The House That Mary Built
May 4, 2013 § 2 Comments
This week Landmarks Illinois, a Chicago-based historic preservation group, named the Lincoln Colored Home at 427 South 12th Street in Springfield one of the ten most endangered historic places in Illinois. One of the first orphanages for African-American children in Illinois, the now-deteriorating building has strong connections to the Lawrence family and their home. I explain in Chapter 1 of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House:
The home was founded by Eva Monroe, an African-American woman who had saved enough of her own money for a down payment on an old house which she opened for African-American orphaned children and elderly women in 1898. To keep her doors open, she solicited money and materials from both the white and black Springfield community. Mary Lawrence [Susan’s mother] came to her aid. Mary assumed the $1,400 mortgage on the house. Later she acquired the deed to the property so that the old house could be razed and a new one built. She supervised the design of the new home and donated windows, doors, and chandeliers from her own former home. During the building process, the 37 residents and staff lived in tents with no water. Mary Lawrence arranged city water service to the property. In addition to her many personal contributions, she organized fund raisers, enlisted local business leaders for service on the board of directors, and obtained annual funding from the county for the home. After Mary’s death the building was dedicated as a memorial to her.
According to a December 9, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register, the current owners, Lyman Jr. and Lee Hubbard, have also discovered that bricks from Lawrence School and the Lawrence-owned brickyard were used in the construction of the home. Their father, Lyman Hubbard Sr., bought the building in 2005 hoping to preserve it as a community center. He died in 2012 before he was able to achieve his dream. The efforts of his sons to attain his goal have been unsuccessful despite the fact that the home was designated a Springfield historic landmark in 1997 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Contemplating an auction, Lyman Jr. concludes in the Journal-Register article, “…since Dad’s death the project has become more of a burden than anything. We don’t have the resources to carry out the restoration and have been unsuccessful in winning support for any type of public or private sector funding.” The home needs another Mary Lawrence.