Victorian Homes of the Near Westside
While much of Decatur is a gritty industrialized city, you can find bit of 19th century elegance in the Near Westside residential neighborhood. The Near Westside is one of the best neighborhoods in the state to see Victorian homes, comparable to Victorian homes of the East End Historic District in Quincy. The best in Decatur can be seen along Prairie Avenue west of downtown.
Pictured below is the First Presbyterian Church on Prairie Avenue.
As you continue west on Prairie Avenue to Pine Street, you will notice a startling juxtaposition of a grand Victorian on the left, along with a entrance to a row of Prairie Style homes on the right. What you see is the James Millikin Homestead on the left and the Millikin Place neighborhood on the right. James Millikin was a leading banker and founding father of Millikin University. Millikin Place is on a tract of land once owned by Millikin and contains one home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright along two others inspired by him. To learn more about the James Millikin Homestead, click here. To see the Prairie Style homes of Millikin place, click here.
At the corner of West Main and College you can see the red brick Victorian pictured below which now serves as the Agency One Insurance Services building.
Pictured below on the College Street square is the mansion of A.E. Staley, a man who made a lasting impact on the agricultural industry, the landscape of Decatur, and professional football. Staley brought his starch business to Decatur in 1906 and his business grew in the following decades into one of the largest agricultural businesses in the country. Staley also pioneered soy bean processing and instrumental in making the soy bean the popular crop it is today. In order to meet the increasing water demands of his factory, Staley constructed a dam across the Sangamon River created Lake Decatur. However, what probably most people remember him for today is his company's semi-pro football team that he started in 1919, the Decatur Staleys, which is today known as the Chicago Bears.
Pictured below is the First United Methodist Church on North Church Street.
Pictured below is the mansion of Richard J. Oglesby, a governor, senator, general in the Civil War, and friend of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.
Oglesby moved to a farm just west of Decatur on the Sangamon River in 1836 when he was only 12. Oglesby studied law in Springfield, and after fighting in the Mexican War and traveling the world, Oglesby settled down in Decatur in 1857 to practice law. In 1860 he was elected as a state senator, but it wasn't long before Oglesby enlisted in the Union army at the outbreak of the Civil War. He rose to the rank of Brigader General before being wounded at the Battle of Corinth. He resigned 1864 to run for governor, which he did successfully. He was present in the Peterson House when Lincoln died the morning after being shot in Ford's Theater. The state elected three times as governor and he also served six years in the U.S. Senate. The Pglesby Mansion is open for tours today. To visit the mansion's website, click here.
To continue exploring Decatur, click on one of the links below left or the search box below right.