A TOUR OF THE OWEN LOVEJOY HOME

 
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This tour is an accompaniment to our photo gallery.


Welcome to the home of the honorable Owen Lovejoy-minister, abolitionist, U.S. Representative, and humanitarian.

Dining Room

The dining room was part of the original building constructed about 1838.  The east wall has been left exposed to show the type of wood used.  The boards are walnut that came from local trees.  From this wall to the west where the parlor is located, was the first building.  Other rooms were added as needed.

Most of the furniture in the home is from the period 1860 to 1880. However, board members are now trying to replace many of the furnishings with earlier pieces that date from the 1840s and 1850s when Lovejoy lived at the house.

The Jenny Lind day bed pulls out to accommodate two people.  The conservatory on the front of the house was added after Lovejoy died.  His wife, Eunice, spent many hours there.

The sideboard is believed to have come from the John Howard Bryant home on South Main Street.  John Howard was a brother of the famous poet William Cullen Bryant.   The spoon belonged to the Lovejoy family.

The 1840 half-round table is mahogany and has a marble top.  On the table is a bronze plaque inscribed with an excerpt from the fiery speech Lovejoy made to Congress in 1859 trying to convince the legislature to pass a bill freeing the slaves.  


Kitchen 

The kitchen area was added to the house in 1850.  It actually joined together two separate buildings—the main house and a free-standing summer kitchen or washhouse.  By adding the kitchen and joining the two structures, the house took on its present look of one large building.

The kitchen table is pine but has been grain painted with black and red paint to look like mahogany.  This was typical for the 1850s.  Furniture built with less expensive woods but painted to look like richer woods was often used in the informal family areas.  The six chairs around the table are stenciled which was also a common way to decorate furniture at that time.

An opening at the brick chimney shows how the bricks were held in position by mud.  As near as we are able to determine, this adobe is over 140 years old.  On the north wall there is another opening covered with glass.  This shows the mortise and tenon construction, held together with a wooden pin.  This added more stability to the building.  The timbers are of black walnut cut from local trees.

The display on the west wall shows how hand-split boards were used as a base for plaster. 

The saddle may have belonged to the Lovejoy family.  The other saddle is a ladies’ sidesaddle.  The stencil on the wall was used to mark wagons and plows that were loaned out to others.  It was found during the restoration.


Child’s Bedroom

The child’s bedroom has a rope bed and straw-filled mattress.  The saying “Good Night, Sleep Tight; Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite” comes from that era.  A person wanted to make sure the ropes on their bed were tight so the mattress would not sag in the middle; and a mattress filled with straw or cornhusks was a common place for bed bugs.

The field cradle was used during spring planting or fall harvest when a wife with a baby needed to work in the fields.  She could pull the cradle along with her as she worked.


Study

The piece of furniture that looks like a cupboard is an 1840 secretary desk.  The other desk in the room may have belonged to the Lovejoy family.


Parlor

The parlor has been restored to represent the room typical of this era which was seldom used except for company.  The low ceilings helped in heating with the fireplace and wood burning stoves.  At one time there was a single door rather than the double doorway.  The furniture in this room is called Empire style and dates from the 1840s and 1850s.

On the west wall between the windows is an original piece of Lovejoy furniture.  The game table was given by the Lovejoys to Anna Shertz Johnson when she left their home after having been employed by them.  It came up for auction in 1994 and members of the Lovejoy Board purchased it for the home.

The clock displayed on the wall is an 1845 8-day clock which is still in working order.  It is setting on a clock shelf, and typically there was a single candle and holder next to the clock.

The table in the middle of the room is called a center table.  The lady of the house would have presided here during reading, sewing, or tea drinking.  Side chairs like the caned ones in this room would have been lined up along the walls and then pulled up to the table when needed.

The sofa dates from 1840 and has the original upholstery.  The footstool is also from that time era and kept drafts off ladies’ feet in the wintertime.

The painting of Lovejoy is a recent gift from a great-great granddaughter, Theresa Updegrove.  It is oils on glass and was painted after Lovejoy’s death from a photograph that Mrs. Lovejoy sent the artist.

The photograph on the wall is Mrs. Lovejoy.  It was donated by the same gr-gr granddaughter who gave the portrait.  We have only one other photograph of Eunice Lovejoy, and it shows her as an elderly woman.  It is upstairs in the document room.


Front Entry

The mirror on the table is painted in a style called reverse painting.  The scene is actually painted on the inside of the glass.


Upstairs Hallway

Above the stairway is a large storage area where it is supposed that runaway slaves were hidden.  The original door into this area was in the next room behind the desk.  The two doors you see here were added later by tenant farmers for easy access to the area.  Slaves were also hidden in the basement, barn, and cornfield.

In 1843, two slave girls named Agnes and Nancy were hidden in this home when the sheriff came with a search warrant.  Lovejoy was arrested and brought to trial at the Bureau County Courthouse.  With the help of a lawyer from Chicago, he won his case and was found not guilty.


Bedroom

The bedroom has a typical Victorian bedroom set.  The log cabin quilt on the bed has blocks with red centers which depict the hearth as the center of the home.

It was unusual for a home in Lovejoy’s era to have closets.  Homeowners were taxed on the number of rooms in their house, and a closet was considered a room.  Also, people did not own many clothes and had no need for a closet to store them.  Often times they just hung their clothes on pegs on the wall like you see in this room.  The closet was probably added later.


Dressing Area

The dressing area has a fainting couch and a butler’s desk.  The desk dates back to when the house was built, but is not original to the home.  The fainting couch was used by Victorian women who were frequently laced up in tight corsets and felt faint because they could not easily breathe.


Document Room

The document room contains books and papers relating to the life of Owen Lovejoy. 

The book by Edward Magdol is the only definitive biography of Owen Lovejoy.

The small book about Elijah Lovejoy was written by Owen Lovejoy and his brother, Joseph, shortly after Elijah was murdered.  It is the only book Owen Lovejoy ever wrote.

On the east wall is an 1840 blanket chest.  It is grain painted to look like a more expensive piece of furniture.  It has three drawers and a lift top.  Blanket chests were used to store blankets during the summer months and were frequently placed in the children’s bedrooms or in a storage area.
The document room contains books and papers relating to the life of Owen Lovejoy. 

The book by Edward Magdol is the only definitive biography of Owen Lovejoy.

The small book about Elijah Lovejoy was written by Owen Lovejoy and his brother, Joseph, shortly after Elijah was murdered.  It is the only book Owen Lovejoy ever wrote.

On the east wall is an 1840 blanket chest.  It is grain painted to look like a more expensive piece of furniture.  It has three drawers and a lift top.  Blanket chests were used to store blankets during the summer months and were frequently placed in the children’s bedrooms or in a storage area.