Ninety years of CILCO history

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Although it has been 13 years since CILCO – the Peoria-based Central Illinois Light Company – was acquired by Ameren, for many long-time Pekin residents it may still seem strange to speak of paying “the Ameren bill.”

For them, the monthly gas and electric utility bill will probably always be “the CILCO bill.” With a corporate history that began in 1913, the name of “CILCO” – and the old R.S. Wallace Station which for decades was a landmark on the Illinois River in East Peoria – will likely linger on in local memories for years to come.

One of the items recently donated to the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection is a 1988 brochure published to mark the CILCO’s 75th anniversary.

Titled, “CILCO and Central Illinois: Growing Together for 75 Years,” the 15-page brochure reviews the company’s history using narrative and photographs. The story begins with the merger of seven area companies to create a larger company to provide Peoria and 26 area communities, including Pekin, with gas, electric and steam power.

The brochure also tells of the formation in 1923 of the Illinois Electric Power Company of East Peoria, of which CILCO was a part. The new company built the R.S. Wallace Station as a steam electric plant, located where East Peoria’s Super Walmart stands today. In January 1958 came the addition of the company’s familiar mascot, the lightning-bolt-bodied and light-bulb-nosed Reddy Kilowatt, who displayed the time and temperature for drivers over the Murray Baker Bridge.

Cilcogram March 1955

CILCO’s company mascot Reddy Kilowatt, “Your Electric Servant,” is featured in the pages from the March 1955 Cilcogram that was sent out to CILCO customers with their monthly electric bills.

Also recently donated to the Local History Room collection are several old “Cilcograms” from the early to mid-1950s. These small pamphlets, often featuring Reddy Kilowatt on the front cover, used to be sent out with the monthly CILCO bill. Cilcograms provided information on electricity and wiring for homes, along with promotions of local charitable activities and sponsored advertisements.

Those who would like to learn of, or refresh their memories about, CILCO’s history may stop by the Local History Room.

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#cilco, #cilcograms, #east-peoria, #pekin-history, #r-s-wallace-station, #reddy-kilowatt, #tazewell-county-history

The Tazewell Club was the gentleman’s club of 1893

This is a revised version of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in Sept. 2011 before the launch of this weblog, republished here as a part of our Illinois Bicentennial Series on early Illinois history.

The Tazewell Club was the gentleman’s club of 1893

By Linda Mace and Jared Olar
Library assistants

What comes to your mind when you think of a “gentlemen’s club”? Words acquire new meanings or different connotations as time goes on, and what “gentlemen’s club” might mean to some today isn’t what it meant over a hundred years ago.

Perhaps I’ve watched too many movies, but hearing the words “gentlemen’s club,” I think of New York City, of elegantly appointed, hushed rooms with men dressed in their finery, a cigar in one hand and a beverage of some type in the other hand.

Established in 1893, Pekin had the Tazewell Club, and while it may not have been touted as a gentlemen’s club, for all practical purposes that seems to be what it was.

The 2004 book “Pekin: A Pictorial History” tells us that it was once the hub of social life in Pekin.

“The club promoted local business interests and offered hours of wholesome recreation for the businessman, the professional and the clerk. The building had bowling alleys in the basement, meeting rooms, a card room and billiard room on the main floor, and a ballroom on the third.”

The Tazewell Club, established in 1893, met at this building that used to stand at the corner of Fourth and St. Mary streets.

Over 200 men were members of this club, with them “allowing” the Pekin Woman’s Club and the Litta Society the use of their facility for the ladies’ afternoon meetings.

But time marches on and membership eventually declined. In 1959 the club house was sold to the Herget National Bank and was demolished in 1960 for a parking lot.

Originally located on the corner of South 4th and St. Mary streets, the Tazewell Club was a grand building, worthy of the many social events that took place there.

Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” page 927-937, provides a detailed account of the founding and early history of the Tazewell Club, written by Fred H. Robbins. The account includes a quote from the club’s constitution and by-laws explaining its purpose: “The primary object of this Club shall be to promote the business interests of the City of Pekin, and the social enjoyments of the members of the corporation.

According to Robbins, the club was founded Sept. 14, 1893, at a meeting of local businessmen and leading men of the city in Holland’s Hall in Pekin, presided over by E. F. Unland, with O. F. Weber as secretary. The interim officers were Judge George C. Rider, president, and Weber again as secretary, with an organizing committee made of up Carl G. Herget (builder of the Herget Mansion), W. L. Prettyman, Fred W. Velde, W. A. Holt, and Dr. W. H. Allen.

Once the club was organized, the members elected Unland as president, Prettyman as vice-president, Weber as secretary, James M. James (in whose honor James Field is named) as treasurer, and Holt, Henry G. Herget, D. D. Velde, F. P. Maus, and Henry Birkenbusch as members of the club’s board of managers.

Though the club house is long gone and the Tazewell Club is a thing of the past, there is another community organization that was founded around the same time that is still very much living and active, and is soon to celebrate an important anniversary – the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce.

#carl-herget, #d-d-velde, #dr-w-h-allen, #e-f-unland, #f-p-maus, #fred-w-velde, #henry-birkenbusch, #henry-herget, #illinois-bicentennial, #james-m-james, #judge-george-c-rider, #litta-society, #o-f-weber, #pekin-womans-club, #preblog-columns, #tazewell-club, #w-a-holt, #w-l-prettyman

Pekin’s Chamber of Commerce makes it to 125

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Last time we reviewed the history of the Tazewell Club, a men’s leisure group for Pekin’s professionals and business leaders that operated from 1893 to 1960. However, there is another Pekin business group that was organized at about the same time and is still going strong – the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce. Just as Illinois is celebrating its bicentennial, Pekin’s Chamber of Commerce is now preparing to celebrate its “quasquicentennial” – its 125th birthday.

Bill Fleming, executive director of Pekin’s Chamber, has graciously provided the Pekin Public Library with historical records and photographs illustrating the Chamber’s founding and history, which we’ll now review.

In October 1893, about a month after the founding of the Tazewell Club, a group of Pekin’s businessmen organized a group called the Citizens Improvement Association of Pekin, the original name for the organization today called the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce.

The association’s articles of incorporation – filed with the Illinois Secretary of State on Oct. 6, 1893 – state that the group’s purpose was “advancing the business interest and promoting the commercial growth of the City of Pekin.” It’s similar to the Tazewell Club’s purpose, except the Tazewell Club’s emphasis was on “the social enjoyments of the members of the organization,” whereas the Citizens Improvement Association of Pekin had more of a civic orientation and less of a recreational purpose.

While today’s Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce started out as the CIAP, the group went through several name changes and a merger before it reached its present form. In 1910 the organization’s members changed its name to the Commercial Club of Pekin. The following year, the Commercial Club merged with the Pekin Retail Merchants Association, which had been founded in 1900 with the aim of promoting better business practices among Pekin’s retailers.

In 1916 the Commercial Club became the Association of Commerce-Pekin, a name that stuck for the next 46 years, when in 1962 the name was changed to the Chamber of Commerce of Pekin. Sixteen years after that the Chamber, having broadened its geographical reach, made one final name-change, to “Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce.”

Five of Pekin’s leading businessmen signed the articles of incorporation on the Citizens Improvement Association of Pekin in Oct. 1893: Everett Woodruff Wilson, George Herget, Jesse B. Cooper, Henry C. Block, and Joseph Verdi Graff. All five men were active in Pekin’s economic and cultural development and advancement.

Coming from a family of Peoria distillers, Wilson later became a co-founder of the German American Bank in Pekin and first president of the American Distilling Company. He was also active in politics, serving as a Pekin alderman in the 1880s and being elected twice as mayor of Pekin in the 1890s. The grand home he built on South Fifth Street is now Abts Mortuary.

George Herget

In Pekin the Herget name has long been associated with banking. Like Wilson, George Herget was involved in distilling and later founded Herget Bank – but also invested in or headed various other companies, including the Globe Cattle Company, the Illinois Sugar Refining Company, and the Pekin Electric Light & Power Company. Herget was the first president of the Pekin Park Board and also was elected to the Pekin City Council, the Pekin School District Board of Education, the Pekin Township Board, and the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors. Herget also donated the site of the 1902 Pekin Carnegie Library.

Jesse B. Cooper

Cooper served as superintendent of the Tazewell County Poor Farm from 1872 to 1881, afterwards operating a 75-acre fruit orchard on the land northeast of 11th and Willow streets. He also served as Pekin Township Supervisor in the 1880s and 1890s, and in 1893 became Overseer of the Poor of Pekin Township as well as Township Treasurer.

Henry C. Block

Block came from a long line of merchants, working for dry-goods stores in Germany before coming to American in 1865, working for stores in Pekin and Peoria. As a valuable employee of Bonk & Company in Pekin, Block eventually became a partner in the business. After the death of the company’s founder he became head of the business, which was renamed Schipper & Block, a Pekin downtown department store that is still well-remembered.

Joseph V. Graff

Graff worked in the mercantile business in the 1870s while he studied law, operating a law practice first in Delavan and later in Pekin. At the time the Citizens Improvement Assocation of Pekin was founded in 1893, Graff’s law office was in the Marshall Building on Elizabeth Street, across the street from the Tazewell County Courthouse – the office is now occupied by the law firm of Kuhfuss & Proehl. Graff was also an inspector of Pekin public schools and later became the School Board president. In 1894, he was elected to Congress, where he served eight terms in office.

Next week we’ll take a look at two local community organizations that have both been around for 98 years – the Pekin Rotary Club, and the Pekin Kiwanis Club.

#association-of-commerce-pekin, #chamber-of-commerce-of-pekin, #citizens-improvement-association-of-pekin, #commercial-club-of-pekin, #everett-woodruff-wilson, #george-herget, #henry-c-block, #illinois-bicentennial, #jesse-b-cooper, #joseph-verdi-graff, #pekin-area-chamber-of-commerce, #pekin-retail-merchants-association, #schipper-and-block, #tazewell-club

Pekin inaugurates Illinois Bicentennial Year 2017-2018

Cities, towns, and counties across the state of Illinois held ceremonies today to formally inaugurate the Illinois Bicentennial Year, which officially began yesterday, 3 Dec. 2017. The City of Pekin’s ceremony took place this morning at 11:45 a.m. at the foot of the Pekin Municipal Building’s front steps in downtown Pekin, presided over by Pekin Mayor John McCabe and concluding with the raising of the Bicentennial Flag by the Pekin Fire Department Honor Guard. Meanwhile Tazewell County had a simultaneous ceremony nearby on the Tazewell County Courthouse lawn that included a choir, bagpiper, and a 21-gun salute (since Illinois is the 21st state) by the County Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard.

The official logo of the Illinois Bicentennial was officially unveiled at the Old State Capitol in Springfield on Jan. 12 of this year.

Pekin Public Library staff member Jared Olar was invited by Mayor McCabe to talk for a few minutes about Illinois history at the city’s Bicentennial Year inaugural ceremony. Following is the gist of Olar’s remarks:

I’m honored that the Mayor has invited me to talk about the history of our state. As we take the time today to remember our state’s history, I’d like to talk about what NAMES can tell us about our history.

The history of Illinois can be traced in the names of its rivers, towns, and cities. Place names such as Chicago, Peoria, Mackinaw, Kankakee, Wabash, Kewanee, Kaskaskia (Illinois’ first state capital), Ottawa, Cahokia, Winnebago, Macoupin, and the very name of our state are Native American in origin — relics of the original inhabitants of our state. The name of our state, “Illinois,” is the French version of the designation of the confederation of Native American tribes who inhabited this region when the French first arrived here in the 1600s. In 1640, Father Paul LeJeune, a Jesuit missionary priest, was the first to tell of a nation called the Eriniouai — a name that eventually would be changed into forms such as “Illini” and “Illiniwek,” said by the early French missionaries and colonists who had dealings with them to mean “the men,” but today some linguists speculate that it may have derived from a Miami-Algonquin term that means “one who speaks the normal way.”

Other place names, such as La Salle, Joliet, Marquette Heights, Menard, Bureau, and Creve Coeur, are reminders of the time when Illinois was explored and claimed by France as a part of France’s colonial empire. Illinois passed to British control in 1763 at the end of the French and Indian War, but the French settlers here remained. Here in Tazewell County there was a French fur trading house at the future site of Creve Coeur, existing from about 1775 to the 1830s. The French traders at the house, Tromly and Besaw, who had married American Indian women, were there when Jonathan Tharp built his cabin here in what was soon become Pekin. When Illinois became a state, the trading house was already there — six years before Tharp built his cabin in 1824, twelve before Pekin was founded in 1830.

But, naturally enough, the vast majority of Illinois’ place names testify to the fact that Illinois was established as a territory and state of the United States of America in the early decades of the 1800s by the arrival of vast numbers of people whose ancestors had come from England, Scotland, and Ireland. By far most Illinois place names are English — named for men of English descent, or named after towns and places in Britain.

Occasionally we come across Illinois place names such as New Salem, Zion, and Loami that testify to the Christian faith of Illinois’s pioneers. But sometimes we encounter names that arose from Americans’ old romance or fascination with the exotic, ancient, noble culture of far-off China — names like Canton, and, yes, Pekin.

The Illinois Bicentennial offers everyone in the state a whole year of opportunities to recall our past: but it’s also a perfect opportunity for us to remember the history of our city and our county — even if Tazewell County didn’t come along until nine years after statehood and Pekin wasn’t founded until three years after that.

Events to celebrate the bicentennial will continue in our area up until Dec. 3 next years. The County Bicentennial Committee chaired by Christal Dagit of the Tazewell County Museum is helping to coordinate celebrations for the coming year, and if you hear of something in the works or have an idea, let Christal know and she’d be happy to help you.

The Pekin Public Library has also been making plans for the Illinois Bicentennial, and working for the library I’d like talk a little about that. The library is commemorating the bicentennial all year long with an Illinois Bicentennial Movie Series that will run January to December 2018. On the first Friday of each month at 11 a.m., the library will show a historical video dealing with an aspect of the history of Illinois, Tazewell County, or Pekin. The movies will be shown in the Community Room on the second floor of the library, and admission is free. The movie series commences on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, with a video on Pekin history.

In addition to the movie series, the libraries “From the History Room” blog is featuring a yearlong series of special articles on Illinois, Tazewell, and Pekin history. The first in the series, “Illinois as the French found it,” was just posted online on the History Room blog on Friday and then published in the Pekin Daily Times on Saturday. New articles in the series will appear each week, first online on Friday and then in the paper on Saturday. The articles will generally follow the historical timeline that you’ve been given, starting with Illinois at the time of the arrival of the French and coming down to the founding of Pekin in Jan. 1830.

We hope the article series will be interesting, informative, and above all, accurate , and everyone is more than welcome to join us for our movie series. Thank you!

#eriniouai, #father-paul-lejeune, #illiniwek-confederation, #illinois-bicentennial

A man, a bank and a library

Here’s a chance to read again one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in May 2013 before the launch of this blog . . .

A man, a bank and a library

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The Herget name has been prominent in Pekin’s history since the 1850s and 1860s, when the Herget family left Hesse-Darmstadt in Germany and came to America. Of that family, the immigrant brothers John, George and Philip each played significant roles in the development of Pekin. Evidence of the continuing legacy of the Herget family is found today in the name of the Herget House (or Herget Mansion) at 420 Washington Street, and, of course, in Herget Bank.

Another of the indications of the prominence of the Hergets in Pekin’s history and community life may be found in the 1894 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties, Illinois.” Included in that volume were the biographies of four members of the Herget family: the three immigrant brothers John, George and Philip, and John’s second son John H. Herget.

The lives of the three brothers were intertwined, as they often partnered in various business ventures. The eldest, John, also served as Mayor of Pekin in 1873 and 1874. Rather than presenting an account of all three brothers, however, this column will take a look at the life of George Herget, relying chiefly on the account of his life in “Portrait and Biographical Record,” page 384.

George Herget

This photograph of George Herget was preserved in the 1902 Pekin Public Library cornerstone time capsule. Herget donated the land on which the library was built that year.

At the time that biography was published, George Herget was president of the Globe Distilling Co., president of the Pekin Electric Light Co., and president of the Pekin Steam Coopering Co. The biography said that he “ranks among the most prominent and successful business men of central Illinois, and has not only sustained the reputation of the family name, but by his honorable and worthy life has added to its lustre,” praising him for his “superior intelligence, sound principles and noble character,” and commenting that, “he is always an earnest advocate of the cause of justice and right, and has exerted a beneficial influence in the community with whose interests his own have long been identified.”

The biography continues, “Born May 9, 1833, the subject of this sketch is a native of Hergeshausen, Kreis Deiburg, Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany . . . . In his native land he spent the days of boyhood, and learned the trade of a wagon-maker. In 1852 he took passage at Havre, France, on a sailing-vessel bound for America, and after landing in New York, proceeded to Gettysburg, where he engaged in the trade of a carriage-maker until the fall of 1853.

“Coming west at that time via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, Mr. Herget settled in Pekin, where he became a carriage-maker in the T. & H. Smith Carriage Works. In 1858 he embarked in the retail grocery business, and two years later he was joined by his brother John.” Together, John and George founded J. & G. Herget Inc. of Pekin, wholesale sellers of groceries and liquor.

The sketch continues, “In 1870 he built a block containing two stores, and there, since 1871, he has conducted an extensive business, being for some time in the wholesale grocery and liquor business, but now devoting his attention wholly to the latter line of work.

“In 1888 Mr. Herget assisted in the organization of the Pekin Steam Coopering Company, and has since been its President. In the fall of 1892 he built the Globe Distillery, which was completed and opened in April of the following year. This concern is situated on the Jacksonville South-eastern Railroad, and has a capacity of five thousand bushels per day, being the largest distillery in Pekin. In addition to these enterprises, Mr. Herget is interested in the Globe Cattle Company, which owns about thirty-eight hundred head of cattle. In the organization of the Electric Light Company he was a prominent factor, and has been its only President.”

It was George’s nephew Carl Herget, son of John, who built the Herget Mansion on Washington Street in 1912. One the most significant parts of the Herget family’s legacy, however, was the establishment of Herget Bank on April 17, 1905. George Herget and his sons Henry G. Herget and William P. Herget founded the bank as George Herget and Sons, and were among the bank’s original board of directors. The bank was chartered nationally in 1910, when it became Herget National Bank of Pekin, Ill.

Another lasting legacy of George Herget was the construction of the Pekin Carnegie Library in 1902. Herget played an important role in the events leading up to the library’s construction. When Mary Gaither had begun to drum up support for a Carnegie Library, Herget responded favorably, writing in a letter of Nov. 8, 1900, “I will be pleased to give to the City of Pekin a site for a Library building according to the terms of a certain letter to you from Mr. Andrew Carnegie, dated October 8th., 1900.”

Copies of that and other related letters were included in the library’s cornerstone time capsule in August 1902. Also included in the time capsule was the title deed conveying the land for the library from George and Caroline Herget to the city of Pekin, along with a photograph of George Herget.

#andrew-carnegie, #carl-herget-mansion, #george-herget, #herget-national-bank, #library-cornerstone, #mary-gaither, #pekin-history, #pekin-public-library

City shuts down for pioneer’s funeral

Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in June 2013 before the launch of this blog . . .

City shuts down for pioneer’s funeral

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Readers of the Pekin Daily Times in the spring of 1918 found a remarkable and attention-grabbing change in the layout of the front page of the Wednesday, May 8, edition.

A large portion of the top half of that day’s front was taken up by a man’s portrait framed within two large square boxes. Within the frame were the man’s name and the dates of his birth and death, along with an inscription in his honor: “James Morris James; Living, He Earned Respect; Dead, We Do Him Honor; February 14, 1849; May 5, 1918.”

The prominently displayed portrait of James Morris James accompanied a very lengthy story about his funeral. The story, which included the complete text of the remarks and eulogy given by Rev. E. C. Hawkins of First Methodist Episcopal Church, had three headlines: “ALL PEKIN PAUSES TO HONOR PIONEER,” “City Stops Activities this Afternoon for J. M. James funeral,” and “ENTIRE COMMUNITY FEELS BEREAVEMENT.”

But just who was James Morris James, and what was it about him that his death at the age of 69 from heart trouble brought the city of Pekin to shut down for a few hours in the middle of the week?

This portrait of James M. James was published in B.C. Allensworth’s “History of Tazewell County.”

In finding to the answer to that question, we can gather a few initial clues by noting the list of pall bearers at his funeral. One of pall bearers was none other the Pekin’s mayor, Charles Schaefer. Besides the eight actual pall bearers, 20 other men were named as honorary pall bearers. Together, the list of active and honorary pall bearers included most of Pekin’s community leaders.

An even clearer indication of James’ prominence in his community is found in the text of Mayor Schaefer’s proclamation, dated Tuesday, May 7, 1918, which said, “Out of respect to the memory of the late Col. James M. James, who for half a century was closely identified with the progress of our city and this community and who always showed a willingness to aid every cause or improvement which tended to the betterment of our city and its people, the business men of our city are requested to suspend business for one hour, between 2:30 and 3:30 Wednesday afternoon, the time of the funeral of our departed worthy citizen.”

Rev. Hawkins’ glowing tribute to James’ memory is one more indication of just how highly esteemed he was. So also was James’ obituary, which was published in the Monday, May 6, 1918, edition of the Pekin Daily Times. His obituary was unusually long and included a detailed biography, and nestled beside the obituary was a paid advertisement – an expression of appreciation from Farmers National Bank and an announcement that the bank would close at noon Wednesday for James’ funeral. As his obituary states, James joined the bank’s board of directors in 1884, became its vice president in 1905, and became the bank president in 1911.

The following passages from his obituary tell of James’ other activities in Pekin’s business life and economic development:

“Mr. James . . . . in November, 1861, began working at the printing business on a local paper, and later, for a short time, was employed on the old Illinois River Railroad (now Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railroad.) In October, 1863, he secured employment as a clerk in the dry goods store of C. B. Cummings & Brother, remaining with them until 1870, when he became bookkeeper for Columbus R. Cummings, railway contractor and builder. His duties including the caring for the local affairs of his employer, and since 1879 he has had charge of both the bank and extensive farm interests of Mr. Columbus R. Cummings, after the removal of the latter to Chicago. Mr. James was a member of the Cummings Harvester Company and its president, while it was in business, from 1889. . . .

“He was also president of the Pekin Mutual Building & Loan Association, and was active in all improvements made at Lakeside cemetery of which association he has been treasurer since its organization.”

James also was directly involved and especially involved in the reclamation of the Lima Lake Drainage District. His obituary says, “About five years ago, in company with a friend, he saw the possibilities of reclaiming this large body of land on the Mississippi, near the city of Quincy, and making it a productive garden spot in place of a waste swamp. He interested Mr. David Mark Cummings in this project, and to show the confidence Mr. Cummings had in his agent, Mr. James purchased from time to time tracts of land aggregating about eight thousand acres, and at the time of his demises, plans for the reclamation of this and the adjoining district were just about to be perfected. . . . His interest was so intense in its success that he seemed to forget that he was unconsciously overtaxing his physical strength in the effort he was making to serve the interest of Mr. Cummings in the development of this drainage district. Even upon his deathbed he expressed an intense desire to live until this matter should have been brought to a successful termination.”

It is evident, then, that his prominent place in the community was chiefly due to his role as agent and custodian of the vast Cummings estate in Pekin and the surrounding areas. As this column has previously noted, Columbus R. Cummings was one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Pekin, and served a single term as Pekin’s mayor. Stung by the failure of his bid for reelection, however, Cummings abruptly gave up the mayoral office, not even finishing out his term, and moved to Chicago, where he became a powerful railroad tycoon. After leaving Pekin, Cummings employed James to manage his estate.

Though James’ funeral had brought Pekin to a temporary standstill, today, 95 years after his death [NOTE: now 99 years], probably few Pekin residents remember him. Yet there is a lasting public memorial to his life: James Field, across Broadway from the former Pekin Community High School West Campus. David Mark Cummings and his wife Ruth were two of the four people who, on June 5, 1916, sold nine lots in Pekin’s old Colts Addition to Pekin School District of Tazewell County, the predecessor of Pekin Public School District 108. The land was sold to provide an athletic field and playground for the school children of Pekin, with the stipulation that it would be named for James. It was only a few years ago that the field was restored through the efforts of the Save James Field Committee. It is now supervised and maintained by the Pekin Park District.

#c-b-cummings, #c-r-cummings, #charles-shaefer, #columbus-r-cummings, #david-mark-cummings, #james-field, #james-m-james, #james-morris-james, #preblog-columns, #rev-e-c-hawkins

Westerman’s Rose Villa and the Herget Mansion

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Recently we highlighted the somewhat tense and at times colorful relationship that noted Pekin distiller Henry P. Westerman (1836-1922) had with the local press. As we previously recalled, at one point Pekin editor and printer (and the city’s first historian) William H. Bates “was threatened at his very domicile by H. P. Westerman, the old head of the Pekin whiskey ring,” as the Peoria Journal mentioned on Nov. 3, 1881.

Westerman was of course known for much more than evading the federal whiskey tax and threatening the lives of newspaper editors. In fact, he and his wife Mary were prominent and influential members of the community, as one might gather from Westerman’s extensive and laudatory biography which was included in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” page 38, among that publication’s lives of the “Old Settlers” of the county.

Another unmistakable sign of the Westermans’ exalted status in Pekin’s society was their impressive place of residence, a large Victorian-style mansion known as “Rose Villa.” Their mansion was located on Washington Street at the head of Buena Vista, at the street address today designated 420 Washington St.  A lithograph engraving of Rose Villa as well as an engraved portrait of H. P. Westerman himself may be found in the 1873 “Atlas Map.”

Later in life Westerman moved to California, where he died. The block on which Rose Villa stood was acquired by a member of another of Pekin’s prominent German families, Carl Herget, who replaced the old Westerman frame mansion with his own brick Classical Revival structure, known today as the Herget Mansion, now 103 years old and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The blueprints and specifications for the new building were drawn up on July 15, 1912, by the architectural firm of Hewitt & Emerson, 321 Main St., Peoria.

It should be noted that Rob Clifton’s “Pekin History: Then and Now” (2004) has an incorrect statement regarding the relationship between Westerman’s Rose Villa and the Carl Herget Mansion. “Then and Now” says, “Around 1912 George Herget bought and then converted the house to its current appearance.” George, founder of Herget National Bank and donor of the land on which the Pekin Public Library was built, was Carl Herget’s uncle. The 1912 construction of the Herget Mansion was the erecting of a new structure from the ground up, not merely a major remodel of a previously existing structure.

RoseVilla

This engraving of Rose Villa, mansion of Henry P. Westerman, was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” The Carl Herget Mansion on Washington Street stands on the site today.

#carl-herget, #carl-herget-mansion, #george-herget, #h-p-westerman, #old-settlers, #pekin-history, #rose-villa, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates