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W. H. L. Wallace

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.
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a two‑story rectangular brick house, with a gabled roof pitched at about 40° and two chimneys; it is partly overgrown with roses or ivy. The front door is arched with a fanlight. It is the Reddick House in Ottawa, Illinois.]

William Reddick House, Ottawa, Built 1859.

 p163  Library in a Mansion

Numerous old mansions throughout Illinois have been converted into public libraries, and an interesting example of this is the venerable Reddick residence in Ottawa. For more than half a century it has served as a library and this fact has helped to make it one of the most familiar buildings of the Illinois River city. Its location, too, adds to its familiarity, for it is situated adjacent to Ottawa's principal recreation spot, Washington Park.

An imposing, old-style mansion, three stories high and redolent of the gaudy era of American architecture, this house, it is apparent at first glance, was built by some man of wealth and importance in Ottawa life. The man who built this house, which stands at the northwest corner of Columbus and Lafayette streets, was William Reddick. He constructed his home in 1859, at a cost of about $60,000. It is of red  p164 brick, with white stone facing, and there is a legend that the bricks were hauled by wagons from Milwaukee. Reddick built on such a grand scale that his house and outbuildings occupied half the block bounded by Lafayette, Columbus, and Washington streets, with an alley at the west end of the property. The main building was his home. Along the alley were a horse barn, a carriage house, and a two‑story smokehouse of such size that now it has been converted into the home of the library custodian.

After its completion the Reddick abode became one of the show places of Ottawa. Here, during the Civil War and in the years following, the Reddicks reigned as one of the first families of their city. Reddick was elected to the state senate for three successive terms beginning in 1846 and to a fourth term in 1870. He served his final two-year period at Springfield with distinction and, when it was over, returned to Ottawa and spent the remainder of his life there.

In his magnificent house overlooking the trees of Washington Park, William Reddick lived to a ripe age and here he died in 1885. When his will was opened it was found that he had set up an endowment fund of $100,000 for the founding and maintenance of a library in his home. The library was established here three years later. Since that time several generations of Ottawans have derived knowledge and pleasure from the great array of books lining the walls of the old Reddick mansion. Also in the library is Reddick's indenture paper by which he was bound out as an apprentice glass worker. His first $1,000 was accumulated by two years of work as a glass blower in Washington, D. C. — from 1832 to 1834.

In addition to the library Reddick's will left a hundred acres of land to La Salle County for "enlargement of the county home." That land, which is still owned by the public, is underlain with millions of tons of fine silica sand and is now worth many times as much as all his property at the time of his death.

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Page updated: 11 Dec 07