanent vacation when you stand outside to enjoy the peaceful wooded lot and wildlife that includes deer and wild turkeys. JR and Dee Barrera, the home's owners (Dee is also the real estate broker), said once the autumn leaves are gone, there are additional beautiful views of Starved Rock and icefalls (from water seeping from the sandstone) by the Utica bridge. There's even a private duck club that offers an impressive sight of its lake that you can see all year.

Oak Bluff Estates subdivision has an interesting history. Fred Esmond was Utica's mayor from 2001 until he passed away in 2012. Fred's uncle and his father, Truman, owned the farmland currently referred to as Oak Bluff Estates. Because the land consisted of black soil on top of deep beds of solid rock, it was unsuitable for farming. So, the land was split between the two men. For years, Truman had a dream for a subdivision on his portion, but people told him there was so much rock, a subdivision could never happen. Unfortunately, Truman passed away without realizing his dream. But with all of its rolling hills, creeks and streams, the Fred Esmond family was able to turn the property into the subdivision Truman had envisioned.

Barrera said that today, the subdivision is “one of the prettiest in the area. It's also really quiet and private.”

“My husband, (JR) Joe, and I bought the property and designed the home in 1998,” Barrera continued. “I know the rock was really extensive because the house next door had to be dynamited for its basement. The advantage of the homes being built on rock is that there aren't any water problems so there's no need to buy sump pumps.”

When the Barreras bought the property, Paul Ebener of Ebener Construction in La Salle, helped Dee design the home. The nine-room home includes a 30-foot cathedral ceiling in the great room with a stone fireplace, a master bedroom with master bath with walk-in closet and a two-car heated and air-conditioned garage. With a full kitchen on the main level, there's another full kitchen in the walk-out basement that makes it a great entertainment area. The roof is new and the home has unique Alpine gables. “Alpine gables are very beneficial to a home,” Barrera said. “They range from 18 inches to 3 feet on all sides of our home. I especially wanted those included in the design because when it's raining outside, we can still enjoy any level of the deck without getting wet.”

The 20 stairs leading up to the loft/sitting area are solid custom-made oak; Barrera sanded and stained the handmade solid oak doors throughout the home. While the home has central air, it's not used very often. “By opening the windows in the great room and dining area, all the trees create a great cross-breeze,” Barrera continued. “We seldom have to use the air. We designed the home to include windows with views from every angle. I never used curtains on any of them. It's so private, sheers worked beautifully.”

It's not just oak trees that grace the outside view. There are many hickory trees and about 15 other varieties that include walnut, maple, oak, ash, red bud, peach, apple and plum trees. Take a walk around the home or along the heavily wooded path toward the canal and you'll find mushrooms, including morels, that the Barreras enjoy hunting for in the timber near the streams. Wildflowers bloom throughout the property, including some endangered species.

When Barrera first moved into the home, after several tries, she was able to sprout 17 new oak trees that are planted in the front area. Those tall 20-year-old oaks, combined with the 100-year oak trees in back, all combine to give the home its privacy.

What's the best part of living in the home? “I would have to say it's the privacy,” Barrera replied. “With our busy days, this home is a safe haven. We can relax and really enjoy God's creations from any angle. Living here really is like being on vacation. I don't think there's any place prettier to vacation at or to live.”

THE HOUSE at 201 Woodland Drive, Utica, is priced at $325,000. The home is listed by Broker/Realtor, Delores Barrera, United Country Starved Rock Realty. Call Barrera at 815-667-9990 or 815-252-9696 for more information.

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