Farm House Facing Death In Belleville

by Michael R. Allen

I have been conducting an architectural survey at Scott Air Force Base and passing back through Belleville. Last week, just east of town I came across this 19th century brick farmhouse on Highway 161 east of town. The rest of the farm — a clay tile silo and some outbuildings — are well under demolition, but work has yet to really start on the house. A porch and the roofing have been removed, but the old building is painfully still able to be saved. The demolition set me to thinking.

I know, I know. Illinois is full of these one-story brick center-hall houses, with their two-over-two wooden windows and simple brick cornices. Yet that’s really the point: these vernacular houses give the state’s rural areas unique architectural character compatible with the rich and lovely landscape upon which they reside.

Besides, this house has an interesting hipped roof, and lovely cast stone porch columns (definitely not original, but certainly a historic alteration). With a new Wal-Mart and strip retail in this vicinity, I think I know what happens next to this farm. Even if one does not see the folly of the wasted building, what about thinking through losing soil that has fed people for over 100 years?

St. Louisans should think about these things too. What happens in Belleville matters to St. Louis. The loss of good farm land and usable farm building stock within 100 miles weakens our renewing regional food economy. We lost much of the good farm land in St. Louis and St. Charles counties, but we still have a lot left across the river. Some talk about “balancing” the region’s sprawl, but without regional growth that is tantamount to doubling the waste: settled and unsettled areas, wasted. When do we stop?

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This entry was posted in Agriculture, Belleville, Illinois, Demolition, Southern Illinois. Bookmark the permalink.
  • FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK

    My sentiments exactly! We are giving our land and cultural homesteads away with nary a thought. Has been going on for years. Perhaps the future is a paved country and then it will be too late to live here– barbara

  • Chris

    I covered the suburban sprawl around Peoria recently on my wesbite:

    http://tinyurl.com/336sba3

  • Doug Duckworth

    There is no virtue in balancing sprawl. It should be stopped. After the Illinois Historic Tax Credit, a Metro East Greenbelt should be on the agenda. Sprawl is it its infancy there. Perhaps a rural-urban coalition could actually get that done? This would also benefit ESL greatly!

  • Chad Briesacher

    This farm has been under demolition for a few months now. It seems like there has been no progress in at least three months.

  • Anonymous

    They also removed a large and beautiful tree from this property that stood near the road.  I once drove by here on my way home from classes in the winter. Someone had TP’d the tree.  Long strands of white wafted slowly around the tree.  As for the background, there was a light coating of snow and frost on the cornfield.  The light was low and the sky was grey.  I thought about retrieving my camera and going back to take a photo.  It’s one of those things I will always regret.  It was a startlingly beautiful site in a most unexpected way and a memory I will treasure.