The Morgan-Wells House, located at 421 Jersey Street, in Quincy Illinois was a remarkable example of mid-nineteenth century Italianate architecture. Featuring many of the hallmarks of this style the home boasted a long low-pitched roof with expansive overhanging eaves dotted with large, decorative brackets. The tall narrow double windows were dressed in elaborate moldings while the center of the home was punctuated by the segmented arched grand entryway. The interior of the home eschewed the traditional asymmetry and irregularity typical of Italianates preferring instead to incorporate the center hall style featuring a grand staircase with balanced parlors. This style of home was incredibly popular in the mid-west in the period spanning the 1850’s through the 1880’s.
Legend has it, that when its builder, Edward Wells arrived in the infant community of Quincy in the fall of 1834 that he had but a single silver dollar to his name, having exhausted his life savings on the long journey from Boston. Wells, who had apprenticed as a cooper, immediately set to work building a business from the ground up. Access to both the Mississippi River and the rapidly expanding agrarian regions meant that many of his early customers were purchasing barrels to ship agricultural commodities across the country. Seeing an opportunity, Wells expanded his business into the packing and shipping of pork and by 1850 he was one of the largest producers in the region. Not all his pursuits were pecuniary, Wells was very civically minded joining the volunteer fire department as well as championing the expansion of the railroads into Quincy. He also was involved politically and although he allied himself with the Whig and later Republican parties he became acquainted with such diverse historical figures as Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.
In 1860, Wells purchased the lot on Jersey Street, that already had a small home built by J.E. Norwood (completed in 1853), to build his grand residence. Rather than demolishing the small home, Wells simply expanded upon it to create his opulent twenty-two room mansion residing there until his death in 1892. The home remained within the Wells family for several years before being purchased by a Quincy banker name Lorenzo Ball. In 1901, Ball donated the home to the Cheerful Home Association and it became the first licensed children’s home in the state. In 1933, the Quincy chapter of the YWCA purchased the home, for $10, eventually expanding it to meet its needs to serve the young women of Quincy. In November of 1977, the home was added to the National Register of Historic Places because of its unique history and architectural style.
On October 17, 2016, the Quincy City Council approved a demolition permit for the home, which had sat vacant for several years following the relocation of the YMCA. Prior to its demolition, Sangamon Reclaimed harvested a total of 12,000 board feet of wood from the structure. This not only gave new life to more than fifteen tons of reclaimed material that would have been destined for the scrap heap but also insured that aspects of this historic home will continue to live on for numerous generations to come.
Our goal at Sangamon Reclaimed is to honor our past and preserve it for future generations to come. The heirloom-quality pieces we built allow this structure to live on for years to come.
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