A little northeast of Kewanee, there’s a small house quickly catches the eyes and is as eccentric as the man who built it who comes with a long list of talents, descriptions and accomplishments.

Francis Park Caretaker Gerald Phelps said pointing to a framed math problem on the wall, “Considered by the University of Illinois to be an unsolvable problem, so they gave it to Fred in 1978, and it’s to find the diameter of circle x, which is that little x between 1, 2 and 3, and Fred solved it.”

Kewanee born Frederick Francis was an inventor, mathematician, engineer, woodworker, poet and artist and that scratches the surface, while his personality is what makes him stand out.

Phelps said, “He believed that he could go barefooted on his own land and absorb the germs and energy of his own soil.”

That was part of his practice of Physical Culture demanding he’d stay active, while he had a proclivity for at times not wearing much or any clothes.

He also stuck to a strict vegetarian diet, an atheist and believed in reincarnation.

But one of his most enduring legacies was the dream home of Woodland Palace that he built for him and his wife, Jeanie.

Phelps said, “He build this [the solarium] for Jeanie’s tuberculosis, and it has 12 sides to it, and it actually creates a breeze and brings in fresh air every 60 seconds.”

Those innovations are incorporated throughout.

City of Kewanee Grounds and Maintenance Manager Kevin Newton said, “He had hot water at the time that was pressurized, using a cistern and a boiler in the basement.”

There’s also an early form of air conditioning.

His genius allowed him a lot of time to build his house down to the most exquisite detail, after an invention he made for Illinois based Elgin Watch Company filled his bank account.

Newton said, “Be able to retire at an early age, at which point in time he purchased this 60 acres and started the life process of building this palace.”

When not building, it was time with his wife, which shows opposites can attract.

Phelps said, “He would give Jeanie a ride [on his bike] to Kewanee or Neponset to church. You can see right here he has a platform and a place for here to put her feet.”

After his death in 1926 at the age of 70, he willed it all to the city to create Francis Park.

Newton said, “For families, kids and nature.”

Francis Park is open May through September with tours of Woodland Palace on Tuesdays through Sunday from 9 a.m. till 2 p.m.

Information about the park, RV sites and other information can be found on the city’s website.