© 2016 - 2019 Friends of the D.D. Collins House

Irving's Installments

by Mary Sue Schusky

 In 1998 Irving Dilliard purchased and donated the historic house to the City before a public auction thus saving it from imminent demolition.

On April 21, 1998 Irving Dilliard, who purchased the D.D. Collins House and donated it to the City of Collinsville, visited the house. He takes a break while then city manager, Thomas Christie, tours the house and grounds. Vincent Kutzera was the mayor of Collinsville at the time the house was donated to the City. The ordinance accepting the gift of the D.D. Collins House was August 25, 1998.

Installment #1 ~
 

PASSION: One of my father's passions as a writer and historian was historic homes and landmark buildings.  During his thirty year career on The St. Louis Post-Dispatch he helped preservation groups in St. Louis save and restore the Robert Campbell House and the Eugene Field House. So at the age of 94 he saw an opportunity to bring that lifetime commitment to his hometown.  

THE BONN HOUSE: At that time the four room frame cottage was known as the Bonn house and Irving often stopped by to visit Walter and Agnes Bonn, who had lived there for over fifty years. He admired the simplicity and classic proportions of its architecture in the Greek Revival style and considered it a hidden gem on Collinsville's Main Street and also important as the town's oldest house.

Installment #2 ~
 

AGNES IN THE GARDEN:  In the first short entry, I told about my father's buying the Collins House in 1998 just four years before he died at the age of 97. At that time the house was referred to as the Bonn House for its longtime owners, Walter and Agnes Bonn. I remember that my parents often stopped by when they spotted Agnes working in their backyard vegetable garden. My mother especially liked Agnes's goldenglow, an old-fashioned flower that provided color on the alley. Goldenglow, a variety of the native coneflower, is considered a heritage flower and is sometimes referred to as the "outhouse" flower along with hollyhocks for screening privies..

Image of Goldenglow from the University of Illinois website of Natural History.

PART OF  THE FAMILY:  Now to Irving's family association with the house. The Collins House is indeed part of our family's life and history in Collinsville. My father's grandparents and my great grandparents, Oliver Childs Look and his wife, Kate Beedle Look, lived in the house in the mid 1800's. At that time the house was located at the corner of Main and Center streets in the heart of town but set back from Main Street. Sometime later the house was moved from its original location six blocks west on Main Street to #621.

In time the Look family outgrew the four room cottage and moved to a larger home and then to their permanent home, which they bought from Dr. Henry Wing, a prominent Dr. in Collinsville and well known in state medical circles. The Wing house, a large two story home located on a spacious corner lot at Church and Aurora streets, was suitable for the Look children, Arthur, Horace, Issac, Catherine, Florence and Mary, Irving's mother.

Irving Dilliard's childhood home located at 505 East Church Street in Collinsville.

NAMED FOR D.D. COLLINS:  In 2015 the Collins House was moved one more time. After the City demolished several commercial buildings on the Martha Manning factory lot, the house was repositioned closer to the corner of Main and Combs streets.   D.D. Collins is now the official name for the house, so named for Daniel Dove Collins, its builder and first resident. Collins served as Collinsville's first village president and early village meetings were held at the house. Collins also served as a Madison County judge and held other civic positions.

D.D. Collins ~ village president & judge

HISTORIC LANDMARK:  In 2002 Mary Sue Schusky presented the Collins House to the Illinois Sites Advisory Council for placement on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places. The vote and recommendation were unanimous, based on the thorough research prepared by Carolyn Welch and John Leckel of the Collinsville Historic Preservation Commission. Prior to 2002 other civic organizations provided valuable assistance to spotlight the historical significance of the house; included are Downtown Collinsville, Inc. and the Historic Landmarks Committee of Collinsville Progress, Inc.

GREEK REVIVAL IN ILLINOIS:  In addition to being home for Collinsville history, the Collins House is noteworthy as a rare example of Greek Revival architecture in Illinois. Greek Revival architecture was popular in the United States prior to the Civil War but not common in the Midwest. The simple yet graceful design chosen by D.D. Collins was recognized as significant to the State as well as Collinsville. (The oldest house in Chicago is Greek Revival style.)

In 2002 Mary Sue Schusky and Judy DeMoisy of Downtown Collinsville, Inc. attended the Illinois Sites Advisory Council for placement of the D.D. Collins House on the National Register.

COMMITMENT TO HISTORIC PRESERVATION:  Judy DeMoisy with Downtown Collinsville, Inc. applied her guidance and expertise in historic restoration to the project, helping with the purchase and critical early decisions. Irving and Judy had mutual respect and affection for each other as well as sharing their commitment to historic preservation. 

 

With the purchase of the house in 1998, the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), has been an integral partner in the process.  Under the careful and wise leadership of Bill Iseminger, HPC members have given their time as well as personal commitment and valuable recommendations at every step in the entire restoration process.

Bill Iseminger, the assistant site manager at the Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site, has been a commissioner on the Collinsville Historic Preservation Commission since the commission was created. Bill has not only served the CHPC for many years as chairman, he has also been very dedicated to the Collins House Project offering guidance, leadership, expertise as well as a lot of manual labor cleaning up the house and premises, sorting through items to be salvaged, organizing, moving, storing and researching said items worth saving.

HOMETOWN STORY:  My father was always interested in the fabric of history and his hometown's story - Collinsville's past and the people and changes that come over the years.

A classic children's picture book,

"The Little House," begins.........

"Once upon a time there was a little house........

the man who built her so well said........

'This little house shall never be sold for gold or silver'......"

LEGACY:  What a wonderful legacy that Collinsville's Collins House was not sold or demolished for silver or gold. I'm sure that Irving would be happy that the small house D.D. Collins built so well has been so lovingly and beautifully restored for Collinsville's citizens and visitors to enjoy and appreciate for years to come.         

 

The Collins House is no longer a hidden gem tucked away and unnoticed. It is now a local treasure and well on its way to 200 years old.

 

I'm sure the little house is happy too.

 
Installment #3 ~

TREASURES FROM MY GRANDMOTHER:  

 

It’s been a while since there’s been an “Irving” installment so here are a few family photos and a personal story…

 

Irving’s grandparents (and my great grandparents), Oliver Childs Look and Catherine (Kate) Beedle Look, had five children, two sons and three daughters. The second youngest daughter, Mary, was my father’s mother and my grandmother.

Irving’s grandparents, Oliver Childs Look and Catherine (Kate) Jane Beedle. Oliver was the son of Horace and Emma Look.

This photo of Kate and her three daughters, was taken on September 21, 1891. Pictured with Kate are: Kate, Florence and Mary.

Mary Look at the age of 7 when she was called Mamie.

Kate, at the age of 30-40 years and in her later years, was always described as having a vivacious nature, which she retained until her 70th year.

This photo of Mary was taken in September, 1896, the days of big sleeves and grand opera.

The Look family lived in the Collins House two different times in the 1870s and 1880s when the house was located in the heart of town at Main and Center Streets. They called their home the “White House” due to the white paint on the clapboards. Several references to “White House” are documented in written records from my grandmother.

 

In the 1890s the growing Look family which included two older sons, needed more room. Oliver Look who was a Civil War veteran, bought a two story home from Dr. Henry Wing, a prominent citizen who was the town doctor. The Looks settled permanently in an old part of town, the corner of Church and Aurora Streets, 505 Church Street.

NOW FOR A PERSONAL NOTE:  

 

In 2002 when I emptied my father’s lock box at the First National Bank I found a small pouch containing a few pieces of family jewelry. Among the items was a small rose gold ring that bore the inscription Mamie Look. At the time Mamie, Maime or Mame were affectionate nicknames for Mary.

 

A sweet emotional moment happened when I put my grandmother’s ring on my left hand ring finger. It fit perfectly. I have worn her ring everyday since as my own wedding ring. It’s a special treasure for me because my grandmother, Mary (Mame) Look Dilliard, died the year I was born. By wearing my grandmother’s girlhood ring, I remember my namesake and also honor all my Look ancestors who are closely connected to the Collins House.

Look carefully to see Mamie’s name engraved in the ring that has come to mean so much to me.

 

So this is my story about Mary Beedle Look Dilliard, who lived in the house as a young girl almost a 150 years ago, and why the little “White House” means so much to me today.

 
Mary Beedle Look Dilliard’s Girlhood Autograph Book . . .   Circa 1870s - 80s
by Carolyn Welch

courtesy of Mary Sue Shusky ~

Mary Sue’s little bundle of treasures included her grandmother’s autograph book from girlhood. 

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Click image to see zoomable PDF.

While I was not able to copy each page because the book is quite fragile, there are several good photos of its contents (not all quite legible) that I was able to capture to share with you here. Hope you enjoy this peek into history.

Click image to see zoomable PDF.

The inside front cover and first page shows the delicate threads that bind the book together. There is quite a bit of foxing due to the acid within the paper.

Isabel writes:

To Mary,

 

Wash your face go to school

Show the teacher a thing or two.

 

January 11, 1877.  Isabel Reed

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Click image to see zoomable PDF.

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Click image to see zoomable PDF.

The page on the left is dated 1881; right hand side is dated May 21/ 84.

On April 10, 1878 J.S. Angier wrote:

 

“All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.”

Click image to see zoomable PDF.

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THE BOOK ALSO CONTAINS SEVERAL DRAWINGS:
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Click images to see zoomable PDF.

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Though the drawing of houses appears to be upside down, the text right-side up reads: Sara Alice Roberts, Collinsville, Ill.

Jan. 31st, 1878

Click image to see zoomable PDF.

Mary,

 

Speak gently and kindly, 

To all that you meet.

Be always a lady,

At home or in street.

Leave bright recollections

In the faith that you’ve had. Remember “peacemakers

Are children of God.”

Your teacher,

2-4-78. Belle Roberts

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Click image to see zoomable PDF.

On Jan 4, 1881 G.R. Newman of Dallas Oregon signed Mary’s Autograph Book. It appears that he also included the county name: Poll County

Phone:  Call Lavadna at 618.420.0288           
Email:  artloft@charter.net