History of the Homestead


House Built by Denham

In 1837, the house was built by Butler Denham.  It served as a farm house, surrounded by almost 1300 acres of farmland.

Facts about the original house:

  • Mostly built of black walnut from the local sawmill
  • White oak was used for sills, studs, and floor joists; bark was left on the floor joists
  • All timbers were connected by mortise and tenon, secured by heavy wooden pins
  • Lath was hand-split from scrap wood from the sawmill
  • Mortar was made from mud

East Section Added

Over the course of the 1850's, the east section of the house was added.


Eunice Lovejoy Dies

In 1899, Eunice (Denham) Lovejoy died.  Her daughters and one of Owen's sons lived in the home for 7 years.  It then became a tenant home for those who farmed the land.


Home Purchased

The home was purchased in 1931 by Jay Spaulding and his daughter, Sue Gross, who did some restoration work.  It was opened to the public as a private period museum.


Building Deteriorates

Between the years of 1951-1966, the home changed owners many times, and was also vacant for a number of years.  The building deteriorated, and birds even nested inside.


Restoration Committee Formed

Concerned citizens of Princeton formed a Restoration Committee, and the home was saved from the bulldozer when the State of Illinois purchased it.


Grant Obtained

A grant was obtained in 1970 from the state of Illinois for $30,000, for the purpose of restoring the home.


Restoration Process Begins

Later in 1970, and up until 1972, the home was restored.  The building was raised 8 feet into the air by a professional house mover, and a new concrete block foundation was constructed with a brick facing on the outside (old bricks were used to keep the character).  Steel I-beams were installed in the basement to support the home.

Additional improvements:

  • Porch rebuilt
  • Siding replaced where necessary
  • Roof strengthened and hand-split wood swings put on wooden v-shaped gutters were repaired, and barrels were placed at the corners of the house to catch rain water
  • Insulation installed
  • Re-wiring
  • Plumbing replaced
  • Plaster repaired and/or replaced
  • Electric baseboard heating installed


The house is formally dedicated in 1971.


House Deeded to Princeton

In 1972, the house is deeded to the city of Princeton.


National Register Recognition

In 1973, the house is placed on the National Register of Historic Sites.


Daughters of the American Revolution

In 1976, the house is recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution.


National Historic Landmark

The house is formally designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1997.


Underground Railroad Network

In 2001, the homestead was admitted to the Underground Railroad Network to the Freedom Program.

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Hours Of Operation: May-Sept: Fri, Sat, Sun, 1-4pm