The classic Queen Anne style home at 730 St. Louis Street was built for George B. Crane in 1893. Crane was born May 20, 1830 on a farm in Seneca County, New York, one of five children of Amsey and Nancy (Crosby) Crane. At the age of 16 he moved to New York City where he worked as a clerk in a store for five years. From there he moved on to Cincinnati, St. Louis and White Hall, IL for short periods, while continuing to gain experience in the retail business of dry-goods stores.
In April of 1864, he came to Edwardsville and with the financial support of his father-in law, opened a general store at Main and Purcell Streets under the name of G. B. Crane & Co. The store’s claim to fame was “cheap” but quality merchandise and at one time also used the name “G. B. Crane’s Mammoth Cheap Store” Crane bought out his father-in-law in 1882 and sold his interest in the store in 1891 to the Edwardsville Dry Goods Company. Though retired, he retained ownership of the building occupied by Edwardsville Dry Goods. (Note: Purcell Street no longer exists in Edwardsville. The one block long street sits under the Madison County Administration Building.)
The dry-goods business was a lucrative one for Crane as witnessed by his financial status as the time he retired. In addition to the commercial property at Main & Purcell, he also owned a farm adjoining the city limits, real estate in St. Louis and a 640 acre farm of cultivated land in Chariton County in Missouri. With a significant fortune for the time, he decided in 1891 to build a fine house for himself, his wife, Isabel, and their three children.
Crane is reported to have acquired the design for his house on a buying trip to New York. The plans included several unique features such as 4 fire places, large clothing closets, cut glass window panels, interior and exterior shutters and indoor running water. He asked for bids to build his house and chose Builder Grebel with the low bid of $7300. The highest of four bids received was $8750.
In the 1894 Portrait and Biographical Record of Madison County, the home is described as being “supplied with all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life and is the abode of hospitality.” Crane sold the home after his wife passed away in December of 1901. From an advertisement in 1902: “This fine residence, twelve rooms, steam heat, electric lights, electric bell, very finely finished, city water, good barn and out-house, plenty of fruit, shade and ornamental trees, lot one hundred feet front, three hundred and eighty-three deep; recently built, located in the best part of the residential district in Edwardsville; price twenty-five percent less than cost. Apply to G. B. Crane, Edwardsville, Illinois.”
Crane remarried in 1902 and moved to Chicago where he died in 1913. He was preceded in death by two of his three sons and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery with his wife, Isabel, and sons, George Jr. and Edward.
For a house of its age, the Crane House has had few owners. G. B. Crane sold the house to Mr. Dent Burroughs, a pharmacist and owner of Burroughs & Whiteside, a successful business on Purcell Street in Edwardsville. Burroughs and Whiteside carried drugs, books, wallpaper, paints, oils, stationery and other goods which were listed regularly in ads of the Edwardsville Intelligencer. In addition to his business he owned 120 acres of productive farm land. Mr. Burroughs married Alice Louise Whitbread in 1884 and they had three children who no doubt enjoyed the large Crane House and yard.
The Burroughs lived in the house from 1902 until 1924 when the house was sold to the Wenner sisters. There were three Wenner sisters who lived in the house, Florence, Lucille and Lillian. They may have been joined by a fourth widowed sister in later years. The three sisters were teachers and all remained unmarried. Florence taught in Madison County schools for 50 years. Her specialty was the Palmer Method of handwriting. Lucy taught music out of their home on St. Louis Street. The last of the sisters passed away in late 1959 and the house was willed to The Lutheran Hour.
During the nearly forty years the Wenner sisters owned the home little interior or exterior work was done, so when the current owners purchased the estate from The Lutheran Hour in 1962, they were faced with quite a challenge. The home has since been painstakingly and lovingly restored so that it once again is a fine example of the architectural excellence of Edwardsville’s St. Louis Street Historic District.