Peoria County, Illinois  Genealogy Trails



Early Peoria County Hotels


[note—At the solicitation of the publishers of Johnson's History of Peoria County, published in 1880, Colonel Charles H. Deane, a gentleman of larger hotel experience than any other in Peoria County, furnished an article from which the following, somewhat modified and abridged, is taken. Parts added are included in brackets.—Editor.]

"In collecting data for an article on the hotels of Peoria, I have been very materially assisted by several of our oldest citizens, in regard to early hotels, notably by Mr. Mark M. Aiken, an animated encyclopedia whose wonderful memory enables him to speak of matters current a half century ago, with more apparent certainty than the average citizen tells of what transpired last year. From him I learn that the first tavern—for the French term 'hotel' had not yet been so universally incorporated into our vocabulary—was the 'Traveler's Rest,' certainly a very suggestive and appropriate name, opened in 1825 by John L. Bogardus. It was a double log-house, located on the bank of the river between Main and Hamilton Streets. In one end of the house the family lived and slept, and there the cooking was done and the table spread. In the other end was the inevitable bar, and the bunks for lodgers who were expected to furnish their own blankets. The cuisine of the house was, as a matter of course, very simple, plain 'hog and hominy' being the principal dish. Fresh meat,, except game, was a rarity, and bread made from wheat-flour was a luxury hard to be obtained and very seldom indulged in. The bar, which was the most popular department of the house, was supplied with one kind of liquor only— whisky—but its more fastidious patrons were served with 'black strap,' i. e., whisky and molasses.

"Mr. Bogardus continued to run the only first class house in Peoria until 1827, when Seth Fulton opened 'Fulton's Tavern,' also on Water Street above North Fayette [now Eaton]. He had a larger house and a better bar, for he had added brandy and gin to his stock in trade, and his house was better furnished, for he had three 'boughten' bedsteads, and a set of 'boughten' chairs, made in St. Louis and received by boat. As is always the case, superior accommodations and attractions won. Fulton's Tavern was creme de la creme, and the Traveler's Rest was only fit rest for renegade whites and a few vagabond Indians who hung about the village for 'fire-water.' Fulton continued his public house until about 1834, when it was closed as a tavern.

"In 1829 William Eads built a two-story frame house on Water street, in the middle of the block bounded by Fulton and Liberty Streets, and opened it to the public as 'Eads' Tavern.' It was by far the most pretentious house in town, having four rooms up stairs, exclusively sleeping rooms, and a bar-room by itself; but we are unable to learn any particulars in regard to its management. In 1834 Mr. Eads sold out to Jacob Slough —and the house was then called 'Slough's Tavern' (1). Mr. Slough was blessed with a buxom, good-looking wife, of rare executive ability, who gave every detail of the business, out of doors as well as in, her personal supervision, and left 'Jakey,' as Mr. Slough was familiarly called, but little to do except to entertain guests and attend the bar. Under his excellent management quite an extensive addition was built to the house, and a large stable added, and the house became noted, far and wide, for its liquors, bounteous board, and as the only house in town that gave its guests white bread and real coffee every day. In 1845 Mr. Slough sold the furniture, and rented the house to Savage & Lawrence—and they the next year sold to Captain Patterson, an old steamboat man. The Captain had an interest- ing family of girls, and until they were married off, the house was the popular rendezvous of the young people of the place. In 1849 Captain Patterson sold the furniture, closed the house, and went west, and the building was subdivided into shops, and finally, a few years ago, burned down.

(1) There may be some inaccuracies in this statement, for on November 25, 1837, Mr. Slough caused the following notice to be published in the "Peoria Register and Northwestern Gazetteer;" "VALUABLE TAVERN FOR SALE. " Being desirous of removing to my farm in the country, I offer for sale my tavern house and lot in Peoria. It is situated in the south part of Water Street, fronting the steamboat landing, is in all respects as perfect an establishment as any in town, and has hitherto had as large a share of patronage. No house in the Military Tract sustains a higher reputation. The lot is 73 feet front and 171 deep, with all convenient out-buildings, the stable accommodating 34 horses. The Tavern was built two years ago, is in perfect repair and is the Stage House for the Springfield and St. Louis stages. Having realised an independence from the business, I am disposed to give way to some one else and retire to the country. The terms will be made easy to the purchaser.         JACOB SLOUGH." 



"About 1834 John Hamlin moved a large frame stable from a lot up at the head of Main Street to the lot on the corner of Main and Washington Streets, built quite an extensive addition to it, and rented it to Colonel A. O. Garrett, who furnished it and opened it as the 'Peoria Hotel," which is the first record we have of the use of the term 'hotel' in this place. The Peoria Hotel had about sixteen sleeping rooms up stairs, a bar-room which was used also for office, a ladies' parlor, dining-room and kitchen on the ground floor. It was a 'toney' house for its day and age, and Colonel Garrett made money there so rapidly that, in 1838, he commenced the erection of what is now known as the 'Peoria House,' which he completed and opened in the fall of 1840, as the 'Planters' House.' This hotel, when first built, was the largest and best hotel building in the State. In size it was about eighty feet square, three stories and a basement high, and it contained thirty-seven sleeping rooms and all necessary public rooms. For a long time it was noted as the leading hotel of Illinois, and is now (1880), and always has been, the largest in Peoria." [The "Peoria House" was located at the northeast corner of Hamilton and Adams Streets, but was demolished a few years ago.]

[An incident connected with the history of this hotel well illustrates the customs of the times. It having been learned that Martin Van Buren was on a visit to his political friends in Springfield, an invitation was extended to him to visit Peoria. This having been accepted, and June 25, 1842, having been designated, a committee of our most distinguished citizens was appointed to carry out the program. On the day named the steamer "Mermaid" was chartered and about seventy of the elite proceeded down the river to meet the "Glaucus," on which the ex-President was expected to arrive. They were disappointed in meeting, the "Glaucus" at Pekin, and, there being no telegraphs, Captain Lusk concluded to proceed down the river on a hunt for the distinguished visitor. Taking on board a relay of Democratic patriots, the "Mermaid" continued its cruise until about nightfall, when, passing a curve, the "Glaucus" suddenly hove in sight. Immediately cannon belched forth their thunders from both boats, and cheer after cheer rent the gloom, after which patriotic airs were heard from a band on board the "Glaucus" the "Mermaid" rounded to in fine style, and amid the roar of cannon and the cheers of the crowd, the ex-President was conducted on board and introduced to the Peorians. Side by side the two steamers plowed through the darkness, which was here and there relieved by bonfires on the shore, while the cheers of the wondering Suckers were responded to by the loud bellowings of the cannon. At Pekin a landing was made, where, in true Jeffer- sonian simplicity, the ex-President walked the gang-plank, took the Celestials by the hand and kissed their babies. The company of admirers having been further re-inforced, the two boats again set out for Peoria. Arriving at the 
mouth of the Kickapoo, two guns were fired, which were answered by two from the wharf. Then followed salute after salute, until the landing was reached.

Mr. Garrett was the possessor of an elegant coach and two dappled greys—too gay for a funeral and too toney for common use. So they were reserved for weddings and other state occasions. This was one of the times when they could be used to advantage, and so the ex-President was driven in style to the Planters' House, which was then almost new. There a short reception was held, but it being past midnight on a Saturday night, public decorum must be observed by an early retirement.

On the Sabbath, Mr. Van Buren attended divine service twice—the first time at the Court House, where Rev. Isaac Kellar preached; the second time in the afternoon at the Methodist Church, where services were conducted by Rev. N. P. Cunningham, of that denomination.

On Monday morning a public reception took place at the Planters' House. The people began assembling by hundreds as early as nine o'clock, and at ten a welcoming address was made by Hon. Norman H. Purple, to which the ex-President responded in that felicitous vein for which he, was so much noted. Instead, however, of holding a reception at the Planters' House, he was only too glad to be received by the admiring populace in the Court House Square. Two lines, composed of seven or eight hundred men, were formed, and little Van, bare- headed, smiling and bowing, passed between them, taking each one by the hand as he passed. Thence he was conducted to the ball-room of the hotel, where a large number of ladies were in waiting to pay him their respects.

The hour of departure having arrived, the ex-President again exhibited his Jeffersonian simplicity by walking to the wharf to take the steamer "Frontier," then on its way from St. Louis to Peru. (No special transportation for magnates in those days). Hundreds of people followed him and assembled on the levee to cheer him as the boat should take its departure. Many other incidents of an interesting nature might be related of this noted hostelry did space permit. Peoria being on the great highway between the Lake Region and the South, many noted personages found under its roof a hospitable shelter.]

"After Mr. Garrett had opened the Planters', the Peoria Hotel was discontinued, and the building was afterwards used for stores. Colonel Garrett remained proprietor of the Planters' House until about 1849, when, being harrassed by suits at law with Mr. Stevenson, one of the contractors who built the house, he transferred the proprietorship to his brother-in-law, John Tuttle, who conducted the house with but indifferent success for about a year, when the property was sold to Messrs. Smith & Hurlburt, who came here from St. Louis. They gave the house its present name, 'Peoria House,' and conducted it very acceptably and profitably for about four years, when Mr. Smith sold his interest to Mr. Warren Hall. Messrs. Hall & Hurlburt made quite a number of improve- ments in the hotel, and built a large -addition on the lower side of it. They also introduced dinner bills of fare, an article which had not before that time been used in Peoria.

"In 1858, Hall & Hurlburt sold to P. B. Roberts, who failed to make any money in the house, and after a few months sold to John King, who had previously made an excellent record as proprietor of the Clinton House. Mr.  King very soon took in his son-in-law, Alfred Freeman, as a partner, under the name of King & Freeman.  "In 1861, John King sold his interest to his son, Henry C. King, and the firm name was changed to Freeman & King. This firm abolished the old-time gong, which had been used since the first opening of the house, to awaken its guests and summon them to meals; and announced on their room rules:  'Meals prompt; no gong sounded.' In 1862, Mr. Freeman bought the interest of H. C. King, and was sole proprietor of the house until March 1, 1867, when he sold to Colonel Charles H. Deane, who had previously opened and run the Metropolitan, of which mention will be made hereafter. Colonel Deane made very extensive alterations and improvements in the interior of the house, leveling up and relaying all the floors, putting gas pipes through the entire house, abolishing the rows of room bells which graced (?) the office, and putting in their stead the first electric annunciator used in the West. He also cut transoms over all the room doors, laid a tile floor in the office, and built a large addition on the Adams Street front. He conducted it very profitably until March 1, 1879, a period of twelve years, very much longer than 
any previous proprietor had held it, when he sold to Q. A. Graves and Mary. A. Van Est, who, under the firm name of Graves & Van Est, managed the house for about eight months, when they sold to J. Q. Perley, the present proprietor.

[After much litigation, in his efforts to foreclose certain mortgages, this property finally passed into the hands of Jacob Darst, now deceased, by whose legal representatives the building was razed, and the site is now unoccupied by buildings of any kind.]

"In 1837, John R. Caldwell built a very nice three-story brick hotel on the corner of Adams and Fulton Streets, and leased it to John King, who opened it to the public as the Clinton House. Mr. King made an excellent reputation for the house and a considerable amount of money. He sold it, in 1846, to John Yontz, who was proprietor for about two years, when he sold to Mr. Hardy, and in the spring of 1849, Hardy sold to John B. Warner, father of Colonel Warner, our worthy Mayor, and the Warner family of Peoria.  Mr. Warner had a powerful ally in his wife, who will be remembered not only as a most excellent lady, but as an indefatigable worker, and as one of the best cooks Peoria ever possessed. To her, more than to any one else, the house owed its prosperity, which continued up to the time of its destruction by fire, in 1853."

[A few days before Van Buren's visit to Peoria, alluded to elsewhere, the Clinton House was honored by having as its guest a scion of nobility, in the person of Lord Morpeth, who was then making a tour of the United States.]

"About 1838, Mrs. Lindsay, mother of J. T. Lindsay, opened a public house in a two-story frame building on the lower side of Main Street, above the alley between Adams and Washington Streets, and called it the 'Franklin House.' The house was rather small, and we can not learn many particulars in regard to it, save that it was conducted very acceptably for a number of years, and, in 1846, was sold to Clark Cleveland, and he, in 1847, sold to John B. Warner.

"In 1849, Mr. Warner, having purchased the Clinton House, sold the Franklin House to Sam Crouse, who was its last proprietor, as in the succeeding years it was altered, subdivided into stores, and used for commercial purposes.

"About 1849, A. P. Loucks, father of Hon. W. Loucks, opened a large two-story frame building that stood on the lower corner of Main and Water Streets, as the 'Farmers' Hotel,' and he succeeded in keeping it crowded with that class of custom. His specialty was 'pork and beans, and low prices.' The house was very successful, but in 1852 it was torn down to make way for a large brick block, the lower floor of which was first used by the Central Bank.

"About 1846, William Mitchell added to and improved his residence, which stood on the corner of Jefferson and Fulton Streets, arid opened it as the 'Mitchell House.' After running it for a short time with poor success, he leased the premises to the Methodist Episcopal Church, who essayed to establish a female seminary. That proving a failure, it was again opened as a hotel by Captain Phillips, who soon found that it would not pay, and sold out to D. D. Irons and Seth Griffin. Irons & Griffin made quite extensive alterations on the house, added a considerable amount of new furniture, and christened it 'The Arctic.' The name proved too much for it; the new firm were soon frozen out, when C. H. Ruggles took hold, renamed it 'The Massasoit,' and for a time it enjoyed a good run of business. About 1853, Ruggles took in Thomas Dobbins as a partner, and a few months later Dobbins bought out Ruggles, and was sole proprietor. He very soon after got tired of the business, sold to George N. Remmington, who gave the house his own name, 'The Remmington House,' and, as such, it was moderately successful until 1856, when James L. Fash became proprietor. In 1858, Mr. Fash sold to George Wilson, who again changed the name of the house to 'Fulton House.' The next year Wilson sold to a man by the name of Miller. He soon sold to Halstead, and in 1860 Halstead sold. to George C. McFadden, who had previously kept the house known as the Central House. Mr. McFadden, by curtailing expenses as much as possible, and ignoring all attempts at style, made the house yield himself and family a living, and, in 1864, sold to one Haskins, who was its proprietor until it was burned, in 1866."

[Mr. James McFadden, who owned and operated the "Old Red Mill" on the river bank at Harrison Street, had also purchased the corner lot on the upper side of Water Street, where the Armour & Co. building now stands. In an evil hour he also purchased a worthless French claim covering the same ground, and gave a mortgage upon the whole to secure the purchase money. There had formerly been a foundry on the same lot, operated as early as 1844 by one William R. Hopkins. Prior to the year 1853, McFadden had erected a grain ware-house on the corner. About that year, he bought the old Methodist Church, moved it down Harrison Street, placed it on the walls of the old foundry, attached it to his grain ware-house, and converted the whole into a hotel. This he leased to Seymour Decker, who opened it as the "Farmers' House." About three years later it passed into the hands of George C. McFadden, a brother-in-law of the proprietor, who operated it successfully until 1860, when he sold out to good advantage to Mr. John E. Phillips, who also bought the realty, changed the name to the "Central House," and built quite a large brick addition thereto. Mr. Phillips continued in charge of the house until the time of his death. In the meantime, suit had been begun to foreclose the French mortgage, which was followed by the foreclosure of another which McFadden had subsequently placed upon the property. After a determined but unsuccessful fight, the heirs of Mr. Phillips lost their title, the building, after being rented to some irresponsible parties for a time, became untenantable, and had to be removed; the portion of the brick addition standing on an adjoining lot still remaining the property of the Phillips heirs, but it has long since ceased to be used as a hotel.]

[For some years prior to 1860, William Brady had owned and operated a hotel with an extensive wagon yard at the south corner of Adams and Bridge Streets, which was known as the Buckeye House. Brady was successful in this enterprise, and about 1860 built the house known as the "City Hotel," and opened it as the "New Buckeye House"] "After many vicissitudes, it was finally closed as a hotel, and remained so until after the war, when it was leased, furnished and opened by General Otto Funk, as 'Funk's Hotel.' General Funk did not make the enterprise pay, and, in 1867, sold to Louis Furst, and he again, in 1874, sold to H. S. DeVries, who was much more successful, and continued its proprietor until the fall of 1879, when W. E. Lowrey, the present proprietor, took charge." [This hotel has long since been closed, and the site converted into a business property.]

"In 1865, there stood on the upper corner of Fulton and Water Streets an unoccupied three-story brick block. Hon. Isaac Underhill purchased the property, and converted it into a very cozy hotel of about one hundred rooms, and leased it to Colonel Charles H. Deane, who furnished it in an elegant manner, and opened it to the public in the following May, as 'The Metropolitan.' Everything about the house being bright, fresh and new, it naturally attracted the best trade, and did a heavy business all summer. In September of that year, Colonel Deane sold a half interest in the house to J. B. Peckham, from Utica, Illinois, and the house was conducted by Deane & Peckham until February 1, 1867, when Colonel Deane, having bought into the Peoria House, sold his interest to Mr. Underhill. Peckham & Underhill ran the house for about three months, when Mr. Peckham sold his interest to 
Messrs. Clarkson, Lang and Blakeslee, who, under the firm name of Underhill & Co., conducted the house until February 1, 1868, when they sold to A. Look, who came from Havana, Illinois; on the 28th of the same month, the greater part of the house was destroyed by fire. In 1872, Mr. Spurck. who had become the owner of the property, partly rebuilt the hotel, and leased it to J. L. Pendleton, who opened it as the 'Pacific Hotel,' and continued its proprietor until some two years ago, when Thomas Conaghan, the present proprietor, bought the furniture, and again changed its name to 'Conaghan's Hotel.' " [The site of this hotel is now occupied by J. W. Franks & Sons' printing establishment.]

"The 'Merchants' Hotel,' on Washington Street just below Main, was fitted up in 1874, by J. S. Clark & Son, from the upper rooms of a block of stores, making a very commodious hotel of about sixty rooms. Messrs. Clark & Sons having successfully conducted the house during a five years' lease, have quite recently taken a new lease for three years more." [This hotel still exists, and is known as "The Leland."]

" 'The Ingersoll,' at the north corner of Court House Square, is the latest candidate for public favor.  It was built some years ago by Hon. Washington Cockle for a private residence, at a cost of over $50,000, and in its day was the largest and finest residence in the city. Mr. Cockle sold the property to Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, and Colonel Ingersoll, after removing to Washington, D. C., sold to Colonel Charles H. Deane, who, in November last (1879), opened the house, and is now conducting it as a hotel for the better class of family trade and such transient business as may come to him." [After some years this building was removed to the adjoining lot, in order to make room for the National Hotel.]

"In reviewing and closing this scrap of hotel history, which I give with but little comment, I am forced to the conclusion that, as an article of barter, the average hotel of Peoria largely discounts jack-knives or horses, and, like the average horse-jockey, hotel proprietors here all have large fortunes—to get. The life of a hotel keeper is one of great activity and excitement, a grand kaleidoscope, changing every hour. Each train bears away guests, that a few hours' intercourse with has drawn you towards, as towards an old friend, and you are loth to part with them, not from a money consideration, but because you have found them pleasant, affable, companionable. The returning train brings a new set of faces, but with the same general characteristics and wants, and you are again happy, in catering, and being able to satisfy those wants.

"Again, hotel men may be likened to an echo, or a mirror, giving smile for smile, returning good word for good, but my experience is that they rarely turn the left cheek, when smitten on the right, but are just as apt to resent churlish, ungentlemanly conduct as are other men. The hotel is the wayfarer's home, and shelters alike the highest in the land as well as the most humble—the good in heart, as well as the vile, the learned, and the simple.  And a retrospective glance over fourteen years of hotel life brings to mind many reminiscences of persons, noted and obscure, which time and space will not allow me to mention."

[Had Colonel Deane filled out his sketch with personal reminiscences of scenes he had witnessed in the several hotels with which he had been connected, it would doubtless have given us much more that was worth reading. As it is, no better account of the hotels of Peoria has ever been written. It would be an agreeable task to fill out the sketch he has left us with an equally meritorious one of all the hotels of Peoria at the present day, but only the leading ones can be mentioned.

As already stated, the building formerly known as "The Ingersoll" was removed to the adjoining lot, where it still stands, and is occupied by Lewis, the tobacconist. On its site the National Hotel was erected by a joint-stock company called "The National Hotel Company." It was organized early in the year 1887, and proceeded at once to the erection of the hotel, which was opened for business and dedicated on October 30, 1887. It occupies almost the whole of two lots, was originally five stories in height, and equipped in all respects as a first class hotel. In 1893, it was partially burned, but was repaired with little change in appearance. In 1896, a sixth story was added, and the whole refurnished in a style that made it the best hotel in the State outside of Chicago. The sixth story is used as a club-room by the "Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks," whose well-furnished rooms make it a pleasant place of resort. The directors of the Hotel Company are, Martin Kingman, Madison C. Horton, W. M. Benton, Mathias Huffman and W. B. Kingman. The officers are Martin .Kingman, President; W. H. Rich, Vice-President; Madison C. Horton, Treasurer; and W. B. Kingman, Secretary.   Messrs. Montrose & McHugh are the proprietors.

In the year 1885, David Fey erected a large business block on the east corner of Liberty and Adams Streets. Although at first devoted exclusively to business purposes, it had been built with reference to its future conversion into a hotel, when the time should appear propitious. That time having arrived, the building was changed into a hotel in the year 1892. Its dimensions are 72 feet front on Adams Street by 171 on Liberty Street, five stories high, and containing for hotel purposes 100 rooms, a capacious dining-room, lobby, two central rooms and double parlors.

There are in front two rooms occupied for business purposes—that on the corner by the National Bank of Illinois, the other by Fey Brothers, jewelers. Between these two rooms is the main entrance leading to the reception room or office, from which easy access is had to the other parts of the hotel. Mr. S. O. Spring is the present proprietor.

On the opposite corner there was erected some years ago a hotel of modest dimensions, called Frederick's Hotel, which, by additions, has grown to be a building of fairly good size. It has from the beginning been operated upon the European plan, and has enjoyed a good patronage. It is now called "The Grant," and is operated by Charles Prochazka & Sons, in whose hands its former popularity has been well sustained.

"The New Peoria House" is a new hotel erected on the east corner of Adams and Walnut Streets. These four hotels just mentioned may be called the leading hotels of the present day, although there are others of little less note. Peoria is now better supplied with hotel accommodations than at any previous time in her history.]

From Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Peoria County, Edited by David McCulloch, Vol. II; Chicago and Peoria: Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1902. 


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