Category Archives: Buildings

Johnston-Hatcher fires, 1907 & 1913

The Johnston-Hatcher Co. sold home furnishings of all kinds from 1899 to 1949 in downtown Springfield. The store, however, fell victim to two of the city’s most devastating early 20th-century fires. Johnston-Hatcher was the creation of two sets of brothers … Continue reading

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Price-Prather House, Williamsville (National Register)

Williamsville’s Price-Prather House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places partly for its architectural features, but the building’s early owners, especially J. Frank Prather (1859-1927), played major roles in development of the beef cattle industry in Sangamon County, … Continue reading

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Ben F. Caldwell: politician, farmer, banker

Ben Franklin Caldwell (1848-1924) was a member of Congress and the Illinois legislature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He also was a farmer, banker and civic leader whose donations helped build schools in both Chatham and Thayer. … Continue reading

Posted in Architecture, Buildings, Business, Fires, Historic Sites, Politics, Prominent figures, Schools and school districts | 3 Comments

Edith Martin, teacher & heroine

Teacher Edith Martin may have saved 30 children by forcing them out a second-story window as flames consumed Thayer’s Caldwell School on Feb. 16, 1903. An Illinois State Register special correspondent described the rescues in a highly colored account published … Continue reading

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Ridgely School fire, 1916

Regular fire drills were credited with saving the lives of an unknown number of children when Ridgely School caught fire in the middle of classes on Nov. 15, 1916. The blaze began when sparks from the school’s coal furnace flew … Continue reading

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Illinois State Fairgrounds Coliseum

The Illinois State Fairgrounds Coliseum was a huge hit when it first opened to fairgoers in 1901. But not huge enough, because the building had to be substantially expanded only two years later. The Coliseum, declared unsafe for use in … Continue reading

Posted in Architecture, Buildings, National Register, State government | 4 Comments

Bressmer department store fire, 1948

Fire caused by a lightning bolt destroyed the John Bressmer Co. department store in downtown Springfield early on May 2, 1948. First reports estimated damages of $2 million. Even though that figure was later adjusted downward to about $1.3 million, … Continue reading

Posted in Buildings, Business, Department stores, Fires | 2 Comments

Boston Store fire, 1915

What was thought to be Springfield’s most disastrous fire ever, up to that point, demolished The Boston Store on the east side of the downtown square on Dec. 7, 1915. The Boston Store was part of a loosely affiliated chain … Continue reading

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Most costly fires in Springfield, 1904-48

The following list of the most destructive fires in Springfield history was published in the May 3, 1948, Illinois State Journal. The list is based solely on the amount of property damage. Damage estimates are not adjusted for inflation. Preliminary … Continue reading

Posted in Buildings, Business, Department stores, Disasters, Fires | 2 Comments

‘Boarding house horror’ fire, 1899

Three people died on Feb. 4, 1899, in a fire the Illinois State Journal called a “boarding house horror.” The victims – boarding house operator Martha “Mattie” Withey, retired grocer J.C. Hall and 67-year-old Helen Rose – were among 21 … Continue reading

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