Hidden in Plain Sight:
The Material World of Early Springfield


In the late 1840s and 1850s Springfield experienced another population boom, fueled by the promise and eventual arrival of the Chicago and Alton Railroad. By 1855, Springfield had grown into a bustling city of 7,250 citizens.

The 1850s saw another building boom, with several hundred new houses being built each year. Although most were modest, vernacular frame dwellings, several large, architect-designed examples of Gothic and Italianate Revival sprang up on “Aristocracy Hill.” Many other dwellings, such as those belonging to the Lincolns, Stuarts, Edwardses, and Logans, underwent extensive remodeling.

John Todd Stuart’s house, pictured left, was located at 529 South Fourth Street. It was built in 1837, and likely was a one-and-a-half story Greek Revival house, much like the Lincolns’ when it was first constructed. In 1857 Stuart remodeled the house at a cost of $6,500.

Although the Stuart house retained many Greek Revival characteristics, the brackets on the eves were clearly meant to evoke the Italianate style of architecture, a romanticized adaptation of medieval farmhouses of the Italian countryside. This style was made popular by pattern books published by architect Alexander Jackson Downing. Italianate style first made its appearance on the homes of Springfield’s elite in the 1850s and continued in popularity through the 1870s.