Molly Crusen Bishop: Whiskey Baron event to benefit local history

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One thing we all have in common in Peoria is being its citizens and sharing the rich history that comes with it. No matter where someone lives in Peoria, we all have a hand in taking care of our city and passing on a legacy of pride and preservation to future generations.

Peoria has a fascinating history, and when we all know more about Peoria, we will start to love our city and take better care of it. We can save and preserve our historic treasures together.

Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation is hosting the inaugural historic 5k run/1k walk called the Whiskey Baron Run, managed by ShaZam Racing, on Saturday, August 6 in downtown Peoria. CILF was formed in the 1970s by the late Les Kenyon, an architect who was a champion for historic preservation. He was instrumental in saving the Greenhut Memorial GAR Hall from being torn down and turned into a parking lot in the 1970s.

The Greenhut Memorial Grand Army of the Republic Hall was built in 1909 and was dedicated to Civil War Veterans. Capt. Joseph Greenhut, one of the nation’s wealthiest whiskey barons and also a Civil War Veteran, donated the funds to build the hall, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and run by the nonprofit Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation. It is now is available for rentals for events of all kinds.

Peoria’s first Whiskey Baron Run and walk begins at 7 a.m. at the Greenhut Memorial GAR Hall at 416 Hamilton Boulevard. Runners will flow through a historic route down Romeo B. Garrett Avenue (named after Bradley University’s first African-American professor) and through Goose Lake neighborhood. It will take them near Peoria Mineral Springs, up Union Hill, and past the Joseph Greenhut Mansion at Sheridan and High streets, near the High Wine Historic District, and finish back at the GAR Hall.

The 5k run, 1k walk, the proceeds from which will benefit the landmarks foundation, will be followed by an open house at the GAR Hall.

Local singer/actress Olivia Vicary will start the festivities by singing the National Anthem near the flag outside of the GAR Hall.

Several members of Central Illinois Living Historians will be on hand to greet runners and walkers as they reach the finish line back at the GAR Hall. They will be dressed as Union soldiers from the Civil War.

Chase Sieting of “Through The I” will provide live acoustic music for entertainment, and Vikki Hibberd, owner of Marmora Massage, will offer chair massages inside the hall for runners following the race.

There will be face painting, fake fluffy mustaches (in honor of Joseph Greenhut) refreshments, including shots of whiskey from J.K. Williams Distilling for runners and walkers over 21. Peoria author Ken Zurski, who wrote “Wreck of the Columbia” and “Peoria Stories,” will be on hand to speak about Peoria history. There will also be members of CILF to answer questions about the importance of historic preservation.

William Ordaz, president of Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation, talked about the importance of historic preservation and historic legacy.

“I’m amazed to see how many communities in Illinois truly embrace historic preservation. Indeed, there is proven economic value in the jobs, property values, and heritage tourism that historic preservation impacts,” he said.

Come join the fun in Peoria’s first historic run and walk and celebrate our unique legacy of history, and historic preservation in the Whiskey City, in the Whiskey Baron Run and walk.

Register online for the Whiskey Baron Run at or register in person at Running Central on Friday, August 5 during packet pickup from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Or you can register the day of the run beginning at 6 a.m. inside the GAR Hall.

Registration is $30 and includes a t-shirt. For more information contact event planner and coordinator Molly Crusen Bishop at 857-6844 or email

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.