Monday, November 21, 2011

Dinner With Friends -- Complete With A History Lesson

Last night my friend John and I spent a nice evening as guests at the home of our friends John and Margaret. While we have had occasion to get together with them at other venues, this was the first time I had been to their home.  On a previous occasion, Margaret and I had talked about the house and the renovations that they had done, but I had no idea how extensive a project that was.  After John 1 (I'll just refer to them as 1 and 2) had been there during the Christmas season last year, he told me that I would really love it.  We had been invited for dinner after John 2's birthday party a couple of months ago, but we've all been busy with other commitments, and this was the first weekend we were able to find a common, open date.  I'm so glad we finally made it.

We started with appetizers and cocktails in the gentlemens' parlor. The history lesson began when we learned that two other guests in this room were Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy.  This, by the way, is called the Wade-Duncan House, and it was built in 1850 by Samuel Wade, one of Alton's former mayors. The ladies' parlor is on the opposite side of the house; no mention of Mary Todd or Jacqueline Bouvier being guests too.  Oh well.  The two parlors are separated by the foyer and beautiful stairway. Further back are the music room, the dining room, the kitchen and a second stairway.  The bedrooms and a family room are all upstairs.  I know I have mentioned that I love seeing old things made new again, and their home is the epitome of such an undertaking.  Margaret did an outstanding job making sure as many architectural details as possible were preserved during the renovation of the house, which had actually been on the city' demolition list. Thankfully, she could see that it was a diamond in the rough, and it is certainly a sparkling diamond now. It must have been exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, but she has a lot of energy and this was obviously a labor of love.  You can learn more about the home in this article.  Keep in mind that it was apparently written not long after the work had begun, and all that work was finished 12 years ago. That white brick shown in the borrowed photo above (from the original article), is now back to its original red color.

After a wonderful dinner, dessert with coffee, and lots of jibes and parrying between the two Johns, Margaret invited us on a full tour of the home (with the exception of the basement).  Everything was beautiful.  I was especially glad when she wanted to take us up to the attic to show us a steamer trunk which had belonged to Samuel Wade's daughter.  How that came to be in Margaret's possession is a story in itself, but the happy ending is that it made its way back home again.  John 2 invited John 1 to take a special solo trip in the dark up to the widow's walk which is still awaiting replacement railing. You can tell they're good friends, right?  Needless to say, John 1 declined that invitation.  During the renovations, Margaret also found a box up in the attic that fell apart as she picked it up.  Out dropped a metal tube.  Inside the tube was a rolled up paper; a music award which had been presented to one of Mr. Wade's other daughters.  It now holds its rightful place of honor in the music room.

We enjoyed a very lovely evening with our friends, but now it was time to return to Edwardsville and The House at 304 -- not nearly as grand, but still home sweet home.

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