Monday, November 26, 2012

What Would Willie Say!?

I just finished reading the memoirs of Wm. C. McChord, the man who built the Little Red Hen Cafe... actually, he had no idea it would ever become a cafe!

He built his law offices there, and shortly afterwards, the home we have made into a B&B and named the "Cinnamon House," 202 Lincoln Park Road. Of course, it will also always be "The McChord Place.'

We received a copy of Mr. McChord's memoirs when we took possession of the house, and I recall being a bit intimidated, since he had been such a prominent citizen of Springfield, a descendant of the founder of both Elizabethtown and Bardstown, and also the man responsible for bringing the railroad line to Springfield.  The photo above shows the L&R train when it was on a turntable in Springfield.
But I should have read the book earlier, because through the stories I got to know the boy Willie. He was born in 1850, and his life spanned slavery, the Civil War, World War I, the arrival of plumbing and electricity (our house was the first in Springfield to be constructed with these) and the automobile and telephone.

He didn't build the house downtown until 1902, when his 3 sons and one daughter (another son died at age 13 months) were grown. Even so, the boys never married and the youngest lived in the house and practiced law in the offices that are now the "Hen," staying on until he died at age 93! The house has only been owned by three families prior to ours. Upstairs is a big open room that was built as a ballroom.
This is one of Mr. McChord's sons, the one that went to VMI and was named after his father. I am going to imagine that Willie looked like this when he was young. He was a bit of a rapscallion! He never paid any attention in school, and had to drop out when he was 14 and his parents lost everything during the Civil War. He only became a lawyer by sheer gumption and perseverance. I'll share some more of Willie's stories as I go along, but right now, I am just having fun imagining him and how he might react to what's become of his town house and law offices. He had a good sense of fun and humor, so I think he'd enjoy it.
The Cinnamon House will be open this Saturday as part of a Christmas Tour sponsored by the Historical Society. Hours are 1-5 and there are several locations on the tour... there is a suggested donation of $10.