The Start of An Idea
“It is a nice name–The Uplands–breezy-like and suggestive of height and clear sweep. It fits the Briggs plat as comfortably as an old pair of shoes. “— From The Peoria Star, June 6, 1902
In November of 1901, O.L. Woodward and S.L. Briggs of Toledo, Ohio along with others, were in negotiations for the plot of land near
Bradley Polytechnic Institute known as the Bradley Farm, which they expected to improve “by laying asphalt streets and cement sidewalks and otherwise beautifying the district for a fine suburban residence addition to the city… ” reported the November 14, 1901 edition of The Peoria Journal.
In December, the Briggs Company petitioned the City Council to include the plat within the city limits with one contingency; that the Central Railway agree to extend its tracks up Main Street to the new subdivision.
Interviewed in January, 1902, Briggs discussed his plans for the Bradley Farm land: “We have purchased here about 83 acres which will be laid out in lots and the paving and sewage completed before we offer it for sale… We will complete paving Main Street to the corner of Western Avenue with brick… We will set out about 2,000 trees… We do not build any houses… When our work is complete entirely our lots will be for sale and not before… ”
A Place to Call Home
By late May, as the improvements were under way, Briggs announced a contest to name the addition, with the prize to be $50 in gold. Thousands of entries were submitted. The judges reviewed more than 4,000 suggested names before declaring Mrs. William Ker the winner for her submission of “The Uplands. ” An editorial in The Peoria Herald Transcript reported, “The name is euphonious, and easily remembered. It is elevating to the mind, and the residents of the new section will be glad to tell their friends that they live in ‘The Uplands’. ” Mrs. Ker donated her prize money to the Bradley Home for Aged Women.
The Progress Continues
As construction continued on the new subdivision, Mr. Briggs suggested to Lydia Bradley, who had donated the land for Bradley Park, that she donate additional land, adjacent to The Uplands addition to the Park Board. The Peoria Herald Transcript reported that the donation was “Forty acres of hill and valley… a lovely strip of land extending from the lines of Bradley Park on the east to University Street , and from Parkside Drive on the north side of the Briggs Real Estate Company’s plat to the bluff above Dry Run Creek… ”
Standing the Test of Time
Peoria’s statue of Christopher Columbus is one of several identical sheet copper statues designed by sculptor Alfons Pelzer and manufactured by the W.H. Mullins Company in Salem, Ohio.
One stood at the entrance to the Cold Storage Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. That statue is now in storage. Three, dedicated in October 1892, still stand: in New Haven, Connecticut; Phillipsburg, New Jersey and Columbus, Ohio. The fate of an identical statue on the grounds at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia in 1895 is not known.
Peoria’s statue was dedicated on October 15, 1902, a gift from the Briggs Real Estate Company. The statue originally stood at the intersection of Columbia Terrace and Institute Place. Declared a “menace to traffic” in 1946, the statue was removed from the intersection. It was rededicated in its present location, near the intersection of Columbia Terrace and Parkside Drive in Laura Bradley Park, on October 12, 1947. The statue has been renovated and rededicated twice since then; in 1960 and 1984.
The Sale Begins
At 9:00 am on October 22, 1902, a week after the dedication of the Columbus statue, the sale of lots began. There were 400 lots in all. Of these, 370 were to be sold as syndicate shares at a cost of $1,085 each and 30 “star” lots were reserved for private sale. By 9:30 am, 184 lots had been sold. By 10:30 am the total had risen to 242, and by 5:00 pm, two-thirds of the entire plat had been sold. For those who bought syndicate shares, house building had to wait until after a shareholders division meeting. Purchasers of the “star” lots, however, wasted no time in getting their new homes underway. On May 13, 1903, The Peoria Herald Transcript reported: “Mrs. Adda Heyle has the honor of being the first tenant in this model addition… Parr and Huslebus are architects for this dwelling which cost $8,000 and is built in the form of a flat. It is thoroughly modern, with hardwood floors, hot water heating system and so on. Mrs. Heyle will rent the upper portion, reserving the lower flat for her own occupancy. ” That house still stands at 1025-27 N. Elmwood Avenue
On May 28, 1903, the shareholders division meeting was held at the Grand Opera House. Names and lot numbers were placed in churns. All of the deeds were put in one and the syndicate shares in another. An envelope was drawn from each at the same time and the person whose name was on the syndicate certificate got the lot number on the deed. A man by the name of Michael Conlon received what was considered to be the most valuable lot in the whole addition. It was lot #1 on the northeast corner of Parkside Drive and Columbia Terrace.
Planning for Future Generations
Following the division meeting, The Peoria Journal reported “a steady stream of visitors to The Uplands… looking at their lots.” However, the Briggs Company had their thoughts on their next project reported to be a residential addition in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Park Board labored to complete the Main Street entrance to Bradley Park by installing a graveled drive set between rows of catalpa trees and edged with flower beds in a series of geometric designs. Poplar trees were planted along the park side of Parkside Drive A summer house was planned in the park at the west end of Columbia Terrace; however no evidence has been found that it was erected. The Christopher Columbus statue now stands in that spot.
The Uplands neighborhood is located just south of Interstate 74 and the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research. It is bounded on the south by West Main Street (and Bradley University ), on the east by University Street, and on the west by Parkside Drive and Laura Bradley Park.
The Uplands was the first neighborhood in Peoria to have a homeowners association–The Uplands Improvement Association, established in May 1903. Today, The Uplands Residential Association is one of several active neighborhood organizations in the city of Peoria.
In past years, The Uplands has been home to a Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives, a State Representative, a Bradley University president, an Attorney General of Illinois and many others who have distinguished themselves nationally and internationally.
Special thanks to Karen Deller, Richard Deller, Suzanne Jackson, Todd Schierer, Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation Architectural Archives and Special Collections Center, Bradley University Library, who provided information and photos and assisted in making this possible.