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Bill Thayer

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Icarian Apartment

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!


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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a small two‑story rectangular brick house, with a gabled roof pitched at about 30° with a chimney at either end; the ground floor is shaded by a wood porch supported by four columns. It is the John Reynolds House in Peoria, Illinois.]

John Reynolds House, Peoria, Built 1847.

 p91  On Lake Peoria

In the busy downtown district of Peoria, not far from the big Municipal River and Rail Terminal, stands an attractive old red brick dwelling with white trim that has become one of the city's principal residential landmarks. Located on a wide thoroughfare, its quaint architecture in striking contrast to the modern buildings around it, this house dates from the years when Peoria was a prosperous river port, when the Prairie Belle, the Garden City, and other great white packets of the Five Day Line churned the waters of lake Peoria as they got under way for St. Louis.

It was that same river traffic which helped establish the fortune of the man who built the red brick house. This man was John Reynolds, who had settled at Peoria when it was incorporated as a town in 1835. After engaging in the river ship ping trade, Reynolds set up one of the first pork-packing plants in that city and later founded a beef-packing house. His products were sent down the Illinois River to the Mississippi and eventually found their way to leading Eastern and Southern markets.

John Reynolds was one of three men, all from Pennsylvania, who, lured by the call of the frontier, rode horseback to the West in the early 1830's. He and his companions — Abram S. McKinney and Hugh Williamson — arrived at the little log village of Chicago, were not impressed by its swampy location, and went down the Illinois River to Peoria. Because of its position on the river Peoria would become a great center of trade, the three men felt. They went back to Pennsylvania to get their families.

The first to return was John Reynolds. He and his wife and children came west in a crude prairie schooner. The farm furniture and other household goods were shipped by boat on the Ohio River to the Mississippi and then up the Illinois River. At first the Reynolds family lived in a house which stood in the middle of the 100 block on South Adams Street. At that time Adams was a residential street. Later, as the city grew, John Reynolds decided to seek a new location for a spacious home he planned to build.

He found what he wanted on Jefferson Street. Here, in 1847, he erected the two‑story brick house which still stands. Its present address is 305 North Jefferson Street. Designed by an early Peoria architect named Ulrichson, the house, architecturally, was a composite of the handsome red brick residences that John Reynolds had admired in  p92 Carlisle, Chambersburg, Shippensburg, and other towns of his native Pennsylvania.

A description of the setting in which this house originally stood is contained in a family memoir written by Mrs. William Arnett of Philadelphia, granddaughter of John Reynolds. "The garden which Mr. & Mrs. Reynolds planted," writes Mrs. Arnett, "extended all the way from the house to the corner of Jackson Street. About half of this was bounded in front by an ornamental cast-iron fence, inside of which was a thick privet hedge. A path ran along this, bordered on each side by flower beds, with clove pinks growing on both sides of the path."

We are told that "the barn housed a cow and a horse. . . . Near the barn was the smoke house, where hams and tongues were cured. In the old kitchen, with its big range, apple butter was made in the fall in a huge iron kettle, and mincemeat was made and stored in jars. Two  p93 maids were always employed and kept busy cooking, serving, and cleaning. . . . The children 'doubled up' in those days and occasionally trundle beds were used."

Here, in the days before the Civil War, lived John Reynolds and his wife and four children, with numerous relatives from the East paying them long visits. The master of the house was a "ruling elder" of the First Presbyterian Church and was strongly opposed to slavery. One of the sons — William — founded Calvary Church in Peoria. After the death of John Reynolds the house was occupied by his son-in‑law and daughter, Dr. and Mrs. John Herschel Morron. Dr. Morron was a minister of the First Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Morron was succeeded as owner and occupant of the house by his daughter Miss Jean Morron. As chatelaine of the old Reynolds house, Miss Morron kept it and the adjoining garden in excellent condition, managing to retain much of the atmosphere of charm that prevailed here a century ago.

She was able to do this because owner­ship of the house has always been retained in the Reynolds family. As a result the dwelling is a veritable "period" museum. Here, tastefully arranged, the visitor may see elegant mahogany and rosewood tables, chairs and chests, as well as fine old glassware and bric-a‑brac, which were brought to Illinois on an Ohio River flatboat more than a hundred years ago. In the great kitchen, a big iron range, set in red brick, is flanked by gleaming copper and brass utensils from the old days.

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Page updated: 10 Dec 07