The Wright Home, to visit…….

written by Enjoy Illinois on September 13, 2011 in Central Illinois and Ed Baumgarten and Illinois History with 2 comments

On the north side of Altamont stands a brick mansion that has solidly withstood the test of time, and remains to this day a marvel of architecture. Few today would consider ‘indoor plumbing’ an extravagant affair, but in 1889, when the house was constructed, it was practically unheard of.

Dr. Charles W. Wright had built a house on the property where the current mansion stands in 1874 and in 1889, Dr. Wright decided a new house was in order. They moved the original house across the street, where it still stands, and construction of the new property commenced.

A building contractor from Toledo, Il, Charles Hanker, was hired and the new, 6000 square foot home was constructed in just under a year, at a cost of the then whopping sum of $35,000. The Second Empire style home has patterned slate shingles on the roof, seven bedrooms and yes, believe it or not, a bathroom! A bathroom…just imagine, indoor plumbing, such an extravagance! The water was pumped from the well in the yard, up to a lead lined water tank in the attic, where gravity pulled the water down into the plumbing fixtures. Every bedroom had a marble capped sink, with hot and cold taps. The single bathroom (on the first floor) had a bathtub, sink and yes, after 1930,  even a flush toilet.

Heating for the house was provided by a coal fired boiler in the basement, with hot steam heat being pushed up the two floors of the house to cast iron radiators in each room. Gas lighting was also installed in the house, being fueled by the vapors produced by high test gasoline contained in a tank in the yard. Most of the lighting has since been replaced by electric lights, but one of the two, a light on the king post of the main stairway, still stands, powered now by electricity.

Dr. Wright passed the property on to his son, Dr Charls Wright II, another Doctor, who lived from 1879-1970 and eventually the house was passed on to the third Charles Wright, a lawyer, who had it from 1970-2001. Upon his death, Charles Wright III left the home in a trust and it is now a Not For Profit public institution and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (86001018). Donations are greatly appreciated to help defray the cost of operating the facility.

The home is so well maintained that, in general, it looks like the Wright family still lives there. It’s unique in that, unlike many other legacy properties, the original furnishings have remained with the house. To see the actual chairs, beds and tables that the Wrights used day to day adds a whole new dimension to the experience of viewing the house. The amount of collectibles, trinkets, books, statuary and other accoutrements contained in the bookcases and shelves is staggering. It’s rumored that there are over 7000 books in the residence!

Tours of the house are available by appointment, and are open to the public on Sundays from 2:00 – 4:00 PM with special events in the fall and winter. Check the Wright Home website for details and current hours.

MAP