A brief history of Pekin’s street fairs

This is a revised and expanded version of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in June 2011 before the launch of this weblog.

A brief history of Pekin’s street fairs

By Linda Mace, Library assistant (retired),
and Jared Olar, Library assistant

This photograph from the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection shows the booth of Central Book & Toy Store at the 1935 Pekin Street Fair.

Once upon a time, or beginning in 1898 and apparently ending in the mid-1930’s, Pekin would put on vibrant, very popular street fairs, hosted in the city’s downtown.

In 1902, on the day of the parade, 18,000 people attended this event. Two railroad companies from Peoria brought 2,800 people into our fair town. This was quite the event, with officers and committees and a whole list of rules and regulations.

This is from the official brochure and program for the 1902 fair:

“The many favorable comments upon the originality and beauty of the FREE STREET FAIRS given by Pekin during the years 1898 and 1899, and the clean and praiseworthy manner in which they were conducted, has resulted in a unanimous desire on the part of our wide-awake business men and citizens to out-do all previous Street Fairs, therefore the Association has selected October 15, 16, 17 & 18, 1902, as the dates on which Pekin will again offer free entertainment to the assemble multitudes. THE MOST FASTIDIOUS TASTES of the visitor and his family will find only pleasure and instruction in the beautiful array of VARIEGATED BOOTHS and MUSICAL and DESCRIPTIVE ENTERTAINMENTS WHICH WILL BE GIVEN DAY AND NIGHT! THE FACT THAT PEKIN, in her former exhibits, MORE THAN FILLED HER PROMISES to the public, should, and we believe will, be encouraged in giving her third street fair, by an almost universal visit from the citizens of Central Illinois.”

The brochure went on to describe the “great parade” and emphasized “new features every day.” The fair of 1898 had contained 80 booths, running down the middle of the street and on either side, corresponding to the front footage of the stores erecting them. Downtown Pekin was the place to be in those days!

Shown here is the front cover of the 1899 Pekin Street Fair official program and souvenir. The Pekin Public Library’s copy of the program was preserved in the 1902 library cornerstone time capsule.

This page from the 1899 Pekin Street Fair official program and souvenir features a photograph of the Cole’s Studio booth. Cole’s Studio was the photography business of Pekin’s pioneer photographer Henry Hobart Cole.

The old tradition of Pekin’s street fairs continues in new forms even today, with the popular annual Marigold Festival and downtown events organized and promoted by Pekin Main Street. Pekin also put on an old-fashioned street fair on and near the premises of the Tazewell County Courthouse on Aug. 7, 1999, as part of the major celebrations of the 175th anniversary of Pekin’s settlement and the 150th anniversary of Pekin’s incorporation as a city.

Festivities at the 1999 street fair were literally dampened by a summer thunderstorm, but the celebrations went on as planned. “As black clouds poured rain and thunder bellowed, Mayor Dave Tebben and pioneering Tharp family descendant Norman Tharp led about 100 people as they sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Pekin,” the Pekin Daily Times reported.

Shown are a commemorative plate and a special section of the Pekin Daily Times marking the celebration of Pekin’s 175th birthday. Both items are in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection.

Hopefully the city’s bicentennial celebrations five years from now also won’t be rained out, even if rained on.

Included in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room archives are copies of the 1899 and 1902 Pekin Street Fair brochure and a 1999 Pekin Terquasquicentennial commemorative plat embossed with the official logo of the 1999 Pekin 175th Anniversary.

#1898-pekin-street-fair, #1899-pekin-street-fair, #1902-pekin-street-fair, #1935-pekin-street-fair, #central-book-toy-store, #coles-studio, #dave-tebben, #henry-hobart-cole, #norman-tharp, #pekin-175th-anniversary, #pekin-library-cornerstone-time-capsule, #pekin-street-fairs, #pekin-terquasquicentennial, #preblog-columns

Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Harvard Hills

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

This week we complete our survey of the unincorporated communities of Tazewell County, with our focus placed upon the Harvard Hills subdivision in the northwest corner of Washington Township. We’ll also take an overview of the township’s various subdivisions and unincorporated communities both past and present.

Washington Township, the second largest township in Tazewell County, has pioneer roots that reach back to the very beginnings of Tazewell County. One of the county’s first settlers of European origin was William Holland Sr., who arrived in Peoria in 1820 and then moved to the future Washington Township in the spring of 1825, when he built a log cabin on Section 23. That was the seed of the city of Washington, which Holland formally laid out and platted in 1834.

Since that time, Washington has always been not only the primary community in Washington Township, but, until East Peoria began to spread east, the township’s only incorporated community. In fact, for much of the township’s early history the city of Washington was the township’s only community. Early plat maps from 1864, 1873, and 1891 show the wide township with Washington in its center and the remainder of the township lightly peppered with schoolhouses and churches.

By 1891, the plat map shows Pekin Junction as a station a few miles somewhat northeast of Washington. The station was where the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, coming up from the south, joined up with the northeasterly-bound Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway. Pekin Junction, established in 1872 according to the late Fred Soady’s list of Tazewell County toponyms, was named because the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe line (originally the Chicago & St. Louis) branched off at that point and headed toward Pekin. The old plat maps do not indicate that any community grew up around Pekin Junction, however.

While the 1891 plat map of Washington Township does not show any other place names besides Washington city and Pekin Junction, it does indicate that the city of Washington was then surrounded by numerous smaller lots that were essentially subdivisions even if not formally laid out as such. The same map also shows three other similar groupings of lots, in Sections 3, 22, and 28.

In 1929 most of western Washington Township was dedicated to farming, with only a few subdivisions or grouping of small tracts, as shown in this detail of a township plat map from that year.

By 1929, in addition to the lot groupings of Section 3 and Section 28, several named subdivisions and farms are scattered all over the plat map of Washington Township: Pleasant Heights, Pleasant Ridge, Forrest View, Grand View, Garden Lawn, Oak Ridge, etc. The lot grouping in Section 3, with north-south strips of land along Liberty Lane, is still there today.

More recent plat maps of the township show the creation of new subdivisions that circled the city of Washington or in the eastern and southern parts of the township. In time, however, most of those subdivisions would be formally annexed either by the city of Washington or the city of East Peoria. One of them, Sunnyland, is now more or less split between Washington and East Peoria. Similarly, the expansion of East Peoria led to the old communities of Gardena and Cloverdale in northeastern Groveland Township becoming a part of East Peoria.

The Harvard Hills subdivision did not yet exist at this time the 1945 Washington Township plat map was drawn.

The genesis of the Harvard Hills subdivision — an area in Sections 7 and 8 marked “subdivided” — is shown in this detail of a 1955 plat map of Washington Township.

Several unincorporated subdivisions remain in Washington Township, including the homes along Parkview, Camelot, Sunset, Golfview, Woodbine, and Durham that are completely surrounded by the city of Washington. But the largest and most prominent of the named subdivisions in the township in Harvard Hills in Sections 7 and 8, in the northwestern corner of Washington Township. The homes of Harvard Hills lay along Hillman Street, North and South Behrens Avenue, Green Avenue, and Spring Creek Road.

The 1864 and 1873 plat maps show that much of the land of Harvard Hills was then owned by members of the Ficht family. Another earlier landowner in the area, as shown on the 1891, 1910, and 1929 plat maps, was John Poehlman. A country school once existed on Ficht land in Section 8, adjacent to Poehlman’s farm. In more recent times, a prominent owner of the future land of Harvard Hills was Charles Rinkenberger, as shown on the 1945 plat map of Washington Township.

By 1955, however, Rinkenberger’s land (on which the old country school was still situated) is shown on the map as “subdivided” – the genesis of Harvard Hills.

By 1993 large tracts of western Washington Township had been annexed to Washington and East Peoria, and most of the area was a patchwork of subdivisions — including Harvard Hills — and several small tract groupings.

Harvard Hills is the only named unincorporated community in this detail of a 2017 plat map of western Washington Township. A comparison of this map with earlier ones shows the expansion of Washington and East Peoria in this township.

#charles-rinkenberger, #cloverdale, #east-peoria, #ficht-family, #forrest-view, #garden-lawn, #gardena, #grand-view, #harvard-hills, #john-poehlman, #oak-ridge, #pekin-junction, #pleasant-heights, #pleasant-ridge, #sunnyland, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities, #william-holland

Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Mayfair, Cooper, and Crandall

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

As we near the completion of our series on Tazewell County’s unincorporated communities, this week we will review the Morton Township’s subdivision of Mayfair and the older unincorporated locales known as Cooper Station and Crandall Station.

Looking over recent plat maps of Morton Township, one will find that Mayfair is the township’s only residential community outside the village of Morton. Situated about a mile east of Morton on the north side of East Jackson Street (U.S. Route 150), Mayfair consists of 40 homes along four streets (Durant and Bryant running north-south, Fred and Grant running east-west).

This detail from the 1967 plat of Morton Township shows Mayfair Subdivision and the old train depot sites of Crandall Station and Cooper Station. Crandall no longer exists and Cooper, though still inhabited, also no longer appears on the map.

Old county plat books show that Mayfair was established at some point between 1955 and 1967. Long before Mayfair was laid out, however, a rural country schoolhouse (Morton Township Schoolhouse No. 8) was located just across the road. Township plat maps and county atlases show that schoolhouse in 1864 and 1873. By 1891, however, the schoolhouse had been relocated to the southwest corner of the intersection of Jackson Street and Washington Road, where it remained for a few more decades – the site is now a vacant lot.

This detail of an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County shows the areas of northeastern Morton Township, where Crandall Station in Section 10, Cooper Station in Sections 1 and 2, and the subdivision of Mayfair in Section 14 were later established.

The area of Morton Township where Cooper Station was later established at the Thomas Cooper farm in Sections 1 and 2 is shown at the top of this detail of an 1873 Morton Township plat map. Further south at the south border of Section 14, the area where Mayfair subdivision was later established is shown to have been owned in 1873 by William McCalla and J. Plum.

Other than Mayfair, the only other locales indicated as communities on old plat maps are Crandall Station and Cooper Station. Crandall no longer appears on plat maps, but older maps show that it was the site of a railroad station northeast of Morton in Section 10, at the spot where the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe line intersected with the Norfolk & Western line. There was never much to Crandall besides the railroad depot, which got its name because it was located on the land of a local farmer named C. R. Crandall. The depot is long gone, and the tracks of the former A. T. & S. F. railroad now stop at the former site of Crandall.

Further up the old A. T. & S. F. line, where the railroad used to cross from Morton Township into Washington Township, there was another depot known as Cooper Station, so called because it was established on the land of Joseph Cooper. The depot of Cooper Station first appears in the 1891 Tazewell County atlas, but even before the train station was built the site had long been the location of Morton Township Schoolhouse No. 6, as indicated on the 1864 and 1873 county plats.

Crandall Station and Cooper Station are both designated in this detail of the Morton Township plat map from the 1891 Tazewell County Atlas. These railroad depots were named for the farmers who owned the land where the depots were established.

Crandall is marked in this detail of the Morton Township plat map from the 1929 Tazewell County Atlas, but Cooper is not even though the depot, school, and homes were still there. By this time, the land where Mayfair would be established was owned by George Landes.

The 1929 Tazewell County atlas does not name Cooper Station, but shows the site as the location of a school, train depot, grain elevator, and a few residences. Today the intersection of Cooper and Washington roads is no longer the site of a train station (the tracks have been pulled up), and the school is long gone, but there are still grain elevators as well as Hicksgas Propane Sales & Service, the Roanoke Farmers Association, and a few homes.

Mayfair is shown in this detail of a 2017 plat map of Morton Township. The former location of Crandall can be seen at the railroad intersection in Section 10, but Crandall no longer appears on the map (nor does Cooper, the former site of which is outside this cropped map detail).

#atchison-topeka-and-santa-fe-railroad, #c-r-crandall, #cooper, #crandall, #joseph-cooper, #mayfair, #norfolk-and-western-railroad, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities

Christal Dagit, R.I.P.

It is both a sorrow and a shock to learn of the passing on Thursday of Christal E. Dagit, long-time director of the Tazewell County Museum and Education Center as well as president of the Tazewell County Historic Places Society. Christal worked for many years to establish and maintain the Tazewell County Museum, which is located at 15 S. Capitol Street in the Arcade Building in downtown Pekin. She has often been of assistance to the Pekin Public Library, and in particular to me in researching topics for the library’s “From the History Room” weblog posts. More recently, she chaired Tazewell County’s Illinois Bicentennial Committee, and it was an honor and a delight to work with her on that committee on behalf of the Pekin Public Library.

Our condolences to her family and friends. God grant her soul rest.

She will be greatly missed. Local efforts to record and preserve Tazewell County history just got a little harder.

— Jared Olar, Library assistant

#christal-dagit, #illinois-bicentennial-committee, #tazewell-county-historic-places-society, #tazewell-county-museum

Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Tullamore Road subdivisions

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Two weeks ago we spotlighted the unincorporated village of Dillon, seat of Dillon Township. Besides the village of Dillon, the township also has a large group of neighboring subdivisions that are accessed via Tullamore Road off Springfield Road to the east.

Tullamore Road itself is named for the defunct town of Tullamore that once existed in the middle of Section 24 on the eastern edge of Dillon Township. Late local historian Fred Soady, in his 1979 “Preliminary Master List of Settlements in Tazewell County, Illinois,” noted that the site of Tullamore was first settled around 1835. It was first named and platted as “Danforth,” and it appears under that name on an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County, where it is shown as a station on the old T & P Railroad. Danforth’s original plat says the town was surveyed by William S. Morgan for proprietors E. W. Cantwell and W. F. Evans.

The village of Danforth is shown in this detail of an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County. A few years later, Danforth was renamed “Tullamore.”

According to Soady, Danforth had its own post office from 1860 to 1865, but in 1865 Danforth was renamed “Tullamore.” An 1873 plat of Tullamore shows the town as a vertically-oriented rectangle with three north-south streets (Morgan, Denison, and Kellogg) and six east-west streets (Greene, Sawyer, Gantwell, Evans, Taylor and Menard). An 1891 plat map of Dillon Township shows Tullamore had its own post office and schoolhouse, but by then the T & P railroad tracks had already been pulled up. (Even after all this time, the remnants of the old rail bed near the defunct town are still visible in aerial photographs.)

This plat of Tullamore was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.”

Tullamore and its environs are shown in this detail of a plat map of Dillon Township from the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.”

The removal of the T & P rail line through Tullamore no doubt led to the failure of the town – even in the 1891 Tazewell County atlas, the town itself is not shown, but only the Tullamore post office and school. According to Soady, the Tullamore post office closed in 1892. Even so, the land of the former town is still an inhabited place today, being the location of 10 homes near the junction of Tullamore and Locust roads. The route of Tullamore and Locust roads through the old town follows the track of Tullamore’s former Greene, Denison, and Menard streets. But Tullamore itself is today only the name of the road that goes to where the town used to be.

The Tullamore Post Office and country school are shown in the detail of a map of Dillon Township from the 1891 Tazewell County atlas. The town of Tullamore failed not longer after that, and does not appear in the 1910 and 1929 Tazewell County atlases.

Long after the failure of Tullamore, in the 1970s real estate developers established new residential subdivisions in Section 23 to the west of the former Tullamore, and accessed via Tullamore Road. The 1975 plat book of Tazewell County shows the first of these subdivisions as “Argyll Sub.” and another unnamed subdivision to the south of Argyll.

By 1982, Argyll Subdivision had become “Hills of Argyle,” while the southern subdivision had expanded and become the Venado Lakes Subdivision, with homes built around a new lake that was formed by the damming of one of the tributary creeks of the Mackinaw River. The 1982 plat map of Dillon Township also shows a third subdivision, Dillon Acres, adjacent to Venado Lakes in Sections 23 and 26. Taken together, the Tullamore Road subdivisions have a larger population than the village of Dillon.

The beginnings of the Hills of Argyll and Venado Lakes Subdivisions, accessed via Tullamore Road in Dillon Township, is shown in this detail of a 1975 Dillon Township plat map.

Hills of Argyll and Venado Lakes had both expanded by 1982, as shown in this detail of a Dillon Township plat map from that year.

The lots in the subdivisions of Hills of Argyll and Venado Lakes can be seen in this detail from a 2017 plat map of Dillon Township. The lots of the former town of Tullamore can also be seen along Locust and Tullamore roads.

#danforth, #dillon-acres, #e-w-cantwell, #hills-of-argyll, #t-and-p-railroad, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities, #tullamore, #venado-lakes, #w-f-evans