Great River Road, 2016

The Tolman, Bowers, and Todd Building

March 7, 2017

Last modified: February 19, 2019

1301 North Main Street sits on the corner of Main Street and Lincoln Street on lot number 20 in Edwardsville. On June 2, 1817 Daniel Tolman, a newly arrived businessman and carpenter from New York, purchased lot number 20 from Upton Smith for the price of $70. This location was to become the site of Tolman’s office.((Madison County (IL) Office of the Recorder, Madison County Court House, Edwardsville, IL, C-166.)) Tolman is most notably remembered for his work associated with the Colonel Benjamin Stephenson House, responsible for the woodwork on the four mantels as well as the supplier of the brick molds. 1301 North Main Street originally stood in the cultural and social epicenter of Edwardsville across from the original public square.

Photograph of the Tolman, Bowers, and Todd Building in 2017

The Tolman, Bowers, and Todd Building, 2017
Photo by Nichol Allen

After owning the lot for 6 months and 23 days, Daniel Tolman sold the northwest corner of his lot to physician Dr. Joseph Bowers.((Madison County (IL) Office of the Recorder, Madison County Court House, Edwardsville, IL, C-286.)) Bowers was one of the early physicians in Edwardsville who had strong established connections within the community.((History of Madison County, Illinois. Illustrated. With Biographical Sketches of many Prominent Men and Pioneers (Edwardsville, Il: W. R. Brink & Co., 1882), 333.)) With a set floor plan, Tolman and Bowers were able to approach the land office to have a deed drawn up to the exact specification of the new building. Tolman sold Bowers 544 square feet containing the dimensions 17ft by 32ft, which is the exact measurements of the right portion of the structure from the street view. In February of 1818, Bowers sold one half undivided interest of his portion to local physician Dr. John Todd.((Madison County (IL) Office of the Recorder, Madison County Court House, Edwardsville, IL, C-337.)) Todd “… was a prominent representative of the medical profession. He came from Lexington, Kentucky, and was the brother of Robert Todd, who was the father of the wives of Abraham Lincoln and Ninian Edwards.”((History of Madison County, 334.)) With additional investors on the property, Tolman was able to start construction on the building which would be completed in in the beginning of 1819.

Tolman commissioned the building of 1301 North Main Street. A carpenter by trade, Tolman understood the importance of constructing this building out of brick. Tolman’s building is built in the Federal Style (1780-1820). This style can be found in many governmental buildings on the east coast. Federal Style homes were a product of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century, and were considered a more refined adaption of the Georgian. The landscape of Edwardsville in 1819 was comprised of dirt roads, heavy traffic, and wooden buildings. This landscape allowed for this single story brick structure to stand out against a very mute and natural backdrop. Its identifying characteristics are its simple box shape, deep rooms, two chimneys, rectangular transom, side-gabled roof, flat lintels, fruit cellar, side lights, and doors and windows arranged in strict symmetry.((Virginia & Lee McAlester, A field Guide to American Houses, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2002, 153. John Milnes Baker, American House Styles: A Concise Guide, New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 2002, 54.)) The symmetrical layout displayed at the front of the home shows control and precision. The original layout of the home was comprised of three rooms equal in size arranged in an “L” shape. This structure in Edwardsville would serve as a stark contrast to the common wooden made structures that served as the primary material for local businesses in the area. Tolman’s Federal Style structure was new to the town of Edwardsville as well as the unique materials used to build it.

By October of 1819 Bowers ran into a financial crisis and sold various plots of land along with his and Todd’s portion of lot number 20 to Ninian Edwards for the price of $320.00.((Madison County (IL) Office of the Recorder, Madison County Court House, Edwardsville, IL, W-313. 544sqft with the dimensions 17 by 32 was sold to Ninian Edwards from J. Bowers and J. Todd on October 13, 1819.)) Tolman continued to own his portion of 1301 North Main Street until he moved to Clifton Mills, Illinois. He sold his plots of land in Edwardsville to Daniel Meeker, a local merchant businessman. When Tolman sold Meeker lot number 20 the deed states that the entire lot is to be sold with the exception of a small piece 17ft by 32ft, the portion of the structure that was owned by Ninian Edwards. Edwards died in 1833 and his wife became the executer of his will and property. After all debts were paid, the remaining assets and property were to be divided up among his sons and brothers. After a lengthy examination, the deeds do not indicate his children or brothers acquired lot number 20. Considering Edwards died owning large lots of land in Edwardsville, Alton, Springfield, and Belleville, this small plot of land could have become a part of debt reconciliation. Daniel Meeker passed away in the 1840s and left his property to his son Orren. Orren Meeker then sold 1301 North Main to Peter and Joseph Powell in 1842 with the exception of a small piece. However, in 1849 when the house was sold from Joseph Powell (surviving partner) to William J. Pilkington, all of lot number 20 was sold with no division.((Madison County (IL) Office of the Recorder, Madison County Court House, Edwardsville, IL, 6-392 (Tolman to Meeker), 23-105 (Orren Meeker to Peter and Joseph Powell) 25-347 Powell to Pilkington) sold with no exceptions.)) By 1849 the lot was sold as one complete unit although it had previously been owned by multiple parties. By 1849, 1301 North Main Street was converted from a business into a home and changed ownership numerous times.

1301 North Main Street is currently an intersection where commercial meets inner-city suburbia. Currently, this cross section of town is host to closed businesses and residential housing, which is indicative of small growth and expansion. Due to the preservation and restoration efforts by 2014 owners Karen Zimmerman and Jerry Lippold, this structure was able to be saved from demolition and gained local landmark status in 2016.

Cite this article: Nichol Allen, "The Tolman, Bowers, and Todd Building," Madison Historical: The Online Encyclopedia and Digital Archive for Madison County, Illinois, last modified February 19, 2019,
We are always committed to accuracy in our articles and archive items. If you notice a mistake or have a suggestion, please contact us.