• The Evolving American Christmas, Victorian to Edwardian in Springfield Illinois

    evolving american christmas springfield illinois

    Six years ago Gary and I decided to re-root ourselves from Springfield, Illinois and invest in a community 30 miles north.  Anticipating our early senior years to; control our environment as much as possible (maintain a parking lot and avoid heat/cold exposure), and keep things interesting (it’s big and we occupy the basement on up), keep us sharp (meet people, take care of business), and visionary to stay inspired (historical square  – things were uncertain back then too) and express our creative side (do what you love, it’s not work).   This, we thought, is possible within an Italianate architectural building known as the Smoot Hotel in Petersburg, IL.   Our town is situated in the valley of the Sangamon River and is noted to have been surveyed by Abraham Lincoln himself, one of America’s greats that directed the course of history.  This town was the influence of another lawyer and creative writer, Edgar Lee Masters, who knew the town and people during his young impressionable formative schooling.  At the turn of the 20th century the furniture and home décor, like clothing styles, were changing with the political environment. So Masters left Petersburg, in his young adult life to blaze a trail off to bigger things, and it’s appropriate that I and my husband purposed moving here to tighten our world and keep things interesting in 2013.   This small town environment between Petersburg and Lewiston, Edgar Lee Masters gave the World “Spoon River Anthology” (published 1915), which is reported to be a work that was before it’s time, scandalous when it was written, a provoking piece of humanity.  It’s the famed literature of all his works.  It turned into a performance theatre rendition in 1963 by Charles Aidman. In 2011, Tom Andolora created a theatre production with music, called The Spoon River Project  – but the shock to townsfolk the Spoon River book released, caused an intense backlash as people would rather let sleeping dogs lie.  He wasn’t welcome home for 20 years.  When he did get invited back, 1936, he admitted in peaceful words of posterity “No matter where life has taken me, my heart has remained here.…I am one of you. I am prouder that I am sprung from this land than of anything else in my life. I have written books about you, with the idea of making you beloved where you are not known. My thanks go to you always.   The World is upset.…In America, we are adrift from our old moorings.…If anything can save America it will be the Petersburg idea and conception of life, by which I mean self-reliance, courage, integrity, thrift, happiness.”   Edgar Lee Masters is buried in Petersburg’s Oakland Cemetery.  He died in 1950, the Petersburg paper wrote, “Let us not discuss his books or his philosophy or his individualism. Suffice it to say that Edgar Lee Masters has come home.”

    evolving american christmas postcard springfield illinois

    Well since it’s my home now and the World is still upset, and our move to save a building of historical architecture from neglect, is probably nothing short of insane.? It’s had new walls and upgrades in electrical and plumbing.  It stopped being a hotel in 1972, was a bar and restaurant, after that an antique mall, and then empty.  I regard it as a glimpse of the beginnings of modern life with electricity (had its own dynamo generator in the basement).  Things that are taken for granted today were new adaptations worth striving for yesterday; recordings, photography, telephones, cars, bicycles, motorbikes, worker leisure time and more. We don’t appreciate social changes birthing new eras until it’s over.  It’s good to keep history.  In the realm of Edwardian furniture and décor, the design was luxury and extravagance yet, a fresh informality with Art Nouveau and its influence of Tiffany Stain Glass with motifs from nature using birds, florals, leaves, and insects.  Bamboo and wicker furniture became appealing as people took greater interest in natural materials and of plants and exotic places.  The skill of the individual craftsman gave us the Arts and Crafts design including built-in wooden cupboards, bookcases, and bungalow homes.   The upholstered pieces of copper nail head tack and handsome leather upholstery, lend a solid utility rendition of straight woodworking.  Overall we have Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts juxtaposing a Federal period style with marketed fine furnishings (Sheraton and Duncan Phyfe).  A worthy variant of Edwardian Antiques are found today, still appropriate as timeless, attractive furniture.  If the furniture had been built so well back then, think about the buildings!