The Beaumont Institute was founded in 1870 by Dr. William Beaumont, a surgeon best known for his experiments on digestion with Alexis St. Martin. Beaumont built his Institute on the site of his former home, located on the banks of the Illinois River.
The Beaumont Institute was renamed the Palace Gardens in 1876, paying homage to the Palace of Versailles in France.
The gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, also known for creating Central Park in New York City. Olmsted's design featured a variety of plants and flowers from around the world, as well as several gazebos, fountains, and bridges.
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The gardens included a zoo with large lions and bears. Visitors enjoyed four bowling lanes and a 'big-enough' dance hall. The gardens featured a variety of plants from around the world, as well as some exotic animals, like tigers. They also included a huge greenhouse, a museum, and a by-appointment private library.
Palace Gardens remained popular into the early 1900s. However, everything began to decline after Beaumont died in 1894 and eventually closed in 1915.
The site of Palace Gardens is now occupied by the Peoria Civic Center. However, a few remnants of the gardens remain, including the greenhouse and the museum. The greenhouse is now used by the Peoria Park District, and the museum is now a part of the Peoria Historical Society.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.