Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. —Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.

Pictures of New Salem by Dulany Sriner

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Questors Dinner

On Tuesday, December 19, Iles House played host to a Christmas party for the Questors of Rochester, who call themselves the Chickenbristle Chapter.

The word Chickenbristle is of uncertain origin. Vachel Lindsay uses the name in his poem, "Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan" to refer to a small hamlet near Riverton and Rochester.

At the dinner, Dave Barringer and Mike Denk acted as waiters to the 15 guests, serving up a green salad and baked lasanga. Linda Denk ran the kitchen with great aplomb.

Helen Duffey, an artist who is still active at 96, became our first visitor to use the new lift.

The house was decorated for Christmas and seasonal music in the background provided just the right mood.

Pictures by Dick Hart

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Holiday Tours

Candlelight tours for the holiday season: Dec 8-9 and 15-16, 6:30-8:30 pm, with refreshments. The public is invited and admission is free. That was our plan for those two weekends, but on Friday, Dec 8, we had 0 attendees!

Problems with getting an ad published and delivered were responsible, and the weather of the past week didn't help. But to keep docent spirits high, Dick Hart returned from Gabatoni's with two pizzas, and everyone had a great time talking, telling stories and enjoying the house decorations.

Saturday Dec 9 was a different story. Visitors were on the front porch at 6:30 pm and the stream continued all evening. A great cross-section of Springfield turned out: young, old, and from every part of town. People made heart-warming comments, thankful that the House has been saved. One visitor exclaimed, "This is the real deal," meaning he'd never seen such an authentic restoration.

We are grateful that so many appreciate the preservation of Springfield's rich history. Beside Elijah Ile's candlelit fireplace, we may all glimpse the past on a cold winter's night.

Pictures by Dulany Sriner

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

AAUW Party

On the evening of Saturday, December 2, the American Association of University Women held a champagne and dessert party at the Iles House.

Founded in 1881, the AAUW has for 125 years promoted education and equity for women and girls. The Springfield chapter has supported programs that provide graduate fellowships for women and prevent sex discrimination in hiring or promotion cases.

The weather that evening was ice, snow and record cold, but over 150 guests came to enjoy dessert and conversation at the Iles House. Lit by candlelight, the House looked out toward trees glistening with ice, and for a moment one could imagine a winter night in 1881.

Pictures by Dick Hart.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Docents & DAR

On Saturday, Nov 17, the Iles House played host to two groups, the docents who provide guide and host services throughout the year, and the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Here the docents discuss their duties and schedules over lunch. David Stevens (ivory sweater) provides advice and feedback.

Dick describes the Iles House as "Springfield's home," as it has rapidly become a gathering and meeting place for many historic-minded associations.

The DAR, descendants of ancestors who achieved American independence, has existed since the late 1800s. 2006 marks the 60th anniversary of the Caleb Hopkins chapter of central Illinois.

That eerie face in the silver tray is David Stevens. Pictures are by Dulany Sriner.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

From Springfield's Oldest House

To Yours

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

AIG Reception

On Nov 15, employees of AIG (American International Group) held a reception at Iles House. Over 50 attended the event, after a day of meetings at the Springfield office (former Franklin Life). Catering was by Augie's Front Burner of Springfield.

Several executives of AIG were present, along with managers from the Midwest region. On behalf of Iles House, Dick Hart welcomed the group and thanked AIG for the gift of a parking lot at Seventh and Cook.

Pictures and story by Dick Hart

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Vachel Lindsay

November 10 is the birthday of Vachel Lindsay. He was born in Springfield in 1879 and died there in 1931. He studied art in Chicago and New York and then traveled all over the USA, lecturing and reading his poems. He remains today Springfield's most famous writer.

An article in today's Journal-Register describes the recent discovery of a letter that Lindsay wrote in 1928 to Susan Wilcox, his English teacher at SHS. The letter passed to Elizabeth Graham and then to Jaqueline Jackson, and only by good luck recently came to light.

The letter praises Miss Wilcox for her work on a student literary magazine and admires the writers' names, which ranged ". . . from Portuguese to Lithuanian. I read back into the family histories of some of them, just from the names. The old Springfield names have a special thrill for me, even though none of them represent intimates."

Lindsay's letter has returned to the library of SHS. The picture above is of his wife, Elizabeth, and their children, all described in the Wilcox letter. An extensive collection of Lindsay manuscripts survives at Firestone Library, Princeton University.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Candlelight Tour

On October 27-28, Iles House hosted its Candlelight Tour, a repeat of the popular seasonal event held last year. With its rooms lighted with candles, the House takes on a glow that reminds visitors of the past.

About 250 visitors attended, many of them from outlying parts of Sangamon county. Here they view pictures that depict moving the House to its present site in 1998.

Iles House Foundation president Dave Barringer (white shirt) gives visitors an overview of the House purpose, to serve as a museum of Springfield history and to raise awareness of the need for historical preservation in central Illinois.

A group of volunteer guides help to interpret the House, and several of them wear period costumes from the 1840s, the ladies in wide hoop skirts and the gentlement in frock coats and top hats. Amid the glow of candles, long ago seems to come alive.

Pictures by Dulany Sriner

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lincoln's Ghost Walk

Halloween night, October 31, is your last chance in 2006 to take "Lincoln's Ghost Walk."

The walk takes 90 minutes and covers 12 blocks of historic neighborhoods in central Springfield.

Information on where to buy tickets is at this site.

If you see any ghosts, please report them in the comment below.

And . . . BOO!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

End in Sight!

Dulany Sriner sent these images of the rear elevator addition, where construction is nearly done. Landscaping has begun with placement of several large sandstone boulders. (Click on the pictures to see enlargments.)

A sloping board walk with hand rails provides access for disabled visitors. The addition is a concession to modern design, but its windows and materials complement the original Greek Revival style. Ground cover and shrubs will complete the project, just before winter closes in.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Southern Illinois

Dulany Sriner sent these images of a fall trip he and his wife made to southern Illinois.

"From Carbondale and the Salukis at homecoming to Chester, Illinois, the home of Popeye, we looped down to the southernmost tip of Illinois in Cairo, then headed down the Ohio river and up the Mississippi."

The pictures remind us that Illinois extends from the Great Lakes to the southern Delta. And also that Springfield sits on the Mason-Dixon line, home to settlers from north and south.

Thanks to Dulany for his pictures. Click on them to see enlargements, and visit D's Digitals for even more images of Illinois, Springfield, and the Iles House.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Autumn Events

Fall has arrived at Iles House, as you may see from the colorful display of mums and other autumn flowers in the front garden on Seventh Street.

On the south side (Cook Street), the picket and board fence is in view, and also the elevator shaft.

At the rear, construction nears completion. A handsome board walk descends through a garden area. By next spring, it will bloom as well.

To see the schedule of House events, click on "Iles House Calendar" in the right column.

Thanks to Dick Hart and Dulany Sriner for the pictures. Click on them to see enlargements!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Elevator Progress

Workmen continue to make progress on the elevator at the rear of the Iles House. Exterior carpentry is complete and now masonry begins. The bricks will match those on the lower level of the house.

When finished, the House will have an attractive rear entrance to the Museum of Springfield History and easy access to the upper floors. Thanks to Dick Hart for the picture.

Please note the Iles House Calendar in the upper-right list of links. Click there to see a schedule of forthcoming events.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Clocks & Watches

Illinois Watch Poster

On October 7, 2006 at 1:00 pm, Les McAlister of St. Louis, an authority on the Sangamo Electric Company and its famous clocks, will give a talk at the Iles House. He will show several clocks from his collection and take questions for about an hour.

Afterwards, he and two experts will examine Sangamo clocks brought by members of the audience. The experts will offer information about clock history, but not give appraisals of monetary value.

Currently on exhibit in the first-floor museum of Iles House are many examples of memorabilia and products from the Illinois Watch Company, as seen in these pictures supplied by Dulany Sriner.

Display of Illinois Watches

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Moving Day

Dulany Sriner recently sent several pictures of August 30, 1998, the day the Iles House moved from 1825 South Fifth Street to Seventh and Cook Streets. The original historic location was Sixth and Cook. More photos of the Iles House and other Springfield attractions are available on Dulany's web site, D's Digitals.

Departing old location, 1825 South Fifth

Navigating around trees and shrubs

Cherry pickers lifting power lines

At new location, 7th and Cook

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fall Progress

Fall has come to the Iles House, which on its Seventh Street side presents a finished front, with its laid sidewalk and hand-built fencing. The house follows Greek Revival design, a style popular in antebellum America, but its elevated front porch resembles Southern houses, which had to rise above ground that could be damp or snake-and-roach infested.

On the rear face, progress is altering the house's original lines, as workmen continue to install an enclosed elevator shaft. This structure will provide access for visitors with disabilities and puts the house into compliance with state and federal guidelines. Depending on weather, construction should be complete in one month.

Pictures are courtesy of Dick Hart

Monday, September 04, 2006

Balloons Over Lincoln

The town of Lincoln, Illinois held an Art and Balloon Festival August 25-27, and Dulany Sriner was on hand to take several pictures. Launched from Logan County Airport, the hot air balloons soared for three evenings, making quite an aerial display at dusk.

This event began in 1974, when town committees staged an art fair at the Logan County courthouse. Latham Park* later became the venue, and balloons entered the scene in 1989. They drew such crowds that the airport location was approved in 2005.

Dulany has more photos on his gallery site, D's Digitals, and the town of Lincoln also offers a photo album of this new prairie tradition.

Photos courtesy of Dulany Sriner.

* Dick Hart reminds me that Latham Park has a connection with Iles House: "Latham Souther, the man who saved the house in 1910, is a descendant of the Latham family that settled on Elkhart Hill and were active in early events in Logan County. The Iles House has a full history of the family prepared by David Stevens, a docent and a descendant of Latham Souther. We also have furniture donated by the Souther family that once belonged to the Latham family. It was indeed a small world in early central Illinois."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tall Ships

During August 3-9, the city of Chicago hosted a parade of Tall Ships, a collection of antique and classic boats from many nations of the world. Visitors were invited to board the boats and also watch them under sail along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Included were barques, brigs, caravels, ketches, schooners, and sloops. Ships of this size often sailed the Great Lakes, at least during open water seasons.

Dulany Sriner, who often photographs the Iles House, visited Chicago that weekend and took many beautiful shots, which are available in prints from D's Digitals.

Here are two of his pictures, for which we send many thanks.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Final Tasks

The last major construction project at Iles House began on August 17, building an elevator addition and patio. They will reach completion within the next 30-60 days. The elevator will provide ADA-compliant access to the first floor and much-needed storage space on the first floor and lower level.
Workmen are installing the patio in brick pavers; these will have engraved names of persons who supported the House restoration.

The final tasks are placement of a Ball Township quarry stone, the same type used in building the Old State Capitol, and planting a prairie garden on the rear upper lawn. That will complete many years of fund-raising and planning to restore the Iles House into a museum of early Springfield history.

Photos and Story by Dick Hart.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

National Night Out

Iles House sits on Aristocracy Hill, once a prime residential area in Springfield, from downtown to South Grand, and 2nd to 8th Streets. Photographs from an 1898 book depict the homes of prominent families, including Dirksen, Reisch, Lawrence, Herndon, Conkling, Kreider, Vancil, and Ridgeley.

On the evening of August 1, current residents of Aristocracy Hill celebrated National Night Out at the Iles House. NNO encourages neighborhoods to work with local police to build a strong community spirit and prevent crime. See this Journal-Register story on the evening.

Neighbors brought covered dishes and Chris Butler, president of the Kirlin, Eagan, and Butler Funeral Home provided fried chicken. The evening was quite hot, but guests ate in the air-conditioned comfort of the Iles House lower level.

Prairie Fire, a local bluegrass band, provided period and recent music that greatly added to the pleasure of the evening, as neighbors met, visited, and exchanged stories.

Among the guests were organizers Judith Penseanu-Feurer and Bill Feurer, and members of the Aristocracy Hill Board of Directors. Others attending were Representative Raymond Poe and City Council members Bill Bartolomucci, Bruce Strum, and Judy Yaeger.

Judith Penseanu-Feurer, President of the Aristocracy Hill Neighborhood Association, challenged everyone to preserve this great historic neighborhood and its security: "Little step by little step, we will make our neighborhood one that the entire City will point to with pride."

Pictures by Dick Hart and Dulany Sriner.