January 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 1: Freedom to Equality: Black History in the Riverbend with Jared Hennings

Genealogy & Local History Library

Saturday, January 20, 10:00 a.m.

In the first of these lectures, Jared Hennings will discuss Black history in the Riverbend area, including Alton’s significance on the Underground Railroad, abolitionists who fought against slavery, and local Civil Rights leaders. Hennings will mention Rocky Fork Church in Godfrey, the Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument at Alton Cemetery, Union Baptist Church, and other significant locations. He will also talk about notable Black Alton residents, such as Charles Newton, the first Black graduate of Alton High School in 1873; Scott Bibb, a former slave who battled for public school integration in Alton; Josephine Beckwith, who fought to secure equality for African-American youths and adults; and jazz great Miles Davis, who was born in Alton. Hennings will bring the historical figures to life with re-enactments, stories, and song.

Jared has been a character reenactor for a number of years with Vintage Voices at the Alton Cemetery beginning in 2004. He’s had similar performing experiences with the Madison County Historical Society – Chautauqua in 2018 & 2019. He’s acted at Alton Little Theatre in ‘Fences’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ‘Driving Ms. Daisy,’ ‘The Full Monty,’ and ‘Gee’s Bend.’ He’s performed with touring companies of the Black Rep and Historyonics Theatre Co. with the Missouri History Museum.

Note: The Riverbend is part of the National Park Service’s “Network to Freedom” passport program. A passport stamp honors Underground Railroad sites in Alton and Godfrey. Passport holders can have their passports stamped at the Alton Visitor Center or the Hayner Genealogy & Local History Library.

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.

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.