Updated: Sep 16, 2021
305 South Broad Street
The pioneer village of Hillsboro was less than a dozen years old when Solomon Harkey built his two story Federal style home in 1834. The Harkey family came to Hillsboro in 1830 from Iredell County, North Carolina, and Solomon established a tannery in the area of present day Central Park. In 1831, he was married to Sophia Cress, the daughter of Jacob and Catharine Bost Cress, pioneer settlers in the Hillsboro area. Mr. Harkey, or Uncle Sol, as old accounts often refer to him, became a prominent citizen and land owner in Montgomery County. He was a noted horseman and stockman and the first president of the Old Settlers Association.
Mr. Harkey died in 1892. In later years, the property was known as the home of Mrs. Emma Gilmore, a teacher of music in the Hillsboro schools, who lived in the house from 1906 until 1955. After Mrs. Gilmore's death, the property was sold to the Lingle Motor Company and was used for a warehouse for a number of years. After destruction of the Hiram Rountree house and several other old homes in the 1950's and 60's the Harkey House became the oldest house in Hillsboro.
In 1968, Lingle Motor Company wished to expand their operations to the prop- arty on which the Harkey House was located, just south and east of their garage. The house itself was offered to the Historical Society for preservation if it could be moved. An architect and historian from the Illinois Department of Conservation pronounced the house structurally sound and "a classic example of braced frame construction with all hewn beams, joists and sills". It was their opinion that the one story portion of the house was added later, possibly around 1890. After searching for a suitable site, the Gillies property one block south of the original location of the Harkey House was acquired by the Society, and the house was moved in October 1968 by the Cruickshank Company of Springfield. It was moved in one piece, including the one story section.
The house already standing on the Gillies property is very old, also, and is believed to contain within its wails a log structure originally used as a school house, which the Society hopes to restore at some future date.
During the moving process, it was discovered that the walls of the Harkey house were lined with brick. A great many of these bricks were lost or dislodged when the house was moved, but one patch has been retained to show the original construction.
In the first phase of restoration, the old, badly damaged plaster was removed from the two story portion of the house. Insulation and wiring were added. and the walls were re-plastered There had never been a furnace in the house, and the original wiring and plumbing were of the most primitive types. A furnace has been installed, and efforts have been made to keep the necessary floor openings as inconspicuous as possible.
Originally, all the windows in the older portion of the house were identical to those in the second story. The first floor windows were enlarged at some date, possibly to blend with the windows in the later, one story addition. Most of the exterior shutters that belonged on the house have been salvaged, and it is hoped that they can be restored and replaced in the future.
Much of the interior decoration of the house has been accomplished by members and friends of the Society.
Monies received from the Society's annual house tour and other fund raising events have been devoted to the restoration of this house. These funds have been matched by a grant from the Department of Housing & Urban Development which was obtained through the sponsorship of the City of Hillsboro.
Some items of furniture have been donated to the Society and these are on display in the house. It is hoped that other pieces will be donated in the future so that the house may be representative of homes in the early days of our community.