About the House, History & Host!
Brief History of the Silas Willard House
The imposing columns at the head of Chambers Street are a familiar sight to most residents of Galesburg, but many residents know little of the history of this wonderful relic of Galesburg's early years. Local legend says that the basement of the house was used as a station on the "underground railroad," hiding runaway slaves on their way north to freedom. The house at 501 East Losey was built for Silas Willard in 1856-57 as a residence for his family. He purchased eleven (11) acres of ground around this homesite from Hiram Kellogg.
In 1841, Silas Willard married Cordelia Chambers, the daughter of a local merchant. Silas himself later became one of Galesburg's prominent pioneer merchants. He was truly instrumental in bringing the railroad line to Galesburg, and later became a member of the Board of Directors for C. B. & Q. Railroad. In the mid-1850's, the railroad was built through Galesburg, and the population and economy of the town boomed.
The stately new Willard home mirrored the economic vitality of Galesburg in the late 1850's. There were originally eight (8) marble fireplaces in the home. A mere 20 years earlier, the site of this newly completed mansion had been unbroken prairie. To this day, the City of Galesburg honors the valuable contributions made to this city by Silas Willard; one of our elementary schools and as well of a street deservedly bear his name.
On March 27, 1857, Silas Willard died, just prior to the completion of the new home. His widow, Cordelia, lived in the house with their four (4) children, Matthew, Francis, Lila, and Emma. On September 20, 1877, both Emma and Lila were married in the house in a double wedding. Matthew Willard became the owner of the house upon his mother's death in the late 1880's. Matthew Willard died in 1894, and his wife continued to live in the house until 1904 when she sold it to Dr. Guy A. Longbrake, a prominent Galesburg physician. Dr. Longbrake added the massive white columns to the front of the house. In his later years, Dr. Longbrake moved to Florida. After his death, his heirs sold the house to Ralph Daves in 1944, who in turn resold the house to Charles Cooper, a real estate broker.
In 1945, Mr. C. G. McCahan, secretary of the newly formed Poland China Record Association, came to Galesburg seeking suitable space to house the national offices of the association. The Association bought the Willard home from Cooper for $8,500, and commenced badly needed repairs. The Poland China Record Association maintained pedigree records for pure-bred Poland China hogs. To protect these records from fire, the Association added the concrete vault at the rear of the house.
In 1973, the Poland China Record Association moved its headquarters from Galesburg, and sold the Willard house to Edna Tenhaaf Curry, who redecorated the interior for use as the offices of her company, Home Realty. With the demise of Home Realty, ownership of the house reverted to United Federal Savings. In May 1987, Mark R. Godsil purchased the house.
Betty McNaught purchased the Silas Willard home in November 1993 constructing and remodeling this fine structure into a state-of-the-art Bed & Breakfast. The elegant, classic decor, eight (8) fireplaces, unique wine cellar, and interesting history create an unforgettable experience. Enjoy a night's stay in the stately Lincoln Room; romantic Jefferson Room, or charming Washington Room.
Kind Words from Past Friends!
"We were married at the Great House recently. Our wedding was planned in a very short time (less then 60 days) on a very very tight budget. We never imagined how elegant and dream like our wedding would really be. Betty was beyond accomodating to this jittery bride and was not only comforting but took care of even the small details that made our day perfect."