Hillsboro Lyceum Building


Lyceum Building (Left) and Clotfelter Building (Right) Hillsboro Illinois
Lyceum Building (Left) and Clotfelter Building (Right) Hillsboro Illinois

Playing an important part in Hillsboro's educational past was the old Hillsboro Lyceum and Library Association building which served as a school house, a reading room, a place where political meetings were held and educational programs presented and an entertainment center for nearly three decades before being converted into commercial use.


In September 1837, when the then new Hillsboro Academy was preparing to open for the first time, David B. Jackson and other early community leaders formed an association to bring a lyceum and library building into being.


A one- story frame building was erected on the site of the present Sunoco service station facing north on School Street, then known as Knoxville Avenue. Main Street was then named Coffey Street, in honor of Newton Coffey who had donated the 20-acre original town site that established Hillsboro as the county seat.


Mr. Jackson was president of the association which was to operate the meeting and entertainment center. Josiah Fish was vice president, Francis F. Hereford secretary-treasurer and Edward Wyman librarian. Mr. Hereford was a trustee of the new Hillsboro Academy and Mr. Wyman was a member of the Academy faculty.


For nearly 30 years the building was used for the purposes for which it was built. It served as classrooms for the "female department'' of the Academy, as a rental library and as a meeting and entertainment center.


In 1858 a political reception and dance were held these in honor of Stephen A Douglas who had given a political speech at the old Fairgrounds shortly before Abraham Lincoln spoke there. According to an item in the Montgomery Herald, published in Hillsboro, Mr. Douglas played the fiddle and "danced with every woman present" before being driven to Vandalia in what was to be known for many years as the "Douglas Carriage”


In the 1880's the lyceum building was moved to the southeast corner of Main and Water streets where it was used for commercial purposes for nearly 40 years before being moved again and replaced with the present Heselov Style Shop building.


The building housed J. S. Culver's Marble Works when the above picture was taken, sometime before 1887. It stood next to the tall building then known as Masonic Hall, or the Clotfelter building D. S. Clotfelter built the building in 1867 and the rooms now occupied by Fashion Lane and Main Street Tavern then housed "Farmer John's" grocery store and the Grange Harness Shop.


After being moved to the business district the north portion of the building continued to be used for years as a rental library. A separate entrance to the library can be seen on the left side of the picture of the building. Books were available there on a rental basis in the 1870's for the titles of more than 360 volumes listed In issues of the Hillsboro News-Letter, published in November, 1873. At that time library directors were Dr. Washburn, Dr. Sawyer, Dr Marshall, A. H. H. Rountree and F. R. Chrisman.


The Hillsboro Journal occupied the Lyceum building up until 1907
The Hillsboro Journal occupied the Lyceum building up until 1907

The Hillsboro Journal was located In the old Lyceum building for several years and Sam Little, editor of the paper, had to vacate the property when J. J. Frey arranged to build the present Heselov building in 1907. The old building was then moved to the east end of Wood Street where it became a machine shop and was used for other purposes until it was destroyed by fire.


Part of Our Past - By Tom Bliss

From the Hillsboro and Montgomery County News

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Jeff Dunn

Vice President

Historical Society of

Montgomery County

Advisory Board

Illinois State

Historical Society