American House

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Springfield Journal Register, date of paper which originally published the following is unknown.

The above "cut-out" from a photograph of the old State House and Public Square in the late Fifties shows the only picture of the historic old American House on the southeast corner of Sixth and Adams which we have been able to find, and a part of the structure extended farther south on Sixth Street than is visible here. Built by Major Elijah Iles in 1838, after the Capital had been moved to Springfield, it far overshadowed every other hotel here, in size, elegance of furnishings, and accommodations in general. It became the recognized headquarters for the State Legislature and the center of social life in the town. The best account of it in the Lincoln period is to be found in Mr. Angle's book, "Here I Have Lived," which tells of many balls and cotillion parties, dinners and "levees" which featured the legislative and social seasons here, and which as many as 500 people attended on occasion. Here ex-President Martin Van Buren was a guest for three days while on a tour of the West. As late as 1870, the American House was conducted under the name with J. A. Nafew listed as proprietor, but by the middle Seventies it had become known as the Central Hotel, Isaac H. Gray, proprietor. In the 1880 city directory it was still listed under that name, with S. H. Marshall as proprietor, but a year or so later it disappeared from the directory and in its place was the dry goods store of John Bressmer. The site is now occupied by Roland's and it is thought that the store occupies a part of the original hotel building. The American House will always live in Springfield history because of its association with the Lincoln period. On more than one invition to a "grand ball" the name of Mr. Lincoln appears, once with such other stalwarts as Stephen A. Douglas, Ninian W. Edwards, Joshua F. Speed and James Shields as "managers".

Submitted by: Jeanie Lowe.