First stop, Fred Francis’ Woodland Palace

May 4, 2009 at 2:39 am Leave a comment

Ahhhh…it’s good to be back on the road for a long stretch.  I headed out this morning from home, with a few “upgrades” in my arsenal of road trip necessities.  Although purists might deride the GPS experience, I do have to say that it is mighty helpful to have “someone” giving you driving directions, and if that “someone” happens to be “something”, so it goes.  Much less crazy (and more safe) than trying to read a map while driving. (I just need to learn to trust the directions.)

With a funeral at Alhgrim’s Funeral Home and Miniature Golf deriding my plans, I headed to Peoria.  After chatting with Narrow Larry, about my route, he pointed out the Fred Francis’ Woodland Palace was along the way as well. 

Woodland Palace—Fred Francis
1856-1926
North 900th Ave
Kewanee, IL

Created: 1890 – 1926

This ahead-of-its-time home of Fred Francis was built in 1890 out of brick, stone and native wood.  Our tour guide regaled us not only with the sophisticated achievements of this engineer, but tossed in a few juicy tidbits along the way.  

Fred Francis was an artist, poet, inventor, builder, mathematician, engineer, and a nudist. 

The tour guide was always careful to point out the marital status of Fred and his wife, Jeanie, as “supposed.”  Apparently, “careful research” has yet to reveal a marriage certificate.  Even more curious was the story of Fred’s young first love, a 17-year old girl that passed away.  Turns out the Jeanie was this girl’s mother.  It was implied that Fred and Jeanie’s union was that of shared grief, that grew into a platonic love.
Fred started to build the home in 1890, worked on it for the next 36 years. It features hand carved molding, not run on a mill or with a stamp process.  There was also an early version of “air conditioning” and a water purification system, all without the aid of electricity.
The solarium, a glass room, was built for his wife Jeanie when she got tuberculosis. After he committed suicide, despondent over the pain of a hernia and the loss of his wife, he left the property and Woodland Palace to the city along with instructions on how to take care of it and how to work the many engineering marvels.  If the city was unable or unwilling to care for it (and follow the very specific instructions for care) the property was to go to his alma mater, Illinois Industrial University.

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Entry filed under: architectural, fred francis, Illinois, kewanee, woodland palace.

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