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Molly Crusen Bishop: Flanagan House is oldest standing home in Peoria

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The Flanagan house located at 942 N. E.  Glen Oak Avenue is the oldest standing home in the city of Peoria. It was given this honor on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It is an American Federal style home.

In 1837, the Flanagan house was built, and Peoria’s population around 1844 was a little over 1,100.  By 1870, our city’s population was about 22,000. Around 1890 the population was over 41,000 citizens.

John Flanagan Sr. was born in Dublin, Ireland, in the 1700s to a wealthy family. He married Jane Platt in the early 1800s. Jane was born in 1790 in Philadelphia, the daughter of a wealthy Revolutionary War Patriot.  John and Jane Flanagan lived across the street from the Pennsylvania State house and had five children; the oldest died as a young child. Their other children were John C., James, Louisa, and Letitia.

The family came to central Illinois in the 1820s when John Sr. originally acquired more than 600 acres in Peoria, planning to be a land developer. Jane’s health was suffering and this caused the family to relocate to a better environment, and the family settled on a large farm near Kickapoo Creek in Limestone Township.

John Sr. died of typhus on a trip to New Orleans in 1832, causing the newly widowed Jane to continue to try to operate the family farm. She acquired a reputation as a strong pioneer woman. She later asked her adult son John C. Flanagan to come and assist her in her estates.

John would later become Judge John C. Flanagan. He and his mother built the American Federal style house on the 600 acre estate. Jane died in 1854.

Judge Flanagan continued to live on the estate, which looked like an Irish country estate, with his sisters Letitia and Louisa, who was handicapped. The front of the house (now the rear) faced the Illinois River valley, offering breathtaking views. The foundation of the house was built with limestone that came from Kickapoo Creek. The carriage house was where the back of the house is now, partway down the hill. I can just imagine the horses and carriages coming from the river at the bottom of the bluff.

Judge Flanagan was a popular man who loved to entertain. He often had large parties in his beautiful home. He died in 1891, and his two sisters died within months of each other in 1892. The Flanagan house passed through several owners and has been owned by the Peoria Historical Society since 1962. It is now a beautiful museum and also houses the local chapter of The Daughters of the American Revolution as well.

The Judge John C. Flanagan House Museum is one of Peoria’s greatest treasures. It offers one of the most spectacular views of the Illinois River valley, and also for the July 4th fireworks.

The beautiful backyard of the Judge John C. Flanagan House Museum opens July 4 at 6 p.m., with fireworks beginning around 9 p.m. Feel free to bring your lawn chairs and blankets. Picnic baskets are welcome. Soda, water, and popcorn will be offered for $1, and there will be fun novelties for the children.

The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for children, and add a tour of this spectacular museum and their special military display for another $5. All proceeds benefit the Peoria Historical Society and the Judge John C. Flanagan House Museum.

About the Author
Molly is a life-long Peorian and an author, speaker, and storyteller. She is married to Doug Bishop and has five children and one grandchild. Molly loves history and Peoria and loves to share her passions with anyone she can get to listen to her. She loves to research, interview, and write or speak about history. The youngest and ninth child of Don and Joani Crusen, she grew up on the West Bluff in the house her great grandparents built in the 1880s. She writes a historical column in Woman’s View magazine, and will be writing a column called The Peorian Perspective in The Peorian.

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