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.
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.