Stephenson County Illinois
Genealogy and History
Part of the Genealogy Trails History Group


Pictures submitted by Christine Walters, Karen Fyock

hotel senate

Hotel Senate
Freeport, IL

Licondo hotel

Hotel Licondo

mitchell house

Mitchell House
 May 14, 1907 - "This is the place where I am staying. I suppose you have seen it before?"

brewster hotel

Brewster House Hotel
Freeport, IL
"The Brewster House" was built in 1857, the architect is unknown, but it was built for Mr. John R. Brewster. A hotel in Milwaukee called the Newhall House is exactly like the Brewster House. The Milwaukee Hotelw as destroyed by fire in 1883. It had the same wide projecting cornice and the same heavy cast-iron window caps. There was one fire at the Brewster house near the front corner of the building, from second or third floor and out through the roof. In the Fulwider HIstory of 1910 there is a photo of the Brewster Hotel as originally built with the exception of a bay window on the second floor in the private apartment of the proprietors Mr. and Mrs. Jay S. Gates. The hotel had a sixty foot frontage and the Annex twenty feet. The hotel proper covered Lots 4 and 7. All along the Mechanic Street side of the first floor of the Brewster was the L.Z. Farwell store, originally Bidwell & Farwell.

Old Brewster House
Editor, Journal Standard: There has been so much talk recently of Freeport needing a new hotel, that it has made everyone wonder what is going to become of the old Brewster House, for around it has been associated the history of Freeport and Freeport's part in the history of the United States: for Freeport played a great part in History when in 1858 it provided a stage for the great political debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephenson A. Douglas. When Carl Sandburg lecture red here last winter he stated that more than a thousand works had been written on the life of Lincoln and surely in all of these books have been mentioned the town of Freeport, Illinois, and the Brewster Hotel where he stayed. You remember when the sixty fourth anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas Debate was so splendidly celebrated in Freeport in 1922, it was said that historians conceded that the Freeport debate made Stephan A. Douglas senator in 1858 and Abraham Lincoln our president in 1860. The Freeport Journal of September, 24, 1858 told how people began coming the day before, and how the final crowd who came, was estimated at about twenty thousand nearly the present population of Freeport. People came by train, by horses, and on foot, to hear these two great men debate. Douglas's first speech was given at the Brewster House, Lincoln was met at the train, marched through a great audience of admirers to the Brewster House. The Brewster House was the headquarters of both these politicians, and they went from there to the platform where they held their debate, which location is now suitably marked with a boulder. When we are planning to take care of our travelers, sightseers and business people who stop in Freeport let us make the most of our city. Let us keep warm the memories of our great past, and let us not destroy our early landmarks and some years later bewail the fact that we had not the foresight to keep the Brewster House where lovers of Lincoln and students of American History might enjoy modern hospitality under its roof. The East preserves its old historical homes and land marks, and we travel thousands of miles to see them. In planning our industrial programs let us use great care to keep what we have, and to make it known to those who visit us.

Hotel Where Great Debater Was Guest in '58

With the celebration today of the seventy-first anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas debate, the Brewster house, where Lincoln was a guest at the time of the debate, becomes a center of interest. This venerable hostelry bears a plate at the front marked "1858". The hotel was begun in 1856 but not completed until 1858. An item in the Freeport Journal of Nov. 16, 1856, stated that the fourth story was then going up. A group of business men financed its erection. It was considered a remarkably fine hotel for a town of the sixe of Freeport at the time. The first guests were admitted Aug. 25, 1857, and the list as printed in the Freeport Journal of Aug. 26, shows they were from Chicago, Buffalo, Rochester, Springfield, Mass., Madison, Wis., and as well as Freeport and nearby towns, For many years is was the social center of Freeport. All important functions of the town were held there. July 4, 1858, a great fourth of July celebration was held at Freeport. The Declaration of Independence was read in both English and German and there were orations in English and German, In the evening a big banquet was held at the Brewster House and the mere list of toasts as given filled a column. THe new hotel was then conducted by Clark & Ferris, and the toast as proposed to the new hotel was: "The Brewster House - Under the management of the present gentlemanly proprietors and their amiable wives, it must ever be a favorable resort to the weary and travel-stained." In but little more than a month was to come the distinction that was to cling to the place throughout all after years. The choice by Stephen A. Douglas of Freeport as one of the points for a joint debate with Abraham Lincoln on the issue of slavery, was to bring to Freeport and to the Brewster not only the largest crowds they had ever known but a future president himself. Moreover, a great turning point in American history may be said to have been passed there, for it was at Freeport that Lincoln forced Douglas to take the stand which all historians agree split the democratic party and resulted in Lincoln's election two years later, And it was in his room at the Brewster according to his friends present, that Lincoln decided, and against their advice, to put his now famous questions to Douglas that were to undo the "Little Giant." It is said he wrote out their final form there. According in S. L. Friedley, present proprietor of the Brewster House, Lincoln was assigned to what is now Room 56, on the third floor, at the corner of Stephenson and State earlier Mechanic streets. The ground floor of the building was used for stores and offices by C. L. Little and W. Hyde. A long straight stairway led from the front entrance to the second floor where were the hotel office, a circular bar, the parlors and dining room. The bedrooms were on the third and fourth floors. On the second floor was a balcony along the two streets and it was from this that Lincoln and Douglas spoke to their partisans who welcomed them and where they also appeared together in the evening. This balcony was taken down by Mr. Friedley years ago to prevent accidents from circus crowds overloading it. Douglas and his friends had rooms opposite Lincoln's, but Douglas stayed over night at Postmaster Brawley's. When the hotel was opened it was conducted by Areen Clark and Orrin Ferris under the firm name of Clark & Ferris, Mrs. Charles F. Stocking is a granddaughter of Mr. Clark, and Mrs. W. E. Boyington is a daughter of Mr. Ferris. It was then one of the largest hotels west of Chicago, but Freeport was then an important railroad point on the Galena-Chicago line. In its palmy days elaborate menus were served, as shown by menu cards still preserved there. Of course, when Lincoln was there the hotel had no modern conveniences, no electric lights or telephones, no running water in the rooms, no steam heat, no elevators, no signal bells, no fire escape, no Gideon Bibles. Water was originally obtained from a spring between the hotel and the Pecatonica river. Tin wash pans hung on the walls. The rooms were heated in winter with wood stoves of which there were over 70, and were lighted with candles or sperm oil lamps as kerosene had not yet become a commercial commodity. Huge cisterns were built in streets for fire protection.

The Brewster House
In the course of its long history the hotel has had various proprietors, and for a brief time it was closed. For a time it was known as the Howard House. For many years if was conducted by Col. and Mrs. J. S. Gates, who restored the name of Brewster House to it. Col. Gates also had the hotel office moved from the second floor to the ground floor and the dining room to the basement. Col. Gates died in 1893. His widow later married Samuel Friedley, the present proprietor. In the room occupied by Lincoln hands a large picture of the old Lincoln log cabin near Farmington, Ill., presented to the hotel by Mrs. Eleanor Gridley, Lincoln writer and author of "From Log Cabin to White House." The picture an inscription by her. Mrs. Gridley was a guest at the Brewster some years ago and may attend the unveiling ceremony here Aug. 27. In a recent letter to the Lincoln-Douglas society she writes: You will find in the Brewster House, which has been delegated as headquarters for your association during the coming celebration a large picture nicely framed of the log cabin built by Abraham Lincoln and his father in the year 1831, and which as my personal property I presented to the management of the hotel to be hung in the room occupied by Abraham Lincoln when in Freeport on the occasion of that famous debate. I lived in this log cabin for several weeks while writing my story of Abraham Lincoln, "The Journey from the Log Cabin to the White House. This picture, I am confident, will be an object of interest to visitors during the anticipated celebration." Beginning with Lincoln and Douglas, many famous men, gave been guests or visitors at the Brewster including General Gran, General John A. Logan, "the black eagle of Illinois, Joseph Medill, founder of the Chicago Tribune, E. W. Washburne, Robert R. Hitt, congressman; General Ben Butler, Robert T. Lincoln., William J. McKinley, before elected president Leonard Sweet, Bon Ingersol, William J. Bryan, John L. Sullivan, Senator J. Johnson, Robert M. Lafollette, Judge W. M. Landis, Gen Len Small and others. Some years ago the late Senator Wilke of Ohio, and former Governor Brumbaugh of Pennsylvania were guests there. President Roosevelt called at the Brewster when here in 1903. General Grant came to Freeport Oct. 14, 1862 to visit Gen. Shaeffer. He was then the republican candidate for president and remained at the Shaeffer home a day or two. He was also in Freeport after he was president. It is probable that the names of a considerable number of noted women could be added to this list of celebrities associated with the Mrs. Amy Davis Winship, who grew up and lived for many years int he vicinity of Cedarville, tells of visits to Freeport in early days of such famous leaders in women's movements as Lucy Stone, Mary A. Livermore, Anna Dickinson, Susan B. Anthony, Tennessee Claflin, and Frances Willard. She also recalls a visit and lecture by Emerson. Some of these at least, were guests at the Brewster. Mrs. Winship tells of taking Susan B. Anthony on a muddy drive to visit an old friend in the country near Freeport. The Claflin sisters, who afterwards married into the English nobility, were generally regarded with abhorrence here because of their belief in spiritualism and their advocacy of personal liberty, yet rose to favor and distinction in England, while Anna Dickinson, the most popular woman speaker of her time, was soon forgotten. All Lincoln associations with Freeport cluster about the Brewster which may thus fittingly be called a Lincoln shrine, and it is expected that many thousands will visit it during the 71st anniversary celebration of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debate. [August 27, 1929 clipping from Karen Fyock]

Browns Hotel
Old Hostelry is Abandoned After 75 Year Service
Brown's Hotel, East Main, Was Oldest; Future is Uncertain

For the first time in more than three-quarters of a century the Brown's Hotel building, East Main street, is now unoccupied. Built by John Meyers, pioneer resident of the county, it was conducted by him as a hotel until 1875, when William M. Brown, grandfather of C. D. Steinmetz, of Freeport, who for several years previous to removing to Freeport had been proprietor of the Forreston House, at Forreston, was owner of the property and conducted it as a hotel for a period of 8 years. Mrs. Steinmetz, daughter of Mr. Brown, succeeded him as proprietress of the hostelry and later Clyde P. Steinmetz assumed control remaining in possession of the property until Aug. 1 giving a term of 43 years continuous service by the Steinmetz family at that property. The building is the oldest hotel property in the city. Mr. Steinmetz has removed to 520 South State avenue and the Stover estate, which now controls the property has announced no future plans for the premises. [Contributed by Karen Frock - August 25, 1936 clipping]

Central Hotel
Alderman James Broderick, who has conducted the Central hotel, on Stephenson street for the past five years, yesterday sold the same to Merle Hea, the new owner taking possession of the hotel today. Mr. Broderick with his family will have in several days for South Dakota and after a visit there will go to the Pacific coast where he will spend several months visiting the larger cities of the west. He will return to this city in the spring and will engage in business in this city. He will not make public at this time what line of business he will follow but stated that it would not be the hotel business. The hotel whish Mr. Broderick disposed of is a lodging and eating house for railroad men and it enjoys a large patronage. Mr. Hea has had some experience in the business. He will make some improvements and will continue the business of the place in the high efficiency which Alderman Broderick has maintained. [Contributed by Karen Fyock - March 6, 1917 clipping]

The Hotel Freeport
The Hotel Freeport, at S. Galena Ave., is conveniently located in the heart of Freeport, has become recognized in both the social and commercial activities of this section. People in ever increasing numbers are forced, because of their business and various other reasons, to make the hotel a home away from home, and one prefers to stop at the hotel that affords real comfort and convenience at reasonable rates. The management of the hotel has realized that to maintain a modern service and receive patrons from every station in life it is necessary to have the rates within reach of all. To prove that the manager has attained this object, it may be said that whenever a hotel of this region is mentioned, Hotel Freeport receives high recognition They have in connection with the hotel a modern dining service where one will find the food well cooked, wholesome and deliciously appetizing. Special rates are maintained for those who wish to stay by the week or the month, and a home resident is as welcome as the traveling man. One can be assured there is no better home away from home than the Hotel Freeport. [Contributed by Karen Fyock Undated clipping]

The New Kraft House --- Structure Will Be Entirely Remodeled
When the Kraft house is located on its new site and the changes that are contemplated are made the structure will present quite a different appearance. The movers are now placing the blocks under the building, and it is expected that it will be at least five weeks before Morris will get through with his contract. He figures that it will take about three hours to get the building across the tracks and the work will have to be done some night after the street cars quit running. The new Kraft house will be a modern building. It will be in all three stories, all veneered with brick and there will be twenty-five or thirty more rooms added. There will be a modern front constructed and the expenditure that Landlord Scanlan will make will amount to several thousand dollars. Contributed by Karen Fyock - July 12, 1906 clipping


© Genealogy Trails