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Governor John Wood Mansion

John Wood’s third home, a Greek-Revival style mansion completed in 1838.

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Please accept our invitation to visit the  103-year-old  John Wood Mansion. When only 10 years old, the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County accepted Miss Louisa Maertz’s suggestion that it restore the mansion. Beginning in the fall of 1906 and extending through the fall of 1907 members of the Society raised funds, bought the land and home and restored the mansion from a boarding house to a historic landmark. The mansion was opened with a special dinner and reception in November 1907. Events throughout the year are a tribute to visionary John Wood and Historical Society founders and members who have so tenaciously upheld and preserved his vision.

For more information call 217-222-1835 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

You Are Invited

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The Life and Times of the Governor John Wood Mansion

The John Wood Mansion

 

 

John Wood was born in Moravia, New York, on December 20, 1798. His father Daniel was a surgeon during the Revolutionary War. At the age of 20 John decided  to go west into the frontier. He settled at Atlas, Illinois, about 40 miles south of Quincy, and started to farm.

The land between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers was Bounty Land. As part of the Illinois Military Tract, this was land given to veterans of  the War of 1812. There were 1,400,000 acres of land in the Military Tract and the government was anxious for people to settle there. In 1822, a Mr. Flinn, who had been a soldier, received 160 acres of Bounty Land. As he traveled northward to locate his land, he met John Wood. Wood decided to go with Flinn to see his land. Flinn did not want to live so far from St. Louis and agreed to sell the land to Wood for $60, or about 38 cents an acre. Wood built his first house, a log cabin, at the foot of today’s Delaware Street near the river. The one-room cabin was 18 feet by 20 feet.

Among other settlers was Miss Ann Streeter, whom Wood married in 1826. At the behest of his wife, Wood built his second log cabin at 12th and State Streets (northwest side). The new home was two stories high. Wood was acquiring land in the Tract that soldiers from the East did not want and was profiting in its sale to farmers coming from Kentucky and Tennessee. By 1835, he started building his mansion at 12th & State next to the log cabin. It took three years to build it, from 1835-1838. He had gone to St. Louis and New Orleans and gotten German immigrant-craftsmen (carpenters, bricklayers, stone masons, plasterers, etc.) to build the Greek Revival-style house.

Wood was a well liked man and was elected mayor of Quincy three times. In 1856 he was elected Lt. Governor of the State of Illinois. While Lt. Governor he started building an even larger house in the middle of the block on State Street between 11th & 12th Streets. This was an octagonal building and would take six years to build. During the construction, Governor Bissell died and Wood became the Governor. The year was 1860. Wood petitioned the Illinois Legislature to stay in Quincy to oversee the construction of his home. Legislators agreed and Wood’s Greek Revival house became the Governor’s Mansion for the State of Illinois. That is its historical significance.

 John Wood was Governor for ten months.  When his term ended, he did not seek re-election. When the Civil War came in 1861, however, he was named Quartermaster General of the State of Illinois. A quartermaster secures goods for the army like blankets, food, ammunition, horses, and other items. Wood was 63 years old at the time.

In 1863, Ann, his wife of 37 years, died. They had had eight children, but only four of them lived to adulthood – a daughter and three sons.

 

When builders finished Wood’s Octagonal house in 1864, he gave the Greek Revival style house to his oldest son Daniel. John wanted it moved to the east side of 12th Street. What had been an apple orchard was now changed to a yard. The house was cut in half and the chimneys were removed so the house could be relocated. To save a 12-foot-high line of Osage Orange trees, Wood had the movers build a ramp over them.  It took 20 teams of horses to move each half of the house across the street. Logs were used to roll the house along. Originally the house faced the south (as was the norm for Greek Revival style houses – they could take advantage of the summer breezes better). When the house was moved, however, the foundation was cut so the house now faces the west.

jwmansion_octagonalWood lived in his Octagonal house on one side of 12th Street and his son Daniel lived on the other. Wood’s Octagonal house had cost over $200,000 to build. It was the most expensive house in Illinois at the time. In 1873, the country had an economic downturn. Wood had not paid off all the debts for the construction of his new home and his creditors wanted their money. It became necessary for Wood to liquidate his new home, selling it at a loss for $40,000. Wood and his second wife, Mary Ann Holmes, whom he married in 1863, moved into the Greek Revival style house with his son Daniel in 1875. Wood spent the last five years of his life in this house.

Wood died in the Mansion on June 4, 1880. After Wood’s death, Daniel sold the Mansion and moved to Galena, Kansas. The house became a boarding house with many different families living in its various rooms. In 1906, some businesses on the corner of 12th & State wanted to tear the building down so they could have an alley put in through the block. This would have been through the middle of the meeting room. The Historical Society was able to buy the house to save it from destruction. At first they used it as a museum with many people going through it. Unfortunately, they did not have the money to maintain it very well and by the early 1970s the house was in disrepair. At that time, the Historical Society decided to restore the house to its original look. To date over $500,000 has been spent on restoring the house.

 

 

 

 

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The John Wood Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also is recognized by historians and architects as one of the Midwest’s finest existing examples of Greek Revival architecture. Among the mansion's furnishings are many personal items that belonged to the Wood family and objects recalling Adams County's early days.