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Opinion

Plaques to mark historic buildings in downtown Morris

For many years, the Morris Downtown Development Partnership’s Historic Preservation Committee has printed a Self-Guided Walking Tour of the Morris Downtown Commercial Historic District. The tri-fold brochure highlights 21 of downtown Morris’ historic buildings and briefly describes their history.

This year, we began a project to continue to educate the public about our local history.

Morris Downtown Partnership Inc. is now working with local building owners to install bronze cast plaques on these buildings. These plaques provide a brief description of the building’s history to those following the Self-Guided Walking Tour, in addition to those who happen to pass by the buildings.

I would like to encourage you to pick up one of the Self-Guided Walking tour brochures and take a closer look at our historic downtown buildings.

The brochures, as well as an audio tour, may be downloaded from our website, www.downtownmorris.com. Brochures also are available at the Grundy County Historical Society Museum, Morris Downtown Development Partnership, the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce, as well as additional businesses in downtown Morris.

One of the buildings currently displaying a plaque is the Streeter Block, more commonly known as the Baum Building. Located at 301 – 305 Liberty, this building is currently occupied by Guaranteed Rate and Blackbird’s Bowl on the ground level, and was the first brick building on Liberty Street.

The building was commissioned by F.B. Streeter in 1860. Henry Baum moved his clothing store here in 1888 and it remained at this location until it closed in 2007 after 132 years. Baum’s Hall, located upstairs, was one of the first motion picture theaters in Morris.

Just down the street, you will find a plaque at 201 – 205 Liberty St. on the Grundy County National Bank Building. Property owners, Abigail and N.C. Perry, built this brick building in 1867 to house the Grundy County Bank (now Grundy Bank). The northern section was built by boat captain Samuel Hull, and included a grocery store downstairs, and his living quarters above.

Around the corner at 112 E. Washington St., a plaque is on The Franklin Brothers Clothing Store Building, which is currently housed by the Grundy Economic Development Council. Built by Max Frank in 1882, this building is a prime example of Italianate commercial architecture.

In 1905, it was purchased by the Hynds Brothers and rented as the post office.

Heading north to 314-318 Liberty St., you will find a plaque on the Gebhard Building. Currently occupied by Jensen’s Vac and Sew, Louis Gebhard built this commercial building in 1885. It has housed Peterson’s Grocery, Cronin Hardware and the Sachse Saloon on the ground floor. Apartments were on the second floor, and the Masonic Hall was on the third floor.

The Collins Building at 420-424 Liberty also has a building plaque. J.R. Collins built this three story building in 1905 for his Farmers and Merchants National Bank, and as a hardware store for a nephew, Price Matteson. Founded in 1906, the Morris Hospital occupied two flats on the northeast corner of the third floor. The building currently houses apartments on the second and third floors. You may have visited one of these beautiful apartments if you attended last year’s Home For The Holidays House Walk!

A new plaque will be going up shortly at the Carson House at 823 Liberty Street. Built in 1858, it was originally called the Boston Saloon. It was renamed the Carson House in 1862. The two-story addition was built in 1877. Traveling salesmen often stayed here while they called on their customers before taking the Rock Island to the next town.

New plaques that are currently being produced for several additional buildings including for The Rock Island Railroad Depot (Grundy County Chamber of Commerce), the Chicago, Ottawa and Peoria Interurban Station (The Bigger Bite) and The Grundy Hotel Site (The Fabric Center).

We are inviting other building owners to obtain plaques as well and are budgeting for three new plaques in 2019. For details, please contact the Morris Downtown Development Partnership at 815-941-0245 or mddp@downtownmorris.com.

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