A.E. Staley – A big man with big ideas.
Photo courtesy of the Decatur Herald & Review
The classic “American Dream” story has many variations but the essential element is a dreamer armed with meager assets and a great willingness for hard work and the perseverance to see the dream to its end. Sometimes the dreams are on a small scale and other times they take on dimensions worthy to be called an empire.
The story of A.E. Staley and the Staley Manufacturing Company would most definitely qualify as one of the latter. Read on to learn the impact A.E. Staley had on Decatur and the world around us.
History of The A.E Staley Home
The A.E. Staley home in Decatur Illinois was originally built in 1884 by William J. Quinlan of The Chambers-Bering-Quinlan Company at a cost of $28,000. Later in 1891 the mansion was sold to W. H. Ennis whose widow later sold it to A.E. Staley in February of 1913. In the decades of the 1890s and early 1900’s A.E. Staley was on the salesmen’s circuit selling his own brand of Starch. During that time his travels would occasionally bring him through Decatur and the Story goes that he would often pass by the mansion house on a Sunday morning and watch the men curry the horses and wash the carriages and wonder to himself if he would ever be able to own a home like it.
After A.E. Staley purchased the home in 1913 he always referred to the house as “The Home of My Dreams” A.E. Staley purchased the mansion for $20,000 and then hired Childs & Smith, an architectural firm from Chicago, to begin the remodeling process. One early 1913 source sites the expected cost of remodeling to be in the area of $10,000 – $15,000 while a later source sites the actual remodeling costs to have been in the neighborhood of $125,000. A.E. Staley’s main addition to the home was the enclosed wraparound sun porch. The original Victorian exterior was changed to an English Tudor style with a green tile, oriental roof. Also there was the addition of a Porte Cochere on the north side of the home as well as new plumbing throughout and the conversion of the barn at the back of the house into a modern garage. The home has hard wood floors throughout, the original floors were parquet made of walnut and oak, several of these original floors remain present in the home today.
Visit the website to learn more about the museum and plan your visit.
361 N College St, Decatur, IL 62522
361 N College St,
Decatur, IL 62522