Realtors would call the aging clapboard house at 816 S. Hennepin Ave. a "handyman's special."

It needs a lot of work.

The last person to own the house put it on the marker for $31,500 afater trying to make money on it as a two-flat.

No one around Dixon is sure how many people have lived in the house in its 75 years of existence. They know only that there were many, and one of them was President-elect Ronald Reagan.

The Reagan family, Jack and Nellie and sons Ronald and Neil, lived there from 1920 to 1924, a long time in a house for the vagabond family.

Now, the empty house is about to undergo major changes.

"The first thing we will probably do is tear off this awful [imitation brick] siding and expose the clapboard siding, the way it was when Reagan lived here," said Dean Harrison, a local businessman and member of a committee of Dixon residents who will restore the house.

Then they will look for some 1920s furniture and seek to make the house a national historic shrine.

After Reagan was nominated for President last summer, Harrison and some other residents raised $5,000 and then guaranteed a $26,500 short-term loan to buy the Reagan home. The owner, they said, could not have cared less that Reagan once lived in the house, and they paid him the asking price, $31,500.

The restoration is part of an effort to put Dixon "on the map" as Reagan's hometown and help business in this Lee County community. The Dixon Chamber of Commerce has erected a large sign on Galena Avenue proclaiming Dixon as "The Hometown of President Reagan."

Thomas D. Shaw, general manager of the Dixon Evening Telegraph, said it is hoped that the recognition Dixon will get from its Reagan connection will help attract industry to this city of 18,100 people.

Dixon is basically an agricultural community in the heart of rich Illinois corn land, but it also has 20 or so small industries.

Two years ago, the city named the new bridge over the Rock River for Reagan, and Shaw said he would not be surprised to see Dixon High Schol renamed for Reagan.

It was at Dixon High that Reagan first moved onto center stage, playing the lead role in the junior class play, "You and I," which depicted the conflicts between generations.

Bernard J. Frazer, the drama coach, said he was not getting bigheaded about his influence on the man elected the 40th president.

"When you get as old as I am you find you can trip on your ego an awful lot," Frazer said. "My ego says, 'Yes, you helped Ronald Reagan get where he is.' But frankly, I think that is a lot of hogwash. My attitudes and values may have influenced him, but I don't know."