Great River Road, 2016

The Wabash Hotel in Edwardsville

October 31, 2018

Last modified: February 20, 2019

The Wabash Hotel is located at 1101 N. Main Street in Edwardsville, near what was once the main square. After being built in 1840, the brick hotel entertained many guests–including Abraham Lincoln in 1858–and experienced multiple renovations until being converted into apartments, which is what the building is used for today. The building is one of the oldest still standing in the town of Edwardsville.

A sketch of the Wabash Hotel sometime before its porch was removed in 1904.
From W. T. Norton, ed., Centennial History of Madison County, Illinois, and Its People, 1812 to 1912(Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), 500.

The Wabash Hotel, also known as the Edwardsville Hotel, Heskett’s Tavern, the Marshall House, and Old Wabash Hotel, was the fourth major hotel built for the town of Edwardsville.1 The Wabash was constructed after John Lusk’s log cabin hotel and wood frame inn burnt down and after the W.C. Wiggins “General Washington” Hotel was abandoned after an earthquake. After the loss of John Lusk’s first log cabin hotel, another house named the Edwardsville Hotel was built in the 1820s.2 When John Lusk’s ownership of the property came to an end, the Edwardsville Hotel transferred through two further owners: Meriam Paterson and Horatio G. Street. During Street’s ownership in the 1830s, the Edwardsville Hotel was a center for the “fashionable people of St. Louis,” especially in the summer. On Sundays, the Edwardsville Hotel hosted citizens of Alton, who visited the inn for good food and good entertainment. Cassius Heskett, following Street’s administration, owned the wooden structure when it burned down in 1839.3 The second version of the Edwardsville Hotel, which is still standing today, was built in 1840 on the same plot of land.4 During its ownership by Cassius Heskett from 1839 to 1846, the hotel was known as “Heskett’s Tavern.” The next ten years the building was called the “Edwardsville Hotel” once again, and from 1856 to 1871 the hotel was known as the “Marshall House” after its current proprietor.5 In 1871 the name was changed to the Wabash Hotel in celebration of the new railroad of the same name.6

Photo of the Wabash Hotel in 1912.
From W. T. Norton, ed., Centennial History of Madison County, Illinois, and Its People, 1812 to 1912(Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), 502.

In its peak business days, around the 1850s, the Wabash Hotel was “considered a remarkably fine specimen of architecture.”7 The front of the building boasted two covered porches, one on each level of the building. Though the brick building was the central structure with main entrances facing Main Street, the Wabash Hotel also included a wooden addition extending almost all the way to Second Street. This addition was home to dining areas and ballrooms used for entertaining both “citizens and visiting celebrities” alike.8 There were separate entrances for this wooden structure on Union Street which led directly to the entertainment hall. The hotel hosted many political gatherings and dinners for traveling politicians, including Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas.9 Known then as the Marshall House, the hotel hosted a mid-day meal for Lincoln on September 11, 1858. Mary Rollins, an eleven-year-old African American girl who worked in the hotel kitchen, described the meal years later.  She recalled waking up at midnight to peel potatoes, and the meal had “…two tables running the length of the flag- and bunting-trimmed room having to be set three times to accommodate the diners.” There was a parade to the steps of the Courthouse from the Wabash following the meal, where Lincoln gave a speech.10

The Wabash Hotel in 1935, including signs for the Wabash Tavern, Kellers Fish Market, Highland Beer, and Coca-Cola.
From the Historic American Buildings Survey

The Wabash Hotel went through multiple periods of renovation. Though the hotel was still in operation up until the 20th century, the wooden addition mentioned above was removed sometime before 1904, when a round of construction took off the first floor’s covered porch and remodeled the interior to house businesses. The range of shops included a general store, fish market, and tavern.11 In 1912, the Hotel was used as a “tenement house,”12 or apartment buildings. In 1976, the apartment was still recorded as housing apartment units.13 The exterior was covered in vinyl siding in the 1980s, though the original brick dating from the 1840 reconstruction remains underneath.14 Presently, the Old Wabash Hotel building holds four apartment units.

Endnotes   [ + ]

1. Robert C. Lange, Tour of Original Edwardsville: Lusk Hotel to Wabash Hotel (Early Public Houses) 1813 to 1874.” (Edwardsville: self-published, 1958).
2. Ibid.
3. History of Madison County, Illinois, Illustrated. With Biographical Sketches of many Prominent Men and Pioneers (Edwardsville: W. R. Brink and Company, 1882), 340.
4. Lange, “Tour of Original Edwardsville.”
5. Edgar E. Lundeen, “Old Wabash Hotel, Edwardsville Illinois” Historical American Buildings Survey, 1934.
6. Pre Civil War Buildings Walking Tour.” Edwardsville-Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce.
7. History of Madison County, Illinois.
8. “Historic Places in Madison County, Illinois.” (Edwardsville: Madison County Historical Museum, 1976).
9. W. T. Norton, ed., Centennial History of Madison County, Illinois, and Its People, 1812 to 1912(Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), 500.
10. Lundeen, “Old Wabash Hotel.”
11. Mary Westerhold, “Did You Know? History of the Wabash HotelRiverbender.com, December 8, 2015.
12. Centennial History.
13. “Historic Places in Madison County, Illinois.”
14. Pre Civil War Buildings Walking Tour.”
Cite this article: Abbie Schaefer, "The Wabash Hotel in Edwardsville," Madison Historical: The Online Encyclopedia and Digital Archive for Madison County, Illinois, last modified February 20, 2019, https://madison-historical.siue.edu/encyclopedia/the-wabash-hotel-in-edwardsville/.
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