General Profile

1.2 – A General Profile

History

Establishment of the City

The City of Pittsfield was established in the year 1833 and designated as the seat of Pike County. When Pike County was carved out of the Illinois Territory, the first county seat was established in 1821 at Coles Grove, a small community southwest of Hardin in what is now Calhoun County, Illinois. In 1823, the county seat was moved to Atlas, a village 12 miles west of present day Pittsfield. Pike County, in 1823 included all of the territory between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers from their confluence north of St. Louis, Missouri to Chicago, Illinois. According to historical records, the location of the county seat at Atlas was not entirely satisfactory to every one and three commissioners were elected in 1827 to choose a new site. These three men took no action, so in 1832, the State Legislature appointed a new set of commissioners who chose the present site of Pittsfield, which they thought was more centrally located. Pittsfield was given its name by Colonel William Ross in honor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Colonel Ross, who came from Massachusetts, provided the money that was used to purchase the land for Pittsfield.

Historic Buildings

The Pike County Court house

The Pike County CourthouseExhibit 1.1 The Pike County Court House (Exhibit 1.1) is located in the center of the city square. It was built in 1894. It is the third courthouse in the town, but the fourth in Pike County. The courthouse is fashioned of Cleveland sandstone. The building is octagonal in shape, with overall dimensions of 110 feet by 119 feet with center dome reaching a height of 136 feet. The Court House still remains the focus of the city contributing to the charming downtown.

East School

East SchoolExhibit 1.2 Known as East Ward School, the school was built between the years 1861 and 1866 and was designed by architect John M. Van Osdel (Exhibit 1.2). John Houston of Griggsville built the school for the contract price of $35,000, which was financed by a bond sale. The building is stone (boated from Joliet on the Illinois River) and brick manufactured in Pittsfield. Both grade school and high school were located in this building. It contains 8 identical rooms each with a recitation room and closet. The gymnasium was located on the third floor and there was a large double stairway connecting the first and second floors. The large clock and bell were donated by Colonel Ross and mounted in the tower. The school closed in 1955 and was unoccupied until 1978 when it was renovated and became the home of the Pike County Historical Society and the Pike County Historic Museum. The Pittsfield theater guild uses the second floor of the school for staging its productions several times during a year.

Lincoln Heritage

The city of Pittsfield has a rich history related to President Abraham Lincoln who practiced law at the Pike County Bar in his early days. He worked on 34 cases here between 1839 and 1842. Several of the buildings and homes that Lincoln visited and used still exist in Pittsfield. There is an ongoing effort to preserve the Lincoln heritage of the city and to develop it as a tourism activity.

Lincoln Sites

The Shastid HouseExhibit 1.3 The Shastid House (Exhibit 1.3) is amongst the most prominent of the Lincoln sites in Pittsfield. It was built by John Greene Shastid in 1838 when there were only six houses in the city. Lincoln was an honored guest at the Shastid house several times, long before he became famous. Work is being done to restore the historic home to its original self with an initial grant from the city of Pittsfield. Some of the other Lincoln heritage sites in Pittsfield are – The Scanland Home, the Durr Place and the Nicolay Home.

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