History of the Staley Mansion
The A.E. Staley home in Decatur Illinois was originally built in 1884 by William J. Quinlan of The Chambers-Bering-Quinlan Company at a cost of $28,000. Later in 1891 the mansion was sold to W. H. Ennis whose widow later sold it to A.E. Staley in February of 1913. In the decades of the 1890s and early 1900’s A.E. Staley was on the salesmen’s circuit selling his own brand of Starch. During that time his travels would occasionally bring him through Decatur and the Story goes that he would often pass by the mansion house on a Sunday morning and watch the men curry the horses and wash the carriages and wonder to himself if he would ever be able to own a home like it.
The “Home of My Dreams”
After A.E. Staley purchased the home in 1913 he always referred to the house as “The Home of My Dreams” A.E. Staley purchased the mansion for $20,000 and then hired Childs & Smith, an architectural firm from Chicago, to begin the remodeling process. One early 1913 source sites the expected cost of remodeling to be in the area of $10,000 – $15,000 while a later source sites the actual remodeling costs to have been in the neighborhood of $125,000. A.E. Staley’s main addition to the home was the enclosed wraparound sun porch. The original Victorian exterior was changed to an English Tudor style with a green tile, oriental roof. Also there was the addition of a Porte Cochere on the north side of the home as well as new plumbing throughout and the conversion of the barn at the back of the house into a modern garage. The home has hard wood floors throughout, the original floors were parquet made of walnut and oak, several of these original floors remain present in the home today.
Prior to the building of the home by William J. Quinlan, the property had been known in the community as “The Mound” the land having been bought by William Hanks Jr. from the U.S. government in the year 1829, the same year Macon county was established. In those early years “the mound” was used by civil war companies for drilling and by local children as a playground. The land was sold in 1836 to Reverend William S. Crissey, a Methodist minister who hoped to build a Methodist college, a project that never came to be and so “The Mound” came then to be known as “College Hill” In the 1870’s the mound was lowered in order to provide the building site for the present two homes to be built.
The Staley Mansion Donated to the Decatur Community
The Staley family occupied the home from 1913 to 1951. At that time the family consisted of A.E. Staley, his wife, three daughters, two sons and Mrs. Staley’s mother. In 1951 A.E. Staley’s widow, Emma Staley, donated the home to the Decatur Y.M.C.A. The Y.M.C.A. later sold the home for $25,000, after which the home went through a series of transformations including being divided up into 16 apartments. In recent years the home has been restored to an almost original floor plan and in March of 2013 passed into ownership of The Staley Museum Foundation as the future home of The Staley Museum.