The first record of the property now known as 744 St. Louis Street was filed when John Robinson obtained it as part of a land grant in 1814. It remained part of the Robinson farm until the land was purchased in about 1850 by Edward West. West purchased the property with adjoining land as an investment. At that time St. Louis Street was just a dirt farm road with no recorded name. When fairgrounds were built a few years later in the area around Woodlawn Gardens, the road became known as Fairgrounds Road.
Edward West didn’t build on the property either, but sold it in 1875 to Edwin Greenwood, a young man who worked for him. The Greenwoods built a small cottage on the property which they added to on several occasions over the years. They sold it in 1904 by which time the address was established as 744 St. Louis Street.
The house was sold to a group of investors who rented it out over the next five years until the house was purchased by George Burroughs in 1909. The Burroughs family lived in the house for 65 years. Their years included an extensive renovation in 1929. Kenneth & Joan Evers resided in the house from 1976 until 1992 and there have been several owners since then including Elizabeth Thomas who researched the history of the house for a master’s thesis in 1995. The historical data for this article is the result of her extensive study of the property’s owners and how their history paralleled the development of Edwardsville. If you’d like to read more, copies of the thesis, Golden Age of Edwardsville Through the Eyes of the Residents at 744 St. Louis Street, are at SIUE’s Lovejoy Library and at the Madison Country Historical Society Library.
The Robinsons were one of Edwardsville’s earliest families. John Robinson, Sr. was a Revolutionary War veteran from North Carolina who came to Illinois in 1809. He and his sons were active participants in government at the new county seat, serving in various capacities such as on grand juries or as road builders. In addition, John Robinson’s son, Beniah, was county surveyor from 1834-1851 and laid out the first corporate limits for the town of Edwardsville. He was also a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention in 1847.
The West family…
The property’s second owner, Edward West, was born in 1814 in Virginia. Both his maternal and paternal grandfathers served under George Washington in the Revolutionary War. His father voluntarily freed his slaves in 1818 and moved the family to Illinois, near Belleville. Edward came to Edwardsville in 1834 as a clerk in the land office. He eventually started a store that became very successful. He was an effective delegate to the 1847 State Constitutional Convention, proposing three resolutions and eight amendments to the constitution. One of those amendments assured that the county seat for Madison County would remain in Edwardsville.
By 1850, Edward West was devoting time to land speculation and was acting as an informal bank. He purchased land on both sides of the dirt road that would become St. Louis Street from West Street to what is now Union Street. In 1868 Edward and his son-in-law, William Prickett, decided to start a bank, West & Prickett, on Purcell Street which was then on the north edge of the courthouse (Purcell street was eliminated by the county administration building). In 1872 Edward hired a young clerk for his bank named Edwin Greenwood who proved to be a good employee. In 1875 Edward sold Edwin a piece of property on the south side of Fairgrounds Road for only $1.00, making Edwin the third recorded owner of the property now known as 744 St. Louis Street. (Incidentally, the only other person Edward gave land to on Fairgrounds Road, was W.F.L. Hadley, his son-in-law. Edwardsville residents know that property as the school district’s “Hadley House”. Edward West built his own home on the north side of the road in 1858. His former home became the Pletcher Funeral Home.)
Edwin Greenwood was a native of Massachusetts who moved to Alton, Illinois in 1859 with his family when he was 15. He held several clerical jobs before moving to Edwardsville in 1870 for a job as the deputy circuit clerk. Two years later he was offered the position with West & Prickett.
Edwin & Abigail Greenwood mortgaged the property for $700 to build the first house at 744 St. Louis Street. It was a simple 4-room, rectangular brick cottage and the building still exists within the walls of the house you see today. In 1887 the Greenwoods undertook a major renovation that turned their cottage into a one & a half story house. Additional rooms were added downstairs as well as a front porch on the east side of the house. The porch differed greatly from its current appearance as it was in the Eastlake style with gingerbread trim and turned posts. The family ability to afford luxuries was reflected in this Victorian expansion.
The Greenwoods rose from middle class to upper-class status during their years in the house. The bank prospered despite several financial panics and Edwin was promoted on several occasions. In 1895, the bank, which had become William R. Prickett & Company after the death of Edward West, was reorganized. The new name of the corporation was The Bank of Edwardsville. Greenwood was cashier and a principal shareholder.
With the family’s new wealth, the Greenwoods decided to move on to a larger home. They purchased adjoining property and built a new two story Victorian home just east of their former home. In 1904 they then sold 744 St. Louis Street and for several years it was rented to various families.
George & Nona Burroughs…
In 1909 the house was purchased by George Burroughs for $4300. George, with his older brother William, moved to Edwardsville from Maryland in 1894. He was a 21 year old lawyer. George married Nona Barnsbeck, a talented musician and Edwardsville teacher whose family lived 2 houses west at 810 St. Louis Street. George kept very detailed journals of purchases made for the house so there is a very specific record of renovations made and furniture purchased for the house.
By the time the Burroughs purchased the property, St. Louis Street had been paved, electric lights added and shortly after they took up residence city sewers were installed. They paid a special assessment of $194.84 for sanitary sewers.
Both George and Nona were active members of the community. George was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and a Mason. Nona belonged to the Monday Club. George was a member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and encouraged the building of their “new” church in 1917 that is still used today. Nona attended social events with her husband at St. Andrew’s but remained an early member of Edwardsville’s first Christian Science Church.
In 1916 George Burroughs bought his first car and in the next year built a garage towards the back of the property. The garage had sliding doors, like a stable. George paid $2 for automobile instructions.
Around 1920 the Burrough’s daughter, Josephine, planted a gingko tree in the back yard at 744 St. Louis Street as part of a Girl Scout project. There was also a summer kitchen at that time and a picket fence separating the yard from the garden. Of the three, only the tree remains. The tree is now a very noticeable centerpiece of the back yard with a circumference of over 8 feet.
By 1929, the Burroughs family was now quite wealthy and decided to undertake a major renovation. Their architect provided a design to turn the house into a colonial style home. The family went to Europe during the 6 months while the work was being done. The one & a half story house would now have two & a half stories which included the original 4 room cottage on the first floor. An indication of the Burroughs family wealth is that work continued unabated despite the stock market crash.
George continued to walk the six blocks to his law office every day until he was well into his nineties. He practiced law for over 80 years in Edwardsville. Nona died at age 100 in 1971. He passed away in 1977 at the age of 103.
In 1976 the house was purchased by Kenneth & Joan Evers. Ken, a Chicago native served as Edwardsville Mayor from 1981-1985. Joan Foehrkalb Evers is part of a fifth generation Edwardsville family and was able to provide photographs and additional information for this article. The Evers family did extensive modernization and restoration to the house and sold it in 1992 to the Thomas family who has since moved away.