Category Archives: Buildings

Willow Bugs

Many summers during the last century Beardstown residents and business owners had to contend with swarms of may flies, also known as willow flies. These insects, that only live for a few hours, were drawn by the hundreds of thousands to street lights and the display windows of downtown stores.

In July of 1907, five wagon loads of the dead insects were hauled away. A two and a half-foot pile of them stood at the corner of Main and State Streets, the location of the above, undated, picture postcard.

Other items of note in the image – S. L. Von Fossen‘s row of businesses is seen in the white buildings at the end of the block. His monument works, music store, and “Big Store” sold everything from pianos and and groceries, to grave monuments, one of which is visible in front of the stores, beyond an early automobile.

Further along, toward the wagon bridge and the river, there is a “Garage” sign. In 1913 R. C. Schell sold Ford and Moline automobiles at 116 N. State, and Cannon and Billings ran an auto livery service at the same address.

Wm. Comerford’s saloon can be seen nearest the edge of the photograph, in the building that was torn down prior the the construction of Beardstown’s U. S. Post Office. Information about Comerford’s saloon has been hard to find, but it was the scene of a murder. On July 25, 1914, Thomas Ratcliff was shot three times by the jealous former husband of a woman he had been seeing.

Central Illinois Adobe Homes

A 1935 Illinoian-Star newspaper article tells of an adobe house under construction near the Schuyler County village of Browning. The writer claimed that only two mud houses existed in Illinois, and that both were within a 14-mile radius of Beardstown.

Laurence Royer was building the Schuyler County dwelling, after his family lost their home in a 1931 fire. The Allendale house, constructed in the 1850’s and located a few miles from the city of Virginia, was the other home referred to in the story.

It might come as a surprise, but eighty years ago Mr. Royer was concerned about energy costs and wanted to replace his former dwelling with an economical and more energy-efficient home. His wife, who was born in a sod house, was originally skeptical of her husband’s desire to build a home made of clay.

The Royers had heard of the Allendale place and decided to travel to Cass County and see it for themselves. Many Virginia residents had forgotten that the house was constructed of adobe, but Mr. and Mrs. Royer finally got directions to the house from a man who recalled that there was something unique about it. Once she saw the “artistic, quaint house,” Mrs. Royer changed her mind and lent her approval to her husband’s plan.

Royer consulted information available from the U. S. Department of Agriculture before beginning his project. After his own experiments, he determined that yellow clay, mixed with straw and molded into bricks was the most practical method of construction. He used native lumber for the rafters and joists. Construction of the adobe house began in August, 1931 and by December of 1935, all that remained to be completed were the bathroom and the finishing of one bedroom.

Unfortunately, the roof and interior of the house burned some years ago and the adobe walls have since been bulldozed into the basement. The fireplace is all that remains.

Besides being a builder, Mr. Royer was a farmer, artist, and a writer. One of his stories, “More than a Horse,” is found on page 7 of Tales From Two Rivers II. He passed away in 1993.

There is not a lot of information available about the house built by Laurence Royer. That is not the case with Andrew Cunningham’s historic Allendale home:

The house on the Allendale farm was constructed in 1852 by Andrew Cunningham, a native of Scotland. His granddaughter, Miss Hilma Jones, resided in the home when the newspaper story was written. Cunningham was a contemporary of Archibald Job and both are interred in Robertson Cemetery, about a mile from Allendale.

Links to further information about Mr. Cunningham and his home:

Allendale Home
Old Illinois Houses
Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress

Andrew Cunningham
Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties
Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois

An Old Jewel


On Sunday, December 17, 2017, the aged brick house on the southwest corner of Fourth and Monroe Streets had a for sale sign posted beside it. The building must be near the top of the list of oldest structures still standing in the city.

The combination dwelling and shop was constructed during the spring and summer of 1876 by jeweler and watch repair man, John F. Pappmeier. His family came to the Beardstown area from Germany in 1834, when he was four years old. They owned a farm on Star Lane.

Pappmeier moved to Beardstown at the age of 21, to learn the jeweler’s trade. In 1856, he opened a small jewelry shop in his Fourth Street home, which was located on the now empty lot west of the brick house.


Ground was broken for his new house/shop the week of March 9th, 1876. 114,000 “Arenzville bricks” were stacked on the corner lot prior to construction. Total cost of the project was approximately $5,000.

The store was located in the east side of the house, indicated by the taller, undivided French windows, which were said to have cost $100 each. (The glass in these windows appears to original, as it seems to be quite thick and rather wavy.)

106 State St.

Eventually, Pappmeier’s sons joined the firm and the business moved to a location on the west side of State Street, between Main and Second. This was the same building in which Dr. Charles Hagener, a grandson of Mr. Pappmeier, later operated his optometrist office.

J. F. Pappmeier died in his house on the corner, March 3, 1906. There was a depression worn in the wooden floor from the heel of his shoe as he operated the treadle of his jeweler’s lathe.

The Water Works

Beardstown’s demolished Public Works building, which was located at 11th and Edwards, was the site of the city’s old water works.

wwks4      wwks3

The photo on the left was taken in 2010 at about the same location as the one next to it, which was shot around 1950.

Beardstown News

wwks1The system of water works was accepted by the city council at the meeting on Thursday night of last week, the test of the system on that day being entirely satisfactory to the council and the water works committee. The plant is complete, with the exception of several hundred feet of piping which could not be laid, on account of high water, and which will be put down within the next thirty days. Although there are some people who say we do not need the water works, and that it was a waste of the city’s money to have them put in, our people generally are well satisfied with the city’s investment and the management of the matter by the council and committee and superintendents. The system will cost about $35,000. The stand pipe or tower stands at a height of 116 feet to the water line, the tank holding 40,000 gallons, and it is estimated that this will feed four streams with 150 pounds such as were thrown during the test of last week, for at least four wwks2hours. The engine and pump house, located near the tower contain 2 pump each with a capacity of three quarters of a million gallons, which will be sufficient for our needs for years to come. There are about five miles of mains running from the stand pipe on Eleventh street to State, down State to Main, down Main to Jackson, up Jackson to Third, on Second from Jackson to March. On Washington street from Main to Tenth; on Eighth from Washington to Jackson; down Jackson to Fifth; down Sixth to Lafayette; down Fourth to Lafayette. From Seventh down Jefferson to Main; on Fourth from Jefferson to State; on Seventh from Jefferson to Monroe; on Fourth from Jefferson to Edwards; on Main from Jefferson to Edwards. Forty-seven hydrants have been suitably placed on the corners of the principal streets. Suitable ordinances governing the use, cost, etc., of the water when used by private parties. We now have a water works system that any city could well be proud of, and which furnishes ample fire protection.
The Virginia Gazette – Friday, July 29, 1892


Built On Faith

In 1992, a portion of the exterior walls of Beardstown’s renowned Park House Hotel collapsed necessitating the demolition of the old building. The hotel, which was erected in 1858 and 1859, had recently been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The structure was a half  block long, with rooms for lodging on the second and third floors. Park Row, the street level of the building, was home to local businesses and the hotel office.

1908 Postcard

1908 Postcard

While preparing to construct a new corner entrance to the hotel in 1896, workmen uncovered the cornerstone. Inside was a 5 x 8 inch tin box containing several papers. One of those documents was a letter from Horace Billings who was responsible for building the hotel:

To the decedents of Horace Billings, by whom this building was erected in the years 1858 and 1859.

This building erected by Horace Billings who was born in Guilford, Vermont, December 31, 1803, and came to this city January, 1843. Having made up my mind to make this my future home till called to my everlasting home, I build this block not to sell, but with the hope that it will add to the permanent interest of the place and at least pay a fair rent, the avails of which I trust may be blessed to my descendants who probably may read this long, long after the writer has passed on. He prays upon all God’s blessing – without which we labor in vain.

Having taken great pains with the formation of this building I cannot see any good reason why it should not stand hundreds of years unless destroyed by fire. What is man? How short and temporary is life? We work and labor for a season and pass away. How important that we spend the time allowed us in a way acceptable to God.

Horace Billings

 Although Billings’ hotel did not “stand hundreds of years,” it was an important part of the city of Beardstown for nearly a century and a half.