Category Archives: Ethnic groups

Engine House 5 (“the colored firehouse”)

Engine House 5, 1310 E. Adams St., was known as Springfield’s “colored firehouse” from its construction in 1901 until after its fire company moved to a new building in 1954. “The Springfield Fire Department routinely gave Five the worst of … Continue reading

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Palace Theatre

When the Palace Theatre opened at 1836 S. 15th St. in 1915, the “very pretty little house” became a venue where downtown movies were brought to Springfield’s southeast side. Despite its grand name, the theater was very small– about the … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Buildings, Swabians, Theaters, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Mumblety-peg slaying, 1889

Theophilus “Moonlight” Waldron was a 15-year-old orphan, living on the streets and by his wits, when he stabbed to death a man over a game of mumblety-peg. Waldron (1874-?) was sentenced to life in prison for murder, a judgement many … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Crime and vice, Journalism, Law enforcement, Media | 1 Comment

Zinc works, Devereux Heights

Spanish immigrants were skilled zinc workers, but they were also tough labor negotiators, managers of Springfield’s zinc smelter learned. The smelter, owned first by the United Zinc & Chemical Co. and then the National Zinc. Co., operated off Peoria Road … Continue reading

Posted in Business, Coal mines and mining, Ethnic groups, Industry, Prominent figures, Spanish | 2 Comments

St. John’s Hospital

Mary Lincoln may have been one of the earliest patients to benefit from care provided by what is now the Hospital Sisters Health System. The story was handed down by a Franciscan nun, Sister Francis Dreisvogt (1849-1933), who was among … Continue reading

Posted in Germans, Lincoln, Abraham, Medicine, Public health, Social services, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Pekin Theatre

In segregated Springfield, the Pekin Theatre was the only movie house that not only catered specifically to African-Americans, but was managed by African-Americans as well. The Pekin was at 811-15 E. Washington St. The block, the site of both Black- … Continue reading

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Murder-extortion gang, 1932

A wild shootout in Christian County in 1932 ended the bloody history of a Springfield-based murder and extortion gang. Authorities claimed their followup investigation solved a half-dozen area slayings. But Springfield’s chief of detectives struggled to explain why police hadn’t … Continue reading

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Danube Swabians in Sangamon County

In February 1903, the SS Pennland docked at Philadelphia, offloading scores of immigrants. One of the newcomers walking off the ship that day was Josef Kohlrus, a 31-year-old miner from Central Hungary.  With $14 in his pocket, Josef’s final destination … Continue reading

Posted in Business, Swabians | 16 Comments

Italian Villa fire (1932)

The explosion that wrecked the Italian Villa nightclub on East Monroe Street in 1932, killing two, was never explained. Suspicion, fueled by testimony from passersby, the track records of the club’s owners, and a rash of explosions around central Illinois … Continue reading

Posted in Disasters, Hotels & taverns, Italians, Prominent figures, Restaurants, Social life, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DeWitt Smith Building fire, 1918

When the DeWitt Smith Building caught fire in 1918, modern firefighting equipment saved the building, and a heroic elevator operator rescued many of its tenants. Even so, the top floors of the building, on the southeast corner of Fourth and … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Architecture, Auto dealers, Buildings, Disasters, Local government | 2 Comments