Category Archives: Arts and letters

Dennis Williams, crayon artist

  This entry, originally written in 2013, was greatly expanded and corrected in 2021, thanks to the research of Mary Frances of Springfield. See “Contributor” note at end. Dennis Williams (1851-89), born an enslaved person in Mississippi, became an acclaimed … Continue reading

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Savillah Hinrichsen, librarian and suffragist

When William “Buck” Hinrichsen took office as Illinois secretary of state in 1893, he appointed his sister, Savillah Hinrichsen, as assistant state librarian. The term “assistant,” however, was misleading – the secretary of state is also titularly the state librarian, … Continue reading

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Chatterton Opera House roof collapse, 1887

There was no audience inside when the roof of the Chatterton Opera House collapsed on Aug. 9, 1887. “The blue sky is now the only covering that shelters the auditorium of the once beautiful interior,” the Illinois State Journal reported. … Continue reading

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Fairview, home of William H. Herndon

The property where William Herndon compiled much of his biography of Abraham Lincoln never became a state park, but part of the house where Herndon worked still overlooks the Sangamon River north of Springfield. Herndon (1818-91) was Lincoln’s third and … Continue reading

Posted in Arts and letters, Buildings, Lincoln, Abraham, Prominent figures, State government | 5 Comments

Theodore Lorch, actor

Theodore Lorch, who spent his teenage years in Springfield, was a film and stage actor whose busy career spanned the 1900s through the 1940s. Although he had leading roles in such movies as the 1920 version of “Last of the … Continue reading

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William Dodd Chenery, impresario

The dedication of Lake Springfield on July 12, 1935 featured an elaborate pageant involving more than 100 participants – among them city fathers who portrayed themselves in a drama depicting the planning and construction of the lake. The Illinois State … Continue reading

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Carnegie library pillars

The five limestone columns that face the courtyard of the Washington Park Horticulture Center make up the last exterior remains of Springfield’s old Carnegie library. Andrew Carnegie paid part of the construction cost of the old library, which opened in … Continue reading

Posted in Architecture, Arts and letters, Parks, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

‘The Big Tent Theatre’, 1936

The Big Tent Theatre, one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Depression-relief programs, played to packed houses at West Grand Avenue (today’s MacArthur Boulevard) and Outer Park Drive in 1936. The Big Tent was formally part of the Federal Theatre Project, which … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Arts and letters, Depression, Theaters, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

‘Huyler’s Ghost,’ a poem by ‘H.’,1832

“Huyler’s Ghost” is by an early Springfield poet whom scholar John Hallwas considers “the finest poet of the frontier, in not only Illinois but the entire Midwest.” The poet signed his works, which were printed in the Sangamo Journal from … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Arts and letters, Early residents, Prominent figures | 2 Comments

Charles Wood/Carlo Modini, operatic tenor

A torrential rainstorm beat down on Springfield the evening of Sept. 16, 1886. But the weather didn’t stop local opera aficionados from packing the Chatterton Opera House at Sixth and Jefferson streets to hear tenor virtuoso Carlo Modini. “Nearly every … Continue reading

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