Bressmer-Baker House - Springfield, Illinois
Posted by: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
N 39° 47.533 W 089° 38.902
16S E 273238 N 4408051
Quick Description: Historic Queen Anne house in Springfield, Illinois.
Location: Illinois, United States
Date Posted: 5/24/2010 5:21:26 PM
Waymark Code: WM8X43
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member sfwife
Views: 4

Long Description:
"The Baker House is architecturally significant because it is one of the last masonry Queen Anne residences of this size and quality to be found in Springfield; one of the last three remaining, known works of Charles Wesley Shinn, a prominent Springfield architect of the late nineteenth century; and the only structure in Springfield to have a turret faced with copper and a copper dome and spire.

The 5,500 sq. ft. house displays a number of the architectural features that were hallmark~ of the Queen Anne style including: compound forms, a turret, tall, multiple shafted chimneys, assorted 9ables, overhangs, bay windows, relief panels, dormers, and a mixture of materials (stone, brick, terracotta, wood, stucco and stained glass). As with classic Queen Anne dwellings, the Bressmer/Baker House has an irregular ground pl an, with each facade being different. The ground floor is brick trimmed with stone, and the upper levels feature half-timbered walls and gables. It has been said that this type of busy allover pattern created a unity of its own, very much like a patch work quilt that makes a strong design out of many different fabrics.

Similar to many Queen Anne houses of the period, the Bressmer/Baker House has a large English type hall with a fireplace. This fireplace is the only one remaining at the present time. However, the current owner plans to restore nearly all of the original eight fireplaces.

Historically, the Bressmer/Baker House has been associated with several prominent Springfield merchants and architects. The house as it appears today evolved from a simpler, Federal style form dating back to 1852-53, when Hiram Walker .. built the first house on the site after buying the property for $210 from El1Jah Iles, one of the founders of Springfield. Walker also erected a carriage house at the rear of the property.

Walker sold the house in 1855 for $600 to John Bressmer, a pioneer Springfield merchant. Bressmer was one of the founders of a major Springfield department store that bore his name for over 100 years. A German immigrant, Bressmer began his retail career as a clerk in a store named Hurst & Taylor at the southeast corner of 6th and Adams (present site of the 1st National Bank Building). Bressmer and a B. C. McQuester bought Hurst's interest in the store and went into association with Charles W. Matheny. The store at the time contained more selling space than any dry goods and carpet business downstate. In 1868, Bressmer became the sole owner of the store, which was moved and enlarged several times in succeeding years. In 1882, headlines were made of the fact that the store had an elevator to the second floor. The Bressmer store later had the first escalator in Springfield.

In 1855, Bressmer hired one of the architects of the Illinois governor's mansion Thomas Dennis (1821-98) to remodel his house. Dennis was the supervising architect for John Van Osdel, who designed the exterior of the governor's mansion. Van Osdel was the first architect to practice in Chicago. Dennis was also responsible for the interior design of the governor's mansion and, in conjunction with Larkin G. Mead, erected Lincoln's Tomb. The house was enlarged considerably at this time and was given an Italianate appearance similar to other nearby mansions. Dennis filed a mechanic's lien against Bressmer because he was not paid for his work.

The property was purchased and occupied by three other owners, including Cyrus Richardson, a railway superintendent, and Walter Ordway, who ran a boot and shoe business on the north side of the Old State Capitol square.

In 1889 the house was bought by William B. Baker, president of an ice and water company, and the Baker Lumber Company. He bought the house for $5,000 and spent an additional $7,000 remodeling it in the Queen Anne style. It appeared that he showcased some of his firm's building materials in the residence. In addition to the use of stained glass, he installed 8' high oak and cherry doors, cherry woodwork, and beautiful brass hardware. The architect for the remodeling was Charles Wesley Shinn, who designed many prominent buildings in the city, including the Exposition Building at the state fairgrounds, the Maldaner Building, the 2nd Presbyterian Church, the First Methodist Church, and First National Bank Building. Only the Exposition Building and Maldaner Building remain today. Shinn was born in Griggsville, Illinois in 1833 and died in Springfield in 1914. At one time he maintained his offices in the Ridgely Bank Building (corner .5th and Monroe).

Baker was born in 1843 in Hampton, Connecticut. On July 25, 1861 he joi ned the Union Army at Mound City, Illinois. He served three years as a corporal in Company I, 7th Illinois Infantry. Baker's father was a carpenter. Baker's wife, Adelia, was also born in 1843. The Bakers had one son, Ralph, to whom Baker sold the house for $12,000 in 1896. Ralph Baker died in 1921 with William Baker living until 1929....

Baker lost possession of the house in 1929 due to the failure of the Ridgely Bank in which he owned stock." - National Register Nomination form

Public/Private: Private

Tours Available?: No

Year Built: Originally built 1853 Modified to Queen Anne style 1889

Web Address: Not listed

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