The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

July 7, 2013

Lamon House: A lot of history per square foot

LARRY WEATHERFORD
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — A lot of history is packed into every square foot of the area’s smaller historical buildings and museums —including the Lamon House in Danville’s historic Lincoln Park.

The one-story white frame house used to sit along North Street in what is now the parking lot of the Day’s Hotel. The home was built around 1850. Over the years the structure has served as a private residence, a gift shop and a law office.

The original occupants were Melissa and Joseph Lamon. She was the daughter of Danville’s namesake, Dan Beckwith. Joseph, whose occupation was listed on the census as “gentleman,” was a cousin of Lincoln friend and law partner Ward Hill Lamon. The small, cottage style home remained in the Lamon family for about 90 years. It probably started with only four rooms with an outside kitchen.

To avoid demolition of the historic structure, it was moved to its new home in the park in 1984. The late Dorothy Sturm-Duensing with the Vermilion County Museum Society, a retired teacher at the time, headed the campaign for the preservation and relocation of the Lamon House.

There’s been some question over the years as to whether Lincoln ever visited the home; there is no written evidence that he did. But like most of us today, Lincoln didn’t write down each time he walked through the front door of a friend’s home. However, with the connection to Ward Hill Lamon, and its location near many of the places where it is documented that Lincoln visited, odds are that if he didn’t actually go inside, he may have stopped by to “sit for a spell” on the porch as he was passing by.

Melissa’s brother, Hiram, worked for the Lincoln and Lamon law firm, and later purchased the law practice that was located in downtown Danville. Court records show that Melissa and Joseph were represented in a lawsuit by Lincoln. So, even without a documented Lincoln visit, the future president did know them, and a lot of his Danville friends and acquaintances certainly graced the entrance to the home. Inside today, it is decorated to show what the residence would have looked like in the mid-1870s.

Each Sunday afternoon from May through October, the home is open for tours from 1:30-4:30 p.m. On the first Sunday of the month, and for special occasions like Arts in the Park weekend, the tour guides are dressed in period attire. They are led by long-time living history presenters, Becky and Alan Woodrum. The Woodrums started their portrayals of Melissa and her brother Hiram after Becky became fascinated by Melissa’s story several years ago. Both Becky and Alan have engaged in extensive research on the Lamon and Beckwith families.

The local living history presenters are joined each June during Arts in the Park by author Bob O’Connor, who has written and edited several books, including two on Ward Hill Lamon. O’Connor, an Illinois native who lives in West Virginia, portrays Lincoln’s Danville law partner at the Lamon House.

Melissa Beckwith Lamon and her children May and Laura are buried in Spring Hill Cemetery. There’s no written record of the death or burial of her husband, Joseph.

The Lamon House is owned and operated by the Vermilion County Museum Society.

FYI

The Lamon House is open for tours from 1:30-4:30 p.m. each Sunday from May through October. On the first Sunday of the month and on special occasions, the tour guides are dressed in period attire.