A pictorial history of Monticello

A pictorial history of Monticello

MONTICELLO — There was only one thing more difficult than finding the 200 photos that are featured in "Images of America: Monticello," the latest book by local author Maureen Holtz.

And that was limiting it to just 200.

"There were so many that were wonderful, but you just have to pick the primary ones to get in," said Holtz, who has also co-authored two books about Robert Allerton.

Published by Arcadia Publishing of Mount Pleasant, S.C., this latest work is basically a pictorial history of the town, which was founded in 1822 and named after Thomas Jefferson's Virginia estate.

And while Jefferson figures into the town name, plenty of other notable figures dot Monticello's historical landscape. Abraham Lincoln was a frequent visitor during his days as a circuit-riding attorney, and he slept in many hotels and homes in town.

And while Holtz had to leave some photos out, there is one Lincoln-related one she knew had to make the cut: one of a home at the corner of Independence and Lafayette streets that still stands.

"It was really neat for Walt Cresap to loan me the picture of his house, which I had seen before, but he loaned me an original from decades ago," Holtz said. "It was the house where Lincoln slept in the 1850s."

The book was released last week and is available for order online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. It also will be available at a book signing from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Red House Gallery, 315 W. Washington St., Monticello.

Monticello also is known for State Street, nicknamed "Millionaires Row" for the impressive mansions that still line that roadway. The book features photos that highlight the settlement of the city, the courthouse and downtown square, and key community sites.

Holtz has studied local history a long time but said she is always awed by what she learns with a new project. For example, the block of East Washington Street just off the downtown square is "fascinating" to her.

"I can't go to Fastprint without looking up at that beautiful (sculpture) sticking out. And there was a hotel there — the England Hotel, and Empire Laundry was next door. And believe it or not, one of the launderers' names was Hop Sing — shades of 'Bonanza'!"

There also are photos of the Allerton Estate, the 32,000-square-foot Georgian mansion that is now home to Allerton Park and Retreat Center. Other sections feature Monticello's one-time claim as one of the patent medicine capitals of the world.

Holtz knocked out the book, which features the photos and short captions, in about six months, and said the Allerton Public Library and Piatt County Historical and Genealogical Society were great helps in her research.

"The historical society and library are chock-full of information, and it just takes a lot of digging and research, and figuring out what's not," said Holtz, who tried to verify with second sources when possible.

"Lisa Winters was especially helpful," she said, speaking of the Allerton Library director.

As for some of the photos that did not make the cut, Holtz hopes to put together a slide show that can be presented for local organizations. She claims the book is for "anyone who is interested in the town or curious about the buildings on the square."

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