Paris’ stunning old houses

By Daniel Briseno dnl.briseno@gmail.com
Posted 2/22/21

Edgar County has many old houses. Many date back 100 years, but what many residents may not know is there are some homes that are older yet and pre-date the Civil War.

Paris was established in …

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Paris’ stunning old houses

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Edgar County has many old houses. Many date back 100 years, but what many residents may not know is there are some homes that are older yet and pre-date the Civil War.

Paris was established in 1823 which makes it fathomable for some homes in the city to date back 160 to 175 years. If one really digs, it is possible to see a couple of homes that date back almost 190 years. Those homes are the Eslinger log home on the property of the Edgar County Historical Society and the log home that sits out on the west lake.

This article covers stick-built homes that may not be easily datable by a casual glance, but there are homes all around us that have seen more than what the oldest person alive can remember.

One such house is 317 West Court Street. It was built in 1859 and has an interesting story of how it came into existence. Paris had a wealthy resident named Leander Munsell, who had a daughter named Clara. She fell in love with a local attorney named James Eads. When they married, Munsell gave them a huge gift. He gave them part of his land holdings, and he purchased all the brick, wood and some furnishings they needed to complete their house. There was just one catch.

Although Leander Munsell, who built the first two city jails and the courthouse in which Lincoln tried cases, could have built the house rather easily he told, Eads, “I supplied the materials, but you have to build it.” James Eads did that and the beautiful home still stands prominent in the neighborhood today.

There are other houses that date back to a time period long forgotten. The Milton K. Alexander home, now the Link Art Gallery, was built in 1842. The Lawson Kimble home at 201 Ann Street was

built in 1855. There is also what most people know as the Bovell home at 229 West Wood Street. Although now apartments, the Bovell home once stood on the Paris square at the corner of Wood and Central where the law office is today. It was moved for progress, and this home, built in 1847, still stands proud in the neighborhood today.

There is one house though that many drive by and look at and wonder why it is still there. They pay no attention to it except when they see broken windows and missing parts. If its walls could talk, they would tell of a time they saw a fight that was not to be forgotten. They would tell how townspeople chased a Butternut, a southern sympathizer who lived in the North, into its backyard and into a shed where the townspeople opened fire on the man, piercing the walls of the shed with ammunition from their guns. It would tell how proud it was to stand as Mr. Lincoln rode past it traveling to other friends' homes.

Most importantly it would be proud of what it looked like standing in all its glory and beauty. This house with its ornate scrollwork cut outs sitting on top the columns supporting the porch roof is craftsmanship that many long for in their homes. The huge front porch spanning the entire front of this house was a common must-have feature of pre-Civil War, or Antebellum, architecture. The house at 301 West Washington Street may not look like much as it sits today, but one must look at it with an eye to its history and better days.

In today's world of home building, many long for the old. Some buy the old and restore while others build new to look old. Edgar County still has many old structures and homes that are antebellum period. To many that means the preservation of a history and a time that one day may have been long forgotten had it not been for those who took up the challenge and saved these old structures.