I love all the old historical buildings in downtown Peoria and the GAR Hall on Hamilton Boulevard is one that just missed the wrecking ball a few decades ago. In the mid ‘70’s, a local architect, Les Kenyon saved the building from being torn down and just like the song goes, turned into a parking lot! You can read about that and the history of the building in an article by Molly Crusen Bishop by clicking right here. And speaking of Molly, she’s the rental manager for the building and she offered to give us a tour of the GAR Hall. The last time Molly gave us a tour it was of The East Bluff Community Center and that was really informative and fun, so no way was I going to turn down this offer. So let’s get ready to go on a tour of GAR Hall in downtown Peoria!
As I was taking a picture of The GAR Hall, I thought I saw someone waving from the window on the right and it’s Molly! I went over and took her photo up there and she said she’d meet us downstairs.
So we’ll quickly take a look around here at the front of the building. The GAR Hall was built in 1909 and it’s dedicated to Peoria Civil War Veterans. Most people know it from the cannon and cannonballs that sit outside on either side of the front doors. I love the stained glass above the doorway and there’s more of that inside. The building is a CILF (Central Illinois Landmark Foundation) building and Bill Ordaz is the President of the CILF organization and Molly volunteers for them.
Okay, I’m freezing out here, let’s get inside!
The front set of stairs is certainly impressive in here and there’s Molly! Great to see her and now it’s time to let the tour begin as she leads the way upstairs. Up in the top hallway is a bust of Major General John Logan, who’s the reason we have Memorial Day, so thanks for the day off, General! Above him is a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and there’s also a curio cabinet filled with historic mementoes. The bottom two photos are Captain Joseph Greenhut and his wife, Clara Wolfner Greenhut. He donated the money to build the hall back in 1909. They were the wealthiest whiskey barons in the United States and lived on High Street in the home with the huge W at the top. The bottom photo is that stained glass I love so much!
This is the door to the front office/library, let’s go in and take a look!
This room is filled with historical and vintage books along with photos and items from the Civil War era and history from Peoria. The third and fourth photos show the development of Peoria’s downtown area. There’s a wheelchair and rocking chair from way back when and that ornate book is a bible from the 1800’s!
This elevator was just installed in the building, making the GAR Hall handicapped accessible. The elevator was made possible by Theo Jean Kenyon, who along with her husband, Les Kenyon saved the building from being turned into a parking lot in the 1970’s. Les was an architect and that’s his photo on the memorial plaque next to the elevator. Les Kenyon was instrumental in forming the non-profit Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation in the 1970s which helps preserve historic buildings, homes, and landmarks in Central Illinois.
Time to check out the next room here on this floor...
The Grand Ballroom! This is really an impressive room with a nice wooden floor and a large stage area in the front. This room along with a banquet room in the basement can be rented for social functions or business meetings. If you’re interested you can contact Molly via email at: email@example.com.
I told you there was more stained glass in here and here it is! These windows really give the room a warm and colorful feel.
Here’s a view of the room from the front stage. In addition to the stained glass windows. the massive ballroom is loaded with historical Peoria and Civil War photos and artifacts. There’s Molly getting a photo of one of the many framed vintage pictures that line the wall in here.
Okay, down to the banquet room in the basement. As you can see, this room is equally impressive!
There’s a full, state of the art kitchen in the back. While there’s no catering done on the premises, you can bring your own food here and prepare and keep it fresh back here for your party or gathering in the banquet room.
Just like upstairs and everywhere in here, this room is just loaded with photos and memorabilia from the past that’s both fun and informative to walk around and look at.
The last stop is this file room that has books of minutes and notes from meetings that date back to the early 1900’s. Very cool!
And if all that isn’t enough, there’s free Cilvil War dance lessons twice a month here! Thanks to Molly for the fun tour, it was a blast and I loved seeing everything! Once again, if you’d like a personal tour or would like to rent out the hall, email Molly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the number below. We’ll see you all tomorrow!
416 Hamilton Blvd.
Tales From The Whiskey City
In addition to the many hats that Molly wears, she’s also the host of, Tales From The Whiskey City, a weekly radio/podcast interview program on WAZU 90.7 FM. The show airs on Saturday mornings from 10:30-11am. I’m going to be the guest this Saturday morning, so I hope you can tune in and listen to the interview! You can check out WAZU online here and Molly’s Tales From The Whiskey City Page right here.