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    Colonel Stephenson House Built 1820 Colonel Stephenson  



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RESTORATION OF THE 1820
COLONEL BENJAMIN STEPHENSON HOUSE

The Restoration-(2000-2006)

Click to view larger image.The 1820 Colonel Benjamin Stephenson House is the oldest brick house in the City of Edwardsville. According to the Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency it is one of a handful of structures still standing in Illinois from the first quarter of the nineteenth century.  It is also recognized by the State Historic Preservation Agency as the best documented example of Federal architecture from this early period. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

 Each owner changed the home to reflect lifestyle and aesthetic choices over the years. Some families constructed major additions while others added new windows, doors and porches. Sixteen owners have occupied the house over its 186 year history.  

Given the time when the house was built, its architectural significance to Illinois and the contribution of Benjamin Stephenson to his country and State, it became imperative that the house be saved and restored for future generations.

In 1998, with a $500,000.00 grant from the State of Illinois to the City of Edwardsville, the opportunity to buy and restore the house became a reality. The restoration process was administrated by its Historic Preservation Commission.

But what function would the restored house serve? What role could it play in telling Edwardsville’s history? What information could it share about Benjamin Stephenson?

In 2000, a non-profit group, the Friends of the Col Benjamin Stephenson House, was formed to support the additional fundraising activities needed for the restoration and provide guidance as to the functions of this landmark house.

PLANNING

Click to view larger image.With the guidance from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency in Springfield, the process of restoration began. First the home was purchased from the Phi Sigma Epsilon Fraternity. Next, the architectural firm of Jack Luer and Associates of St. Louis was contracted to prepare the Historic Structures Report and prepare construction drawings for the project.

After 18 months of locating and reviewing primary documents regarding Benjamin Stephenson, the Historic Structures Report was finalized. The report contained information on the construction of his home and his role in the Illinois Territory. A history of all other owners and their changes to the house was included.

Click to view larger image.Because of all of the many early documents found on Benjamin Stephenson and his public service and business ventures, a unique and distinct view of this era emerged. In addition, bills were located listing the materials used to construct the house. The real find was the complete household inventory following his death in 1823. This inventory provided the architects with much needed information on the lifestyle and standard of living of the Stephenson family in Edwardsville in the 1820's.

One of the major changes to the house was made by the Wolf family in 1845. The Wolf family bought the house, tore down the original 1820 kitchen, and replaced it with a two story addition on the site where the 1820 kitchen stood. They did, however, incorporate the original root cellar into their plans. This addition consisted of a kitchen, dining room, upstairs servant’s quarters, another bedroom, plus a new servants' hallway.

Click to view larger image.After analyzing all of the information researched, it was decided that the 1820 house would be restored as a house museum interpreting the time of the Stephensons in Illinois and Edwardsville from 1810 to 1825. The Wolf addition would be restored to its 1845 appearance and become the support wing for the 1820 house museum. An orientation room for showing an introductory video, a gift shop, and a restroom would be constructed on the first floor, and the director’s office and meeting room on the second.

The construction plans were drawn up, approved by the city and bids were advertised for the projects.


© 2007 The Friends of the Benjamin Stephenson House