James Millikin Homestead
Completed in 1876, the James Millikin Homestead is one of the oldest houses in Macon County, Illinois. The Millikin Homestead is a window into the life of one of the wealthiest families in early Decatur, Illinois. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the Millikin Homestead is a direct connection in the thriving success of Decatur, Illinois.The impact of James and Ana Millikin on Decatur can still be seen today. This Victorian mansion is a symbol of their lasting impact on the advancement of art and music.
Backstory and Context
James Millikin, born in Ten Mile, Pennsylvania, was drawn to the prosperity of traveling west in his early days. Millikin continuously accompanied cattle herds into Illinois. Eventually settling in Decatur, Illinois, Millikin became involved in the economic boom of Decatur, eventually founding the J. Millikin & Co. Bank.3 The Millikin National Bank achieved much success, even competing locally with larger banks from Chicago. James Millikin married local woman Anna Bernice Aston in 1857. Short after, construction began on their new house- which would later become the James Millikin Homestead.
Construction on the Millikin Homestead began in 1876 and concluded a year later. The architecture of the Homestead is nearly identical to the time period. The classical architectural style draws upon many influences, such as Italian, Victorian, and early Americana. While viewing the Millikin Homestead, the guest is transported back into the late 1800s. The architectural beauty is found throughout the homestead. From the original hardwood floors that differ in width from floor to floor, or the early American craftsmanship found in the Italian marble fireplaces1.
As you tour the Millikin Homestead, each room offers multiple opportunities to view early Americana. Each room has their own distinctive artistic touches and will offer numerous viewpoints2. Many details have been remodeled and restored to the original time period and historical aspect of the Homestead. On your journey inside the Millikin Homestead, pay close attention to the staircases. Anna Millikin had the house remodeled in 1883, no less under ten years after initial completion, to create a new staircase. While taking in all of the early American woodworking detail on the second floor, make sure to look down at the original pine floors. Mrs. Millikin did not care for the wide width of the boards and had the installers draw lines in the boards, giving the visual impression of thinner hardwood planks5.
After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Millikin, the Millikin Homestead stood vacant for many years. During the influenza epidemic of 1918, the Millikin Homestead was used as an overflow hospital for flue patients in Decatur1. Following the term as a makeshift hospital, the Millikin Homestead became a museum for the advancement of art. The Homestead and grounds are a direct connection to the economic development of Decatur, Illinois. The Millikin Homestead was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, being accurate to the time period it was built. Guests can see the conflicting design styles as their tour this historic place, ranging from Victorian, Italian, and Eastern America.
James Millikin achieved great success in the banking community, but wanted to leave a lasting legacy on his new hometown. Millikin began construction on a local college that would offer a variety of degrees, specializing in art and music4. Millikin University, located a few blocks away from the Millikin Homestead, is the legacy that the Millikin family left behind on Decatur, Illinois. The Millikin Homestead is a window into the creation of an early Illinois town. Visiting this Homestead allows the guest to see one of the grandest late 1800s mansion.
2. Illinois SP Millikin, James, House. National Archives Catalog. Accessed February 19, 2018. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/288934952.
3. MU History. Millikin University. Accessed February 19, 2018. https://millikin.edu/about/mission-values/mu-history.
4. Millikin History. Millikin University. Accessed February 19, 2018. https://millikin.edu/staley/about-library/university-archives/mu-history.
5. James Millikin Homestead Tour. YouTube. Accessed February 19, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4GUfvgDK_Q.3