Sunday, November 30, 2008

AMVETS Post 64

The AMVETS Post 64 building in Peoria, Illinois recently came to the forefront of the local news because the city's historic preservation commission decided the downtown building should be a historic landmark and preserved for future uses.
Hearing that the building may be demolished, we wanted to stop by and have a look.
The building was constructed in 1916 and designed by W. H. Reeves, who also designed City Hall. It has been home to AMVETS Post 64 for almost 40 years.
Turning in to the parking lot, I noticed the unique enameled brick and glazed terra cotta facade. The facade is considered by some preservationists to be a historically significant feature.
After being buzzed in, we stepped into the basement bar with its suspended ceilings and wood paneling.
The comfortable room was lined with some bookshelves and cabinets, and a popcorn machine topped with cardboard serving trays waiting to be filled. In one corner was a Christmas tree strung with lights.
The horseshoe bar was lined with many stools and flanked by some circular tables and chairs near a dance floor.
We noticed a handwritten sign on the post near our seats advertising $1.00 hot dogs anytime. We decided to partake, and the barkeep put a couple of dogs on the roller for us to heat up.
Once they were ready, he served them on buns in white scalloped paper trays and directed us to the end of the bar to garnish them.
After finishing our dogs, we checked out the narrow elevator near the men's room, which reminded us of some we'd seen in Germany. These old service elevators do not meet current American's with Disabilities compliancy requirements, which is one of the reasons the AMVETS group cited for wanting to move to a different building.
Above the accordion style metal gate protecting riders from falling into the shaft I noticed a decorative design cut into the metal of the trim above.
Even the panel controlling the elevator and the door handle were lovely.

The results of the vote by Peoria City Council, 9-1, did not find the building historic enough to grant landmark status.
The AMVETS building will most likely be sold and demolished.

AMVETS Post 64
237 N. E. Monroe Street
Peoria, Illinois 61602

Peoria Mineral Springs

Ever since I saw the Peoria Mineral Springs featured on the Name This Peoria Landmark web site, I've been dying to visit the site in Peoria, Illinois' West Bluff. I hadn't even been aware of it's existence before then.
Saturday we got out our handheld GPS and went to check it out.

The first thing we came across was the stately brick home perched on the hillside with a plaque between two of the windows reading "Peoria Mineral Springs Soda and Ginger Ale".
The site was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1982.
The house was built by Zealy Moss.

A bit past the historic house, we came to a short stone stairway leading up the side of the wooded hill. The stairs soon petered out, and with leaves covering the loose stones scattered along the hill, we had a little trouble making our way up.
Either someone maintains this area, or maybe the rumors of hauntings keep people from hanging out here, because I was surprised to find virtually no litter once we left the sidewalk.

Shortly we came to a brick archway capped by a wooden door that has been chained closed.
The little arched doorway in the woods reminded me of something from a fairy tale. Putting my ear to the gap in the door, I could hear the water flowing freely in the tunnel.

Nearby lies a marker topped with a plaque stating "Peoria Mineral Springs has been in existence some 14,500 years and is this area’s last link with prehistoric water sources. Located on Peoria’s historic West Bluff, the springs were the primary source for the first water supply for the City of Peoria. Governor Thomas Ford granted a charter February 20, 1843 for the establishment of this water supply. A reservoir was then built to contain the springs and pipers were laid to carry the water approximately two miles. At this time, Zealy Moss, Revolutionary War soldier, prominent citizen and owner of the property, built a home for himself on the property. The springs are still free flowing today.

This plaque placed by
Illinois State Organization
of the
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
Mrs. Albert Triebel, Jr., State Regent
This Sixteenth day of March
Nineteen-Hundred Eighty-Three"

It's intriguing to me to realize that sites like this exist, seemingly almost forgotten in Peoria. Heck, I drive within a couple of blocks of this site about once a week, and didn't even know it was there.
Upon doing some research when I got home, I also found that the site is said to be haunted. According to I found "The spirit of an awfully scorched woman is repeatedly observed obliterating a bag at Peoria Mineral Springs at midnight".
I also found this report that "A large chilling ghost was made out beside Peoria Mineral Springs late at night downing blood from a beaker. This ghost is fantastically active in this area; there have been a few other sightings of this specific ghost. Anyhow, it's a scary ghost that you wouldn't want to bump into late at night".
I didn't pick up any haunted vibes while I was there, but certainly found it to be a neat peek into Peoria's past.

Peoria Mineral Springs
701 W. 7th Avenue
Peoria, IL 61605

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dwight, Illinois

Dwight, Illinois hosts an original stretch of Route 66, and several unique historic finds.

The Dwight railroad depot, a beautiful structure built by the Chicago and Alton Railroad in 1891 in the Romanesque style to a design by architect Henry Ives Cobb. The station has been on the National Register of Historic Places since December 1982.
This station had all of the style and grace of some of the train stations we visited in Germany in 2006.
The depot still serves Amtrak passenger traffic between Chicago and St. Louis via the Lincoln Service trains. Travel time to downtown Chicago is about 1 1/2 hours.

Also in Dwight is one of only three banks designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, one of my favorite architects.
This bank, called the Frank L. Smith Bank, also known as the First National Bank of Dwight, was constructed in 1905 and opened in 1906. The design of the bank building is quite simple, unlike the classical influences that were commonly used at the time.
From the outside, the bank did not scream Frank Lloyd Wright to me, but it was closed and we were unable to check out the inside on this visit. I would like to have a look at the Roman brick fireplace.

We'll be back to Dwight to check out some more of the Route 66 sites in town, including some of the historic gas stations.

Dwight Railroad Depot
119 W. Main Street
Dwight, IL 60420

First National Bank of Dwight
122 W. Main Street
Dwight, IL 60420