Two homes made lasting impression

Two homes made lasting impression

Years ago when I was in grade school in Danville, we lived just off the corner of Roselawn Drive and Vermilion Street. The Hegeler mansion's backyard butted up to our backyard. I thought it was the most magnificent house in the world, mostly brick construction, big white pillars in front and a basement full of electric trains. Every once in a while, Julius Hegeler would invite us over to watch him run the trains. I was really impressed with both the trains and house.

A few years later, my father took me with him on a business trip to Hoopeston, where we were invited to tour the Hoopes-Cunningham mansion. Entirely different from the Hegeler edifice, the all-wood construction was very impressive to me. At that young age, I thought they were probably the two most elaborate houses in the world.

Fast forward to a time many years later when Marge Jolly was selling most of the contents of the Hoopes-Cunningham mansion at an estate sale. I wanted to buy something from that sale but could not afford it. She had four matching walnut rockers and sold three of them at that first sale. The last rocker needed extensive repairs, and Marge took it from sale to sale lowering the price at each sale. Finally a couple of years later, I bought the rocker for $50, took it to Kasimir Musiala, the best craftsman in the area, and he repaired it for me at the cost of $35. I took him a lot of repair jobs over the years, and the bill was always $35.

I bought a large piece of real leather from Scottie Stephen at the Leather Shop in downtown Champaign, and Beck's Upholstery on Cunningham Avenue in north Urbana put the new leather on the seat and back of my restored rocker. That was probably 30 years ago. I am in my 18th year of writing this column, and in the third or fourth year, I did a column with a photo of Marge Jolly sitting in her front yard on my rocker. Dennis Lewis painted a life-size portrait of me sitting in my rocker, which appeared in one of the first issues of the At Home magazine.

My rocker is still in great shape. Julius still lives in his Hegeler mansion, which appears to be in great shape, but I do not know if he still has model trains in the basement. Word comes to me that the Hoopes-Cunningham mansion is once again in great need of repair and needs help. I can only hope that the community steps up and does something to help.

Bob Swisher has been a collector since he was a child. Questions or comments can be mailed to 807 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, or emailed to

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