He’d tie up the swings so that his children couldn’t play on them on the Sabbath. Benjamin Edwards was a strict Presbyterian.
When it was already 10 years old, Benjamin and his wife Helen bought what is now known as Edwards Place in Springfield. He was a 25-year-old lawyer at the beginning of a lifelong career. She had a 3-year-old to chase. The house cost $4,000. They could afford it. Benjamin was the 3rd and youngest son of Ninian Edwards, a former Illinois Governor. Edwards family members lived in this house for almost 70 years.
Helen, who was living in New Haven, Connecticut, when she married Benjamin, became a lifelong friend of her brother-in-law’s wife Elizabeth. Mary Todd, who married Abraham Lincoln, was Elizabeth’s sister. Mary was known for her violent temper. The Edwardses and the Lincolns moved in the same social circles and attended the same parties, which were frequent. Ulysses S. Grant visited. Lincoln’s nomination for President surprised Benjamin, and he thought that Abe lacked the qualifications for the job and opposed him. He backed Stephen Douglas instead.
The courting couch that Abe and Mary made plans on is in the parlor as is the unusual piano that was played at the Lincoln wedding, which was hastily arranged. Edwards Place was remodeled in 1857. Helen died in 1909. The Springfield Art Association moved in 4 years later and stayed. In the 1930s a decision was made to return Edwards Place to its pre-Civil War appearance. A full-scale restoration to return it to its 1857 look began in 2012. The first floor has been completed and it is now opened for 15 tours each week from Tuesday through Saturday. However, the 2nd floor restoration was about to begin when Ruth & I visited, so this schedule might have changed. Edwards Place is now the oldest house in Springfield on its original foundation.
We were told that the entire neighborhood surrounding Edwards Place is targeted for renewal with the intent to turn it into an arts district. This will be wonderful for Springfield.