[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of an imposing two‑and-a‑half-story brick and stone house, with a flat two-chimney roof interrupted by a tall mansarded tower to the viewer's left and a pedimented section on the far right; it is partly overgrown with ivy. The doors — a front door on the left of the photo, a side door on the right — are reached by flights of about a dozen steps, and most of the windows are hooded with Victorian cloth awnings. It is the Davis House in Bloomington, Illinois.]

United Photo

David Davis House, Bloomington, Built 1870's.

 p63  Home of a Supreme Court Justice

Judge David Davis is said to have been the one man who, more than any other, helped to bring about the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. This pioneer Illinois lawyer and justice of the United States Supreme Court erected a palatial residence in Bloomington in his later years, and this dwelling survives as one of the outstanding historical sights of the central Illinois city.

Located at 1000 East Jefferson Street, the Davis house is a typical mansion of the 1870's. Set back on a landscaped lawn and surrounded by big old shade trees, its façade is dominated by a mansard tower with dormers. Still on the tower is the original cast-iron cresting — a distinguishing mark of late Victorian mansions of the more costly variety. All rooms of the house are spacious, comfortable, and decorative and reflect an era when life was more leisurely than at present.

At the time Judge Davis built this mansion he was a nationally known figure in politics. Not only had he served for fifteen years as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, but he had after been elected to the United States Senate from Illinois. At one time  p64 during this term he was president pro tempore of the Senate. At an early date he was the National Labor Reform Party's candidate for President of the United States, but was unsuccessful in the ensuing campaign.

Anyone who reads a biography of Lincoln will frequently encounter the name of Judge David Davis. For Davis was one of Lincoln's closest friends and had been such for many years before the Springfield lawyer was thought of as presidential timber. In Illinois history Judge Davis is known as one of the "three musketeers" — the three men who groomed Lincoln for the presidency. The other two, who also were Bloomington men, were Jesse Fell and Leonard Swett. Fell afterward wrote: "To Judge Davis, more than to any other man . . . is the American people indebted for . . . the nomination . . . of Abraham Lincoln."

A man of wealth, due largely to fortunate and careful investments in land throughout Illinois and the Midwest, Judge Davis had not always been of such affluence. He was born in Cecil County, Maryland, on March 9, 1815. His father was of Welsh ancestry. Because of the loss of an inheritance young Davis was forced to work his way through college. He then studied law and came to Bloomington in 1836. In 1848 he was elected judge of the famous Eighth Judicial Circuit in Illinois, over which he presided for fourteen years (1848‑1862), being twice re-elected. "Many lawyers of distinction, including Lincoln, Orville H. Browning, Douglas, Leonard Swett, S. T. Logan, and Lyman Trumbull, practiced before him," says the Dictionary of American Biography. "An intimate friendship with Lincoln was formed during this period. . . . Lincoln at times presided over Davis's court when the Judge was pressed with private business."

In personal appearance Judge Davis was a big, impressive man, standing some six feet tall and weighing more than three hundred pounds. When seen on the streets he and the tall, lanky Lincoln were a striking pair.

"Upon the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln," wrote Burrow Diskin Good in the McLean County issue of Illinois Quest magazine, "David Davis, at the request of the Lincoln family, became the administrator of the martyred president's estate. His masterful handling of the affairs of this trust made a record for efficient administration of an estate."

Judge Davis died at Bloomington on June 26, 1886.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 7 Dec 07