History & Architecture

Pasfield Family History by each Decade 1830’s – 1920’s

1830’s - George Pasfield and wife Mary Arrive in Sangamon

After importing goods from New Orleans and as far away as the Island of Havana, Cuba, George Pasfield traveled to Sangamon Valley area to visit his brother-in-law and was so taken that he and his wife Mary sold their store in Paris Kentucky and returned in 1831 apparently missing the legendary deep snow. After settling in town, Mary gave birth later that year to their only child, who was named George. Pasfield purchased land on the north side and became one of the first merchants on the new public square. Before his passing in 1869, Pasfield would become one of the most prominent landholders in Sangamon County. Being aware of the positive benefits of promoting his new community, the elder Pasfield was among the 50 businessmen who pledged to construct a State Capitol, if relocated and was instrumental in meeting the $50,000 obligation which became difficult to satisfy. Like Abraham Lincoln, Pasfield served on the town board before the City of Springfield was organized. Pasfield oversaw street improvements and responsible for acquiring the city’s first fire equipment. Both Lincoln and Pasfield also served as town delegates attempting to bring rail service come here. Though not initially successful with rail travel, the railroad industry would positively impact their respective careers decades later. Pasfield’s integrity and stature was so respected that his fellow trustees even appointed him to settle a scandal concerning a former public official accused of stealing from the town coffers.

1840’s – Pasfield Homestead; Commercial Property Leader

Pasfield had begun acquiring large tracks of land at the western outskirts of the town, eventually acquiring a forty acre estate that his son and grandson would reside for the remainder of their lives. The tracks of property making up the original site have been recognized by the City of Springfield as the Pasfield House Historic District. The property was described by the History of Sangamon County as a “cozy rural retreat” which was “well out in the country”. It was there that Pasfield built a federalist style house similar to Lincoln’s Home located directly east on Jackson. His son Dr Pasfield live their and expanded the home later adding a second story just as Lincoln did at his own home. It was at this home site where George Jr. was born built the historic Pasfield House that remains today. The elder Pasfield was also very familiar with Abraham Lincoln as a Springfield attorney and rising political figure. In 1844 Pasfield later opened a store with Washington Iles, brother of Elijah on the west side of the square cattycorner from Bunn Groceries. A State Journal advertisement of merchandise avaliable for sale in the store indicated that fine good and items had been personally acquired in New Orleans by the owner. By the end of the 1840’s Pasfield had becoming the most prominent owner of commercial real estate in downtown Springfield having properties on three side of the public square.

1850’s – Pasfield Assists Springfield as Social Destination

Eventually railroads were being built with Springfield as a stopover, possibly as a result of the earlier attempts by the elder Pasfield’s collaboration with local delegates Abraham Lincoln, John Stuart, Stephen Logan, Samuel Treat back in 1837. It was the railroads together with the special prestige of the state capital that made Springfield of the 1850’s a professional, educational, and social travel destination for people throughout Illinois. In 1856 an unfortunate fire destroyed the north side of the town square. The stores destroyed were simple wooden structures built on the public square north side in 1831 when Pasfield opened his original store. Nicknamed “Chicken Row” because the stores that were presently sold live chickens, of all the commercial business surrounding the square, these were considered more shoddy construction. Pasfield’s earlier stores were soon replaced with what the State Journal a year later would report as “the construction of two, three story, brick building, with the upper floors finished as a hall for balls and concerts”. By then the son of the elder George Pasfield had graduated from St Louis Medical School but the new Dr George Pasfield was destined to manage the families real estate holdings instead. The town square continued improving, displaying stylized architectural structures some that exist today, comparable or better than most buildings consisting of pre Civil War Downtown Squares in the Midwest.

1860’s – Pasfield Committed as Civil War Rage

When Lincoln departed by special train for Washington D.C. he asked family and friends like Dr George Pasfield’s wife Hathaway Pasfield to join him on the journey. Though she did not travel with the President Elect, she considered the invitation such an honor that it was mentioned years later in her eulogy. With the Civil War engulfing the Nation; Dr. Geo Pasfield offered to serve as a contract military surgeon at Camp Butler, one of the largest training camps in the county. Camp Butler was later transformed into a confederate Prisoner Camp. As the Civil War further split families, more and more widows facing the total responsibility to care for children who no longer had a father to look after their welfare. By 1863, the Illinois State Legislature, addressing the tragic times incorporated the Home for the Friendless, lead by Rev. Francis Springer to provide aid to widows and orphans in the wake of the Civil War. In the original legislation signed into law by Civil War Illinois Governor Richard Yates, George Pasfield, Sr. was named as the organization’s first vice-president, and Judge Samuel Treat the president. Both lent their good names till others could be selected to serve at the organizational meeting. An explanation of the Pasfield Family’s charity and dedication might be better understood when you become aware that the elder George Pasfield was orphaned himself at age 10 years when his father, and then mother and sister died from the plague in Philadelphia. Dr. Geo Pasfield, wife Hathaway and their son George Jr. during their entire lives played leading roles as supporters, officers or managers for the Home for the Friendless.

1870’s – Pasfield Joins Industrial Pioneers

After the Civil War, the Pasfield Family business interests expanded beyond the areas of real estate and banking, making them part of an elite group businessmen in the United States referred to as pioneer industrialist. American merchandise was evolving from hand made items to general manufacturing before even 1800’s, the concept of mass production was relatively new to most of America, especially in Midwest Illinois. Joining friends like Jacob and John Bunn, George Brinkerhoff, John Williams and Charles Ridgley and other prominent Springfield families, Pasfield joined one or the other in founding both these corporations. Pasfield lent his name, reputation and money to two major industries that brought manufacturing to Springfield, became nationally known and in the case of one internationally famous. Those two Springfield companies the Springfield Iron Works and the Illinois Watch Company changed the local economy, local landscape and local population, spurring development on Springfield’s north-east end. Both, though completely separate, were closely related to the railroad industry. One of these companies made Springfield the hub for rail transportation by manufacturing, then transporting the iron rails to create routes. The other helped address a growing need to keep train travel on schedule by producing precise affordable time pieces for engineers to keep the trains running on time These new industrial giants opened doors for many more immigrants to locate in Springfield and for the first time offered good paying jobs for women to enter the work force in non domestic roles.

1880’s – Pasfield Builds Springfield Community

By the late1800’s, the Springfield Iron Works and the Illinois Watch Company became industrial giants, employing nearly 10% of Springfield’s population. Including all dependents and individuals employed in related industries, these two manufacturing plants impacted the quality of life for probably every resident of Springfield. By 1880 the population of Springfield had significant growth to 19,743. By the turn of the century the population of Springfield would jump to 34,159 an over 70 percent increase. The urbanization of Springfield came about because of business community pulling financial recourses; thanks to families like the Pasfields who reinvested in their communities. During this same time Dr Pasfield added to the commercialization of downtown by developing the “Pasfield Block” on the northeast corner of 6th and Monroe. During his life, Dr Pasfield had developed a reputation of keeping hold of any properties previously owned by his father. Dr. Pasfield owned more downtown commercial property than anyone, having significant properties on three sides of the old state capitol square. It was said “When others saw Springfield destined to remain a county village, Dr Pasfield saw clearer. In his mind was a picture of a metropolis, a city of activity, of progress, and of bigness.”

1890’s – Pasfield Expands in Illinois and Beyond

As the Twentieth Century neared the Pasfield real estate holdings reach far beyond Sangamon County borders. Perhaps as a show of faith in his hometown, Dr. Pasfield took positions as President of the Sangamon Loan and Trust Company and held directorships in several Banks ( First National and Farmers National Bank). At a time the City was rapidly growing, Pasfield purchased vacant property lots throughout the City, later selling them as the areas developed. In 1892, one such speculation was six lots in the Furniture Factory Park addition, near Concordia College. Dr. Pasfield was well aware of the north end because of the Factories and was well aware that his father played a role in recruiting Springfield’s first institution of higher learning, the Illinois State University, formerly Hillsboro College, before it became Concordia Theological Seminary. Throughout his life, Dr. Pasfield held an interest in well over four thousand acres of land in Sangamon County alone. The Pasfield’s owned so much farmland to the south west of the City, that between 1891 and 1903, the U S Government operated a Post Office named after Pasfield near Berlin, in Island Grove township. Dr. Pasfield also had real estate holdings outside of Sangamon had expanded to Decatur, St Louis and reached as far west as Kansas City. Dr Pasfield had even sent his son Arthur in an attempt to duplicate his father’s success as an early Springfield land speculator.

1900’s – Pasfield loaded in Springfield Tradition

At the turn of the century George Pasfield Jr. occupied his own residence at Jackson and Pasfield streets that he built overlooking the family home where his father still resided. Pasfield’s residence was built in a Classical Revival style that was popular after the 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. Soon to become a Bed and Breakfast, the Pasfield House, as it is call today, is a the Georgian design popular one hundred years earlier. The structure is exemplified by symmetrical elegance, a contrast to the typical Queen Anne Homes being built at the time. The home has received many awards of recognition for its renovation and has been featured on PBS Illinois Stories. Pasfield managed for his father some of Springfield most prominent downtown properties. When the Leland Hotel burned in 1908, fear of losing the Illinois Capital, threatening the downtown economy. George Pasfield Jr. was unanimously elected its president of the newly formed Springfield Hotel Company. Pasfield guided the hotel’s reconstruction using nationally recognized architects and Tiffany of New York City for interior design. The Georgian Style Architecture of the Leland became the most prestigious Illinois hotel other than the Chicago Palmer House. Coincidentally the famous Horseshoe Sandwich was invented at the Leland, a theory exists that Pasfield’s heart disease and early demise may have been a result of too many Leland Horseshoe Lunches. In 1909 Springfield celebrated the Lincoln Centennial. Recognizing the family connection to Abraham Lincoln, George Pasfield Jr. was called upon to participate on the executive committee of the Lincoln Centennial Association. Pasfield’s father was seated at the “friends of Lincoln” table during the first event. On the executive committee the younger Pasfield sat at the speakers table. The elder Pasfield’s was recently highlighted in a book on Lincoln Contemporaries.

1910’s – Pasfield Celebrates Illinois Centennial

In 1917 newly elected Park Board President, George Pasfield Jr., endorsed a plan to purchase of “the block of land adjacent to the Lincoln Homestead for a public park, and the improvement of Capitol Avenue from the park to the Capitol grounds, as a park boulevard”. Earlier that year, Pasfield was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Illinois Centennial Commission. Pasfield one of four individuals from Springfield, chaired several committees of the eighteen person board, whose purpose was to guide the celebration of one hundred years of statehood. The official Illinois Centennial was held at the Capitol on October 4-6, 1918. The celebration featured a number of speeches by dignitaries and was highlighted by the dedication of the Stephan Douglas and Abraham Lincoln statues on the capitol grounds. The Commission published in 1818 a five volume Centennial Memorial History of Illinois, still considered a valuable resource used by historians to this day. The Commission also contributed to the Centennial Half Dollar by the US Mint, featuring an image of a young Lincoln and the state seal of Illinois. Earlier in 1915, the Illinois Legislature decided to construct a building to commemorate the anniversary. At the time the State Capitol Building was overcrowded and attempts were being made to relocate the State Capital. At the time Pasfield must have sensed a new building could help Springfield retain the Illinois Capitol. Pasfield took on the responsibility to lead a citizens group in soliciting the Springfield citizens and businesses. As president of the Capitol Grounds Purchase Association, Pasfield helped raised enough needed for acquiring the grounds to the south of the Capitol and moving the homes located there. Transcripts of the legislative procedures show George Pasfield, Jr. appearing alongside Frank Reisch, Jr. and D.W. Smith to accept the obligation of Springfild citizens raising the needed funds “the practice of 78 years standing. From the year 1837 to the present day we have contributed liberally towards every improvement. made in Springfield by the State of Illinois.” The Pasfield and Bunn Families made the two of the largest donations received by the Association and the Centennial Building’s cornerstone laid on October 5, 1918, fifty years from the date of laying the State Capitol cornerstone became part of the official celebration. The colonnade structure in Federalist Style boldly displays an engraving across the front proclaiming “TO COMMEMORATE THE ADMISSION OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS INTO THE FEDERAL UNION “. Upon completion, the Centennial Building housed government offices, the Illinois State Historical Library, the Illinois State Museum, and proudly displayed the state’s collection of battle flags. It eased the crowing in the Capitol and according to many, ended further talk of moving the capital from Springfield.

1920’s – Pasfield Dedicated to Community Growth

George Pasfield Jr. the executor of his father’s estate was keenly interested in keeping Springfield flourishing; in 1924 he became a charter member of the Sangamon County Community Foundation providing needed funds to local charities. By the 20’s.the Springfield residents consisted of second generation families of earlier pioneers and first generation immigrants looking for the American Dream. No longer living the life of early settlers, residents now had time for leisure activities. Pasfield wished to open the Parks to allow all families an opportunity to enjoy free time. Pasfield ordered street lamps and phones in Washington and Lincoln Parks, constructed 12 new tennis courts, and several new ball diamonds, a new field house, and beach at Bunn Park. The Park Board added hundreds of acres including acquiring Reservoir Park. The Board purchased more than 26 acres for use in conjunction with Lincoln Park and over 430 acres at Carpenter Park. The Board undertook improving and maintaining the State Fair. Pasfield constructed Memorial Stadium at Reservoir Park, starting the conversion to Lanphier High School. Pasfield wasn’t easily labeled, he allowed ball games on Sunday. in Lincoln Park. Sunday Games were traditionally prohibited in all the city parks because families would visit and picnic in Oak Ridge Cemetery on the Sabbath. One of the more amusing policy issues, Pasfield stopped a dance from being held at Bergen Park, similarly Pasfield’s Board prohibited the playing of cards at Bunn Park considering it a disreputable activity. George Pasfield Jr. was honored by being the namesake for Pasfield Park, formerly Illini Country Club. At Harvard University, Pasfield and his classmates picked up the game and first played organized golf at the same site. George Pasfield, Jr. ran as the district’s president amidst a financial debacle, the former board was reputedly close to eighty thousand dollars in debt. The Illinois State Journal labeled the opposition as a tool of Springfield Machine Politics editorializing, “Springfield’s parks should not be put under the control of any politician, to be exploited by him and his political associates. A vote for the New Board ticket will be a vote against political domination of the parks.” The Illinois Journal further advised, “The so-called People’s Ticket, while it contains the names of some good men, is primarily the ticket of “Charlie” McBride. Its success will mean McBride domination of the public park system. And for that reason, if for no other, the People’s ticket ought to be defeated…A vote for the New Board ticket will be a vote against political domination of the parks.”