Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Two-Story Kinsella Log Cabin, Fairview Heights, Illinois. (Built in 1854)

Fairview Heights, Illinois is a located in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. The log cabin is the last remnants of the Kinsella Family homestead named 'Pleasant Ridge." I was intrigued by the two-story log cabin and wanted to get inside to see it for myself. One of the perks of being an Historian is the ability to gain access to places not open to the public.
In July of 2014, I was granted access to the inside of this lovely old log cabin. The log cabin was barely wired for electricity, mostly for ceiling light. There were no lights when I shot these photos using only the natural lighting that came through the open front door. 

The second level was pitch-black. I used a bounce flash on my camera and just kept shooting, even though I couldn't see a thing. The basement crawl space, entrance outside, was inaccessible as the supervisor of Fairview Heights Parks and Recreation did not have the appropriate tools to gain access at that time.

THE KINSELLA LOG CABIN HISTORY
The Kinsella log cabin is a two-story structure which was built approximately 1854. The cabin is constructed of hand-hew logs, measuring from 8 to 18 inches in diameter. The cabin was chinked with wooden splints (probably removed from the logs during construction) and mud, mixed with straw.

A brick chimney runs through the center of the home and was used for wood burning stoves and heat on either side. The log cabin sits on it's original foundation, to some extent. In the early 1900s. Lawrence Kinsella dug out a basement underneath the house and added concrete to the floors and walls.  A rear addition was added around 1920 at which time the log exterior was covered with siding. Until the 1940's the entrance to the cabin consisted of a road coming from the east and continuing down to Pleasant Ridge Road. Today, the entrance road comes in from the Southwest.

The log cabin has not been open to the public in decades.
The cabin in 1945 with Cy Kinsella home on leave and Emily Kinsella (his mother) sitting in the front yard. Rita is kneeling while Bob and Jim Giedeman play to the left. Mary Giedeman  and Estelle Schafer are to the right. The smoke house is to the left and the tractor garage is behind the smoke house.
The house with its rear addition and covered with siding. (circa 1945)
The Kinsella property was originally purchased from Cornelius and Eve Rittenhouse by William Kinsella for $200.00 ($5,000 today) on September 28, 1880. The log cabin was dedicated on September 19, 1976 to the City of Fairview Heights at Pleasant Ridge Park.

The city of Fairview Heights purchased the land in 1973 and restored the log cabin to as close to its original state as possible in 1976. The Log cabin received a face-lift on the front portion on the cabin in 1993 where the worn wood beams were replaced with hand-hew logs to keep the integrity of the log cabin. 
Before the 1976 restoration project.


During the 1976 restoration project.


During the 1976 restoration project.


During the 1976 restoration project.

EXTERIOR PHOTOGRAPHS




 


 



INTERIOR PHOTOGRAPHS

First Level Interior
First Level Interior
First Level Interior
First Level Interior
Second Level Interior (was pitch black, used a bounce flash.)
Second Level Interior (was pitch black, used a bounce flash.)
Second Level Interior (was pitch black, used a bounce flash.)
The cabin holds a special place with the City of Fairview Heights, Illinois, in that it is the oldest structure in a relatively modern city. Below are landmark plaques this house received.


THE KINSELLA FAMILY STORY
In the 1840s, during the potato famine, William Kinsella left his home in Dublin, Ireland and immigrated to Caseyville Township to seek his fortune. There he worked as a carpenter with the B&O Railroad, building a trestle and laying ties for the new line.

During his breaks he would rest at the crest of the hill overlooking the railroad and he eventually decided to buy the acreage and build a lean-to structure on the property. He was so impressed with the beauty of the trees, especially in the fall, that he named the area "Pleasant Ridge." He married Anna S. Connely from Wexford, Ireland in 1850. 

William Kinsella lived in Caseyville, Illinois for a short while after immigrating from Ireland.

He and his wife (and most likely, one or two children) lived in a tent for four years while the cabin was being built. Using the wood from the nearby trees, he built this two-story log cabin of hand-hew logs. In their new home Anna and William farmed and raised the first generation of American Kinsella's - three sons and five daughters.

The homestead was left to his youngest son, Lawrence, who married Emily R. Fournie in the early 1900's. They raised their nine children, Prosper, Tom, Stella, Gart, Joe, Mary, Cyril, James and Bernard in the home he built. Between the years 1920 and 1925 Lawrence built an extension to the log cabin and covered it with white wooden siding to preserve the logs.

After Lawrence's death, the farm was passed on to Cyril who was married to Rita O'Brien. They continued to farm and raised their children Larry, Kenny, Dennis and Susan in that house.

In 1960, Cyril and Rita built a brick home next to the old farmhouse. They rented the farmhouse to the Gart's daughter Mary and her husband Jack Koch, where they raised their seven children, William's great-great grandchildren, in the house that he built.

After Cyril's untimely death in 1962, the farmland was leased. In 1973 the City of Fairview Heights purchased the Pleasant Ridge farm for a nature park. As part of the Bi-Centennial Celebration in 1976, a committee was formed to restore the unique two-story log cabin to its original form. Joe Kinsella, Lawrence's son supervised the project and Larry Kinsella, Lawrence's grandson was a carpenter for the project.

10 comments:

  1. I'd love to see this old cabin. I am totally fascinated by them, I think of how a lot of my ancestors lived and it amazes me. You are lucky to be able to view these historical places.

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  2. Love these old places, sure would love to explore them myself. Interesting to see how ppl.back when lived.

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  3. It always amazes me to see the way prior generations lived. They had none of our modern conveniences, and really were hardy survivors to live through our harsh winters and sweltering summers. Kudos to those who came before us and built their families here.

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  4. Great article! The photos are lovely. Such a historic treasure. I'm glad it's preserved.

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  5. I can't imagine siding over the original log exterior, however after reading this I'm glad they did it.

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  6. Very cool! We took family photos right by that log cabin and had no idea about the history. Thank you for sharing!

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  7. If Kinsella built the log cabin in 1854, how did he by the property from the Rittenhouses in 1880?

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    Replies
    1. The question was more about the dates, not how the actual transaction occurred. He built a cabin in 1854 on property he did not own till 1880?

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  8. Great work however can you change Wexfort, this is incorrect. The County is called Wexford.

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