February 2024: Reimagining Places of the Past: Historic Preservation Lecture Series

The Genealogy & Local History Library is partnering with Alton Area Landmarks Association (AALA) this winter to bring back our three-part Saturday lecture series in January, February, and March. AALA is dedicated to educating, promoting, and saving the architectural heritage of the Alton area. Feel free to register for one talk or all three.

Seating is limited. Register at 1-800-613-3163.

Part 2: Abraham Lincoln in Alton with Tom Emery

Genealogy & Local History Library

Saturday, February 17, 10:00 a.m.

Author Tom Emery of Carlinville will discuss Abraham Lincoln’s relationship with the Riverbend. Lincoln played a key role in the economic development of Alton with his staunch support of railroads to the city, and he was involved in several fascinating legal cases in the area, including one with a New York actress who fell into an open cellar door on an Alton sidewalk. There are also many connections of Lincoln to Shurtleff College, a fixture in Upper Alton for decades, the Alton prison, and Elijah and Owen Lovejoy. Lincoln’s appearances in Alton, his professional and personal relationships, and the city’s importance in his political career are covered in Emery’s book, Lincoln in Alton, which earned the Certificate of Excellence from the Illinois State Historical Society in 2021.

Tom Emery is a critically acclaimed freelance writer and historical researcher. Emery has compiled more than 40 book and booklet titles on an array of historical topics. Articles with his byline have appeared in over 150 newspapers across the United States including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Omaha World-Herald, Chicago Daily Herald, and many more.

To accompany the “Abraham Lincoln in Alton” lecture, on Saturday, February 17 from 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., the Lincoln letter to Simeon Ryder owned by Hayner Library will be on display in the Genealogy & Local History Library (a facsimile of the letter is on view at all times).

*This lecture is almost at capacity. It will be recorded and available on Riverbender.com to be viewed for free.

Part 3: The Gateway Arch: An Illustrated Timeline with John C. Guenther

Saturday, March 16, 10:00 a.m.

The Hayner Public Library District – Genealogy & Local History Library welcomes author, architect, and historian John C. Guenther to discuss his new book, The Gateway Arch: An Illustrated Timeline.

The book takes a chronological look at the historical foundations of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, beginning in 1699 with the Louisiana Territory, with 90 historical events which led to the realization of the Gateway Arch and the latest refinements to the memorial grounds and new museum.

As Guenther writes in the book’s Introduction: “As impressive as the Gateway Arch is, the story of how this monument came to be is equally remarkable. This book seeks to “connect the dots” of history, illustrating key points in time which led to the creation of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and the Gateway Arch. Within this context, the reader may better understand and appreciate the importance of this site, the historical events that shaped our nation, region, Missouri, and St. Louis across time, and how the Memorial and Gateway Arch grew out of these events, honoring, celebrating, and raising our awareness of them.”

Architect John C. Guenther, FAIA, LEED AP holds a fellowship in the American Institute of Architects for notable contributions to the advancement of the profession of architecture in design and was a lecturer in the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, where he co-founded and taught Mid-Century Modernism in St. Louis 1930–1970. John serves as president of the Society of Architectural Historians–St. Louis Chapter. He wrote “Missouri’s Architectural Treasures,” published by Missouri Life Magazine; “25 Must-See Buildings in Missouri” for USA TODAY; and the introduction to The Lost St. Louis Riverfront 1930-1943, which documents the historic riverfront architecture removed in anticipation of Gateway Arch National Park.

*After the lecture, AALA members please stay for short meeting and an election for three board members.

Most endangered: For the second year the AALA is nominating the Koenig House to Landmarks Illinois’ Ten Most Endangered Places in Illinois list. The Koenig House (829 East Fourth Street) is owned by the Alton Museum of History and Art. The Koenig House and its neighboring house the Wilhelm House (314 Oak Street) were given to the Museum by relatives of the Koenigs. They are both in dire condition. The Museum, which has not been open for several years, is derelict in its duty to maintain the buildings.

Worse: Possibly the worse block of brick street is the 500 block of William west of downtown. It has holes, dips, patches, waves and bumps. This is the first street someone can turn on coming down the Great River Road. The first two blocks of William from Broadway were “repaired” a couple of years ago and are very difficult to drive on also.

Buckmaster House: Another Pfeiffenberger designed house that is in dangerous condition is the Mrs. Mary A. And Miss Julia Buckmaster House at 1121 State Street in the Christian Hill Historic District.  This two story frame house with four bedrooms and a fireplace was built in 1901 for $2734.75.

Bridge: The Clark Bridge is getting new lighting in 2024. Watch for more news about it later.

Seventh: West Seventh Street is open for traffic. The steepest brick street in America has been closed for sewer work.

Floodwall: Click here to read the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers report on solutions for flooding in our downtown.  https://www.cityofaltonil.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/Alton-FPMS-Final-Report.pdf

Lights: Barth Park, also known as Seminary Square, needs some lighting. It is very very dark walking on the sidewalk through the park at night.

Booklet: We are revising the brown Driving Tour of Alton booklet. Do you see any buildings that should be added or subtracted from the booklet? With the expansion of the Middletown Historic District to include the Broadway corridor, what buildings downtown should be included in the booklet?

New Park: We recently had a meeting with AltonWorks about their plans for downtown. One of the interesting projects is a proposal to create a new national park beside Alton. The Great Rivers National Park would include the confluences of the Mississippi River with the Illinois and Missouri Rivers. It is only a proposal now, but someday we all may be living next door to a National Park.

Miles: Interest is growing in making Miles Davis’s birth home a local landmark. The house is at 1112 Milnor.

Donations: Donations or dues can be mailed to the AALA, Box 232, Alton, IL 62002 or made through our website. Individual dues are $15.00 a year.  Family membership is $25.00 a year. Contributions are tax deductible.  Help us be a strong voice in preserving historic Alton. Thank you for your support. And remember to contribute to the other local organizations that enrich your life.