Library

The Room

One of the first things people might notice in the library is a section of unfinished wall on the south end. We left that exposed to show the brick arch over the pocket door leading into the parlor. This was a huge clue to understanding how the house evolved over time, as it told us that this was the back end of the house when it was built in 1833. The arch might have covered a large doorway. The library and the adjacent children's parlor were built as an addition to the house around 1836. The children's parlor was originally a summer kitchen and the library was likely first built as a dining room.

This room would have been a private space in the house; the pocket doors would have been kept closed unless there was a large party. The family used this as their library; their granddaughter remembered this room as having been lined with bookcases, though today there is only one remaining bookcase in the room. Home libraries were a luxury for only an elite few in the 19th century. Most houses simply weren't spacious enough to devote an entire room to books, and most budgets weren't large enough to purchase the number of books that would necessitate an entire room to store them.

 

The presence of a library in Edwards Place reflects the Edwards family's wealth as well as the value they placed on literacy. Every member of the Edwards family was well educated. Benjamin graduated from Yale. Helen attended local schools in New York and New Haven as a child and received French lessons from a private tutor. Helen Maria was sent to the Monticello Female Seminary in Godfrey, Illinois, and her sisters Alice and Mollie attended Springfield schools for ladies. The entire family loved to read, anything from geographic explorations to Greek tragedies to novels. However, one book was banned in the Edwards household - Tom Sawyer. Helen considered it wicked and even told her daughter not to let any of her children read it.

Objects

The sofa belonged to Governor Ninian Edwards. It dates to the 1820s and is one of the oldest antiques in the house. The fact that Benjamin kept it shows some sentimentality, as the couch would have been out of fashion by the time it was used in Edwards Place.

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