Lewis University Adele Fay Williams Collection of Drawings and Prints (Lewis University)
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Old Post Office on Jefferson Street (Joliet, Illinois)
Old Post Office on Jefferson Street (Joliet, Illinois)
TitleOld Post Office on Jefferson Street (Joliet, Illinois)
CreatorWilliams, Adele Fay
Date of the DrawingJune 13, 1926
DescriptionDrawing of old post office on Jefferson street block. The building in the drawing has been called "No. 1 Jefferson street". This drawing is unsigned. This drawing is a part of the Robert E. Sterling Collection.
Title of ArticleOld Jefferson street block has history : "No. 1" has changed hands many times in 90 years.
Date of ArticleJune 13, 1926
Transcript of the ArticleWritten in pencil on bottom: " Old post office and store building."
From Joliet Herald-News Sunday June 13, 1926 -
Drawing caption: The lonely three story building which stands guard on the banks of the Desplaines, has long been known as "No. 1 Jefferson street." It was probably built in the 40s, altho definite data is not available.
"Strange are the changes, the apparent wanderings and vicissitudes, the ups and downs of a piece of earth almost anywhere in Joliet, if you try to run its history into its lair.
It seems to hop from hand to hand from owner to owner in a quite unearthlike way.
Take for instance No. 1 Jefferson street, close to the bridge. It is a seemingly well behaved, dignified, even ponderous piece of property. It seems as immovable as the mountains themselves, and as heavy as lead. But view it first thru the People's Abstract company records.
Behold, it begins a hop, skip and a jump almost immediately.
Very early in its history, in 1835, Francis G. Blanchard holds a lease, and later a title to it. The very same year he conveys it to David Rattery, who, still in 1835, the year that Joliet began to recognize itself, Rattery conveyed the piece of land to Joseph M. Faulkner.
Was Beautiful Spot.
Imagine the beautiful spot it must have been, close to the bank of the smiling Desplaines, and here, somehow or other, trouble begins, because in 1842 Joel A. Matteson took title to it by way of a tax deed. But later, Faulkner must have regained the plot that was to be No. 1 Jefferson street in 1926, for he conveyed it under his own signature to Charles M. Willard, in 1858.
It is probable that previous to this date, perhaps some time in the forties, the big three-story building now standing on the lot was built.
There are still people in Joliet who remember the place as far back as 1856, at which time it already showed signs of age. The fact that Joel Matteson put a mortgage on the property in 1847 would seem to bear this out. Alex Starm acquired it in 1869, as a result of another vicissitude in its history, since a bankruptcy sale is mentioned in the records.
And it was in 1869 also that it was deeded to R. E. Goodell, who transferred it to Lester H. Ames. And in 1885 Robert Mann Woods bought the place.
Joliet Grows Rapidly.
Joliet was growing slowly but surely all these years, faster and faster, with each year's added momentum. The sanitary district acquired it in 1897.
But back of these skeletonic dates there was much history being made beside the bridges, at No. 1 Jefferson street.
According to one authority, the building is one of the oldest in the state of Illinois, having been built just before the canal was finished in 1844.
But this is mere hearsay, according to Clem Van Fleet, who has occupied the first floor as a store for 25 years, and who has been in the neighborhood of the bridges for at least 42 years. It is true that Governor Matteson built the building, and that it was one of the show places of Illinois for many years. It is solidly built with walnut floors and doors of hewn lumber. In its early history it held the officers of the Plainfield Plank Road company, and also held the old historic Farmers' and Drovers' bank.
Street Level Lower.
In early days, sys Mr. Van Fleet, the street level was much lower than it is now, and the basement front was a combined restaurant and saloon.
What was even more remarkable was that the rear part of this lower floor was used as a jail, and a gambling den that lived up to its reputation. Even 25 or less years ago, there were small, cell-like rooms with walls eight inches thick, according to Mr. Van Fleet.
The Masonic association once occupied rooms on the third floor, and a picturesque balcony encircled the building. Peter O'Brien was one of the picturesque figures of early times-a hunter and trapper who, at some period, was mine host of the saloon.
When the place was in its pristine glory, in Governor Matteson's regime, the woodwork and walls were enameled pure white and red roses, as large as cabbages, were painted on the walls.
Mr. Van Fleet vouches for the truth of these mammoth roses, for he has seen them with his own eyes.
John Curry once occupied the first story for a dry goods and general store. This was during the civil war, and several years before, it is said. Mr. Curry had been in partnership with M. H. Demmond in the stone block, opposite the National hotel.
His home, on the corner of Bluff and Oneida streets, was once one of the handsome places of the village of Joliet. Mrs. T. P. Brankin, daughter of Mr. Curry, was born in this home.
The saloon and gambling den was always a trouble to the mayors of Joliet, altho history states that some of them winked at its transgressions.
Once Was Postoffice.
A regular dyed in the wool "wildcat" bank of the early period once had its home there. About 1869 or 1870 the first floor was occupied as a postoffice. Capt. Anson Patterson was postmaster there, coming to the post after service at the front. Later he went out as a mail clerk.
Major Robert Mann Woods bought the place and used it for a newspaper plant, where he edited and published "The Joliet Republican."
The Van Fleets still occupy the old building, having a land lease from the sanitary district. According to the most conservative calculations, the building is at least 79 years old."
SubjectWilliams, Adele Fay
Joliet (Ill.) -- History
Physical Description27 cm. x 35 cm.
SourceClick this link for more historical information on the Joliet area - http://lewisu.edu/imcanal
Publisher (Digital)Lewis University
RightsAll rights held by Lewis University. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this image, please contact the Howard and Lois Adelmann Regional History Collection at Lewis University at 815-836-5665.
CollectionAdele Fay Williams Collection of Drawings and Prints (Lewis University)
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