Updated October 4, 2010)
Remembering "Rabbit Row"
Springfield’s North Side Neighborhood to be Focus
of October 19 Meeting
Ken Mitchell, a Springfield native, businessman, writer, and raconteur who grew up on "Rabbit Row," will share family stories of what it was like being raised in this colorful north side neighborhood, Reservoir Street from 9th to 15th Streets, when he speaks to the Society on October 19. The meeting, at the Lincoln Public Library in Springfield, begins at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.
Mitchell, (right) who has had a varied career that includes serving as executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, teaching science, working as an archivist for the Secretary of State and farming and breeding horses in Mason City, also speaks at seminars on recording personal and family history.
Married and the father of five children and three grandchildren, the long-term health insurance sales executive has written two biographies including one about his father, another about his mother, and a third on his fraternity at Millikin University, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree. He also holds a masters degree in education from Sangamon State University.
In his book, "Growing Up in Rabbit Row," Mitchell describes the neighborhood in which his father spent his childhood and teen years as "a kid’s dreamland. There were kids everywhere. There were so many
kids in fact, that it was whimsically dubbed locally as "Rabbit Row."
At Rabbit Row reunions over the next 50 years, "one discovered that the neighborhood name incorporated more territory than Reservoir Street, as time went on. There was never any clear demarcation, but purists limited it to the borders of North Grand Avenue, Enterprise, 15th and 9th Streets. That expanded version of Rabbit Row would probably number over 100 homes and up to 1,000 inhabitants," notes Mitchell in his tome. Mitchell is expected to touch upon the experiences of his family and how the neighborhood and its people helped shape Springfield in the early 1900s as it transitioned into a modern city.
Expect to hear about Reservoir Park, one of the city’s most popular family recreation areas. Built in the late 1800s, it was "the social center of Rabbit Row," writes Mitchell, its focal point, the four-million gallon reservoir at its western tip near 11th Street that served as an emergency water source for Springfield. Reservoir Park (at the upper center of the photo at right) included small lakes and lagoons, an ornate fountain (center right in the photo) that was lighted at night, croquet fields, tennis courts, horse shoe pits, boating, a pavilion, flower-filled gardens, picnic grounds, and a baseball stadium (upper right) that opened in 1925. The Illinois Watch Company, which flanked the western end of the park, is at bottom center.
The park property was sold by the Springfield Park District to the Springfield School District in the late 1920s, its facilities razed and the land leveled to make way for the construction of a third high school, Lanphier. The reservoir was finally plowed under in the early 30s, following completion of the new reservoir, Lake Springfield, that was created by building Spaulding Dam across Sugar Creek.
Fairs, Facts, Fun: Fall Bringing Lots Of Events for All
CAPTURING HISTORY: At left, led by
Miss Clayville, famed Reverend Peter Cartright
(portrayed by a costumed Ron Waltrip, center)
makes his way past Broadwell Tavern prior
to leading an old-fashioned "Revival Meeting" on
Saturday at the Clayville Fall Festival. It was
the fire-and-brimstone preaching style -- as
demonstrated by Waltrip -- that which helped
propel the pioneer Methodist minister into the
national political spotlight. Cartwright was
twice a member of the Illinois legislature and
ran for Congress in 1846, only to be defeated by
Springfield Whig Abraham Lincoln. Waltrip, a
real-life minister who has performed with the
Muni, Jacksonville Theatre Guild and at New
Salem, is pastor of Trinity Church of the
Nazarene. At right, Will Budinger of Sherman
carefully paints a mini-pumpkin,
one of many activities for
children at the Festival. Below,
left, a group of quilters
demonstrate their skills to the
delight of visiting children.
Below, right, Sangamon County
Historical Society president
David Scott mans the Society's
table where books and membership
information were available.
(Photos by Virginia Scott)
As Clayville's Fall Festival proved over
the October 2-3 weekend, whether you’re nine or 90, there's plenty to see and do in
Sangamon County if you’re looking for events with a historic
The Clayville event, at first off to a slow start when Mother
Nature coated the area with showers and wind Saturday morning,
quickly revived when skies cleared by mid-day. Sunday's fair
weather also proved to be perfect for fair going, drawing
thousands more visitors to Clayville.
Young and old got a chance to watch artisans and
craftsmen demonstrate many of the activities that were part of
every day life in Central Illinois, including quilting, outdoor
cooking, furniture making, leather crafts, coopering, and more.
They also had a chance to tour Broadville Tavern and Inn and
other buildings on the site being restored by the Pleasant
Plains Historical Society.
brick tavern was a popular stagecoach stop through the
1850s. Until the railroads reshaped transportation patterns
here, the Broadwell Tavern and Inn drew stagecoach travelers,
cattle buyers from the East who wintered in Illinois while they
bought livestock to ship the following spring, teamsters hauling
dry goods, liquor, groceries and more between Beardstown and
Springfield, and families of settlers seeking property for
Clayville was established by the Broadwell family which
named it in honor of Henry Clay, a leading Whig politician. In
its heyday, Clayville was the center of activities for the Whig
At one point, in fact, the Broadwell Tavern was renamed Clay’s
Ville and served as home to an organization known as Clay’s Men,
whose members included Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln also became the
lawyer for members of the Broadwell family, a relationship that
lasted for about 20 years.
events at Clayville later this month (Halloween thrills) and a
Christmas at Clayville program (see below). In the
meantime, here's what's ahead elsewhere in the county:
Ahead at Iles House
Elijah Iles House
continues its series of Wednesday (5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
on October 6
with a talk
by Farrell Gay on the history of the Illinois Watch Company. Gay
will talk about the evolution of time pieces and watches and
show examples from his personal collection. He'd enjoy seeing
other Illinois watches people might care to bring along.
Reservations are required. Call 652-7302 for information.
Teas at Freeman-Hughes House
If you act
quickly, there’s still time to get in on the Sangamon County
Tea at the Historic Freeman- Hughes House
on Thursday, October 7,
from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. or on Sunday, October 10,
from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. It’s a rare opportunity to step inside
and be and be among a limited number of visitors allowed to tour
this charming, privately-owned 19th century home in Springfield
that is listed on the National Register. Built in 1878 by
Clarkson W. Freeman, the house eventually passed to a nephew,
Arthur Freeman Hughes, whose widow sold the property to Dr. and
Mrs. Floyd Barringer, who, passionate about local history,
lovingly restored the Italianate-style home with its intricate
Carpenter- Gothic trim. The current owner, Mary Ann Langston,
has preserved its furnishings and antiques. At each room,
volunteer docents will point out features and answer questions
about specific features. Tea will be served.
Ticket sales have been brisk
and seating is limited. Tickets are $25 for members, $30 for
non-members. Press here
for a reservation form
or call at 522-2500.
Bus Trip to Sugar Creek
Tickets are still available for the Society’s Sunday,
trip back in time in a
Bus Tour of the Cotton Hill
County’s birthplace. The area—in and around Sugar Creek—was home
to the first generation of settlers here. Traveling in a
comfortable, air conditioned tour bus, trip takers will hear
stories and descriptions of Sangamon’s earliest settlement sites
and view over five 19th century farm houses and early family
cemeteries. At two of the cemeteries, actors will portray
several of the early settles buried there. The tour takes about
two-and-a half hours, leaving from the Meijer’s parking lot off
Veterans Parkway (Route 4), Springfield, at 1 p.m. Sites and
history along the route will be detailed by historian Dick Hart.
He’ll do the same for the north side of Sugar Creek on the way
back. Tickets are $40 for members, $50 for non-members.
Press here for a
or call at 522-2500.
Halloween Fun at Clayville
Clayville will be the setting for
Haunted House and Haunted Hayride
October 22, 23, 29
The Friday evening programs will run from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. and
includes visiting the "Haunted House" and a hayride. On
Saturdays, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. will be special "Children’s
Hours," in which there will be regular lighting and Halloween
special displays on hand designed to avert scaring younger
children. On Halloween, the Haunted House/Haunted Hayride will
run from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Check the Clayville website for
Historic Activities at Strawbridge-Sherperd
House On Saturday,
you can tour the
in Springfield, which will be open for
"Old Settlers Day,"
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You’ll be
able to talk to restoration specialists, tour the native
tall-grass prairie and compare notes with noted botanists.
Period music, impersonators, demonstrators,
craftsmen and exhibits will be featured at this free event. In
addition, there will be games and crafts for children of all
ages. Meals and snacks, fall baked goods and produce will be
available. The historic building, which is undergoing
restoration, is located at 5251 Shepherd Road, Springfield, just
west of Lincoln Land Community College.
Society’s Tree At Festival Don’t forget to catch the
Sangamon County Historical Society’s tree at the
which opens Saturday,
at the Orr Building on the State Fair
Grounds in Springfield. This year’s Society tree will
feature hand-made ornaments highlighting historic sites and
history makers of Sangamon County. The Festival, the single
largest family-oriented holiday tradition in central Illinois,
is open daily through
November 28. For more
Contact the Sangamon County Historical Society
Phone: 217-522-2500 Email:
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