Julia Proctor White and her husband Charles lived for forty years in what came to be the Old Homestead on Glen Oak Avenue in Peoria, Illinois. Julie's memoir chronicles their years of marriage, from their discovery that their apartment was not a hospitable home for their piano, through their lot selection and house building in 1902, and ending when she finally leaves the house in 1942 after her husband's death. She writes of visitors to the house, primarily relatives, but including classical musician Ernst Parabo and singer Marian Anderson. On the ground, the automobile displaces the horse and buggy, while in the sky Fourth-of-July fire balloons floating over the city give way to airplanes.
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Julia Proctor was born in on July 13, 1875 in Peoria, Illinois. She and Charles F. White were married in New York City on October 9, 1900.Although in this memoir Julie tells of her heart condition forcing her to leave her beloved house in 1942, she lived another twenty-five years, passing away on January 24, 1968 at the age of ninety-two. As a junior at Peoria High School in 1890 she founded and served as first editor of the school newspaper, The Opinion, the oldest public school newspaper in Illinois. She was president of the Florence Crittenton Home from 1903 to 1910 and was the first president of the Women's Civic Federation from 1905 to 1908. She was first vice president of the Peoria Free Kindergarten Association, which saw to it that public school kindergartens were established in Peoria in 1907. She was co-founder of the Peoria Women's Club in 1911 and as its second president in 1914 established its evening department for business women. She authored one play produced by the Peoria Players, "Settling Sylvia," and directed many others. She served as the first president of Peoria's League of Women Voters. She originated the idea of a civic arts center for Peoria, now incarnated as Lakeview Center.
Julia Proctor White also wrote Two Halves Make a Whole, 151 pages, published in 1956 by the Logan Printing Company in Peoria.
The Illinois River flows from the northeast to the southwest. Peoria is situated on the northwest side of the river. The bluff roughly parallels the river. Glen Oak Avenue runs along the top of the bluff to the northeast of downtown, while Moss Avenue occupies the same position to the southwest of downtown, which lies in the valley. The bluff is approximately six blocks from the river at Spring Street. The bluff recedes from the river downstream, placing Moss Avenue some ten to twenty blocks from the river. The Moss Avenue lot that the Whites were considering was on the side of the street farther from the river and would afford no river view. Julie uses the local vernacular to name directions. Her "north" is really northeast.
The "front" of the house faces the river. The "back" faces Glen Oak Avenue.
After it passes Wisconsin Street (which leads to the north), Glen Oak Avenue dips about halfway to the valley. Spring Street comes up from the valley and ends at Glen Oak Avenue. From that point, Glen Oak Avenue rises again to the top of the bluff. The Old Homestead is on a ridge between Glen Oak Avenue and the valley, a ridge that Julie describes as the "Little Peninsula." When the Illinois was a much greater river, lapping the river bluffs, the Little Peninsula was no doubt surrounded by water.
Julie reports that Mrs. Tyng had been told that the Illinois River valley was devoid of trees. Historical records indicate that the valley was well forested when the first white men set eyes on it.
I was given this manuscript around 1970 when I lived at 1140 NE Glen Oak Avenue in Peoria, Illinois. My house was at the tip of the "Little Peninsula" that Julie writes about in her manuscript. Julie loved the future, as is clear from her comments about the Air Age and her twice quoting, "And do you think because the Spirit of Yesterday in you is afraid, the Spirit of Tomorrow in me will run away?" She would surely appreciate being able to share this memoir with the world.
I have taken the liberty to correct obvious typographical errors and to update spelling, grammar, and capitalization to make the manuscript more readable. The ellipses and question mark in parentheses are Julie's devices. They do not indicate my omission or uncertainty.
An original typed manuscript is in the collection of the Peoria Historical Society housed in the Special Collections Center of the Cullom-Davis Library at Bradley University. It is annotated in handwriting with a note saying that Julie wrote the manuscript in the autumn of 1950.
By posting this electronic version of this memoir I hope to contribute in a small way to increase the historical information available on the web, reducing the need for researchers to travel to view documents. This electronic edited version of the manuscript is Copyright 1997 by Jan Huffman. All rights reserved. You have my permission to print the manuscript for your personal use. The original manuscript is thirty-seven pages long. Nobody likes to read that much at a computer screen.
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