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Transfer House, Decatur, Illinois

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posted by Randy von Liski alias myoldpostcards on Monday 28th of December 2020 06:02:05 PM

The Transfer House is the official symbol of the City of Decatur. Originally located in downtown's Lincoln Square, the unique structure was built in 1895-96 to serve as the main transportation center for transferring trolley, interurban and bus passengers around the community. From 1895 until the early 1970's, the Transfer House served as a transportation center. Construction of the Transfer House began in 1895, but was not completed until February 21, 1896. It was designed by architectural mastermind W. W. Boyington. Arguably, his most famous building is Chicago Landmark, the Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station on North Michigan Avenue. Boyington chose the Romanesque Revival style of architecture, which began in the mid 1840's and became the dominant style used during the 1850's and 1860's for public buildings, churches, and commercial buildings. Key features to this style found on the Transfer House are the massive limestone voussoirs arches and the use of limestone masonry with thin mortar joints. The octagonal shape was chosen to increase floor to wall space and to provide for a bell-shaped roof with generous overhang. On the second level a bandstand was created - an ideal and progressive feature used for public speeches and announcements, as well as for a source of entertainment - making the Transfer House a vital part of the community. All electric street cars and interurbans that went through Decatur had to utilize the Transfer House. From a functional standpoint, if a person was riding a streetcar, they would be making a stop at the Transfer House which made it a common meeting point. A 1913 survey claimed that in addition to 82 Interurbans a day, 36 streetcars an hour passed through Lincoln Square totaling 730 cars per day. This high volume coupled with the second story bandstand attracted multiple well known speakers. A few of the more prominent figures were Presidential Candidate, Williams Jennings Bryan and Presidents, William Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt. In the Transfer House's later years on Lincoln Square, the building saw continual use when the City Bus Lines made it their official central transfer point in 1936. The magnitude to which the Transfer House was still used was enormous. A perfect example occurred on August 14, 1945, Victory over Japan Day, the evening that victory and peace for World War II was announced. Celebrations took place around the Transfer House as people crowded the streets, climbed atop its roof, and rejoiced. As technology and society advanced and cars became more common, the Transfer House would lose the large number of the passengers it had once seen on a daily basis. When the electric street cars and interurban fully disbanded in the 1950's, the City Bus Lines and Grey Hound Bus Service were the only mass transportation service to make use of the Transfer House. Eventually, bus ridership too, would decline. In the early 1960's, the Illinois Department of Transportation recommended moving the Transfer House from Lincoln Square to accommodate a new traffic plan which would turn Main Street into a one-way thoroughfare through town. Based on this study, in September of 1962, the City council decided that the Transfer House would be moved to Central Park - the very square that sparked the competition for the Transfer House to be built in the first place. In its new home, the Transfer House continued to house the city bus lines as well as Santa Claus during the Christmas season. Sadly, by the end of the decade, the Transfer House sat vacant and in disrepair. Seeing a need, Civic leaders stepped forward and by 1970, it was remodeled and housed the Downtown Decatur Council until 2003. In 2002, the Transfer house was nominated and named to the National Register of Historic Places. It is now a protected historic landmark. As part of sticking with tradition, the Transfer House continues to be a central focal point for the community. While the use and location have changed, it still remains a great place for people to gather and meet which was made apparent when the community rallied for a candlelight prayer vigil around the Transfer House after the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States. In 2007, the then vacated Transfer House underwent a major renovation project on the exterior of the structure. The stone and mortar were repaired, the roof was replaced, the original marquee lights were reinstalled, the two doors which had been removed were reinstalled. The Transfer House's exterior renovations were completed in 2008 restoring it to its original grandeur. These renovations followed the Secretary of the Interior's, "Standards for the Treatment of Historic Structures" to keep the structure on the National Register of Historic Places. Since early 2020, the Decatur Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has taken over the management of the Transfer House from the City of Decatur. For the 2020 Christmas season, Transfer House was decorated so that Santa Claus had a safe and warm place to talk with the children of Decatur. Decatur is the seat of Macon County. The city was founded in 1829 and is situated along the Sangamon River and Lake Decatur in central Illinois. Decatur has an economy based on industrial and agricultural commodity processing and production. The city is home of private Millikin University and public Richland Community College. Decatur's estimated population for 2019 was 70,746, making Decatur the thirteenth-most populous city in Illinois, and the state's sixth-most populous city outside the Chicago metropolitan area.



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  • Published 08.09.22
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