The village of Ridgely, which ran from about Fifth Street to 15th Street between Ridgely and Sangamon avenues, was among suburbs that sprang up as residential developments expanded beyond the “Grand avenues,” the traditional city limits of Springfield.
Ridgely, incorporated in 1883, appeared at first to have a prosperous future, thanks to the presence of the Springfield Iron Co. (“the rolling mill”) at 11th Street and Ridgely. The village also was conveniently near several coal mines.
The community build a village hall at 1901 N. Elizabeth St. in 1885. Designed by W.H. Harbison and built by Irvin & Leaf Contractors at a cost of $810, the brick structure included a small jail – some documents described the building as the “city hall and calaboose” – as well as village offices.
The building, which opened in the fall of 1885, also served as a community center. Within a month after it opened, for instance, Welsh coal miners received permission to hold religious services in their own language at the village hall. The hall also hosted dances – the village board charged a fee of $5 for those – and a variety of meetings.
Charles Ridgely, president of Springfield Iron Co., also set up a night school “for the benefit of the boys employed in the rolling mill,” the Illinois State Journal reported in October 1885.
The school is held in the town hall and is taught by W.E. Purcell a well known and experienced teacher. The attendance now numbers thirty-four pupils, and permits will be issued to as many as can be accommodated in the room.
When Springfield Iron fell on hard times, however, so did the village of Ridgely. The company was sold to Republic Iron & Steel in 1899, and 700 men were thrown out of work when the bulk of the plant was shut down in early 1900. Except for a few months in 1903, the rolling mill never again operated on a large scale.
Residents of Ridgely voted narrowly in 1906 not to annex to Springfield, but the proposal was revived the next year.
Supporters said Ridgely residents would benefit from better police and fire protection and that being part of Springfield would let them connect to sewer and water lines. (The village wasn’t connected to the Springfield water system, even though the city’s water mains from the Sangamon River ran through Ridgely.) Annexing also would let Ridgely elementary school graduates attend high school in Springfield without paying tuition, they said.
Opponents objected to Springfield’s higher taxes, although newspapers also said the opposition was led by Ridgely village officials who simply wanted to keep their positions.
Ridgely voted 184 to 144 (total population was estimated at 1,800) in March 1907 to annex. When Springfield voters also endorsed annexation in June, Ridgely ceased to exist. The Ridgely village hall was converted into a Springfield fire station. The building fell into disrepair in the 21st century and was demolished in 2017.
More information: Minutes of meetings of the Ridgely Board of Trustees, available in the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library.
Hat tip: Donna Catlin.
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