The Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission has many properties that it has land marked over the years. Land marking a property simply gives a building prominence as historical important property and a lovely plaque to display. The commission would like to shed some light on some of these land marked properties. The home at 1430 W. Lafayette was built for Matthew and Annie Stewart between 1881 and 1884. While the exact date is not known, when looking at the purchase price of the lot, one can see that it is consistent with other lots that have no structures on them.
The Stewarts arrived in Jacksonville shortly before 1850. Matthew was born in Ireland about 1821 and Annie was born in either the West Indies or England around 1822. Their daughter, Kate, was born in the West Indies in 1847, so the family probably moved here shortly after her birth. Matthew was a proprietor of a millinery shop, ‘Stewart’s Emporium of Millinery and Fancy Goods’ in Jacksonville in 1850, their store was on the west side of the public square. A millinery and fancy goods shop would have had hats, gloves and small broaches for ladies. By 1866, the family had added two sons, Harry and Charles; unfortunately, they had lost Matthew. A cemetery plot was purchased in 1864, but his name was still used for the business for several years.
In the 1870s, Mrs. Stewart’s Millinery Shop, which also appeared to be her home, moved to the west side of Sandy Street, between Court and North Street (now Douglas), where the post office now stands. Her son, Charles, worked as a clerk in the shop along with Kate. Harry was an attorney-at-law by this time. All three children still lived at home at the North Sandy address. By 1880, the shop moved to the “new block” on the south side of the square at 41 Public Square. By 1884, Annie had built her new home on Lafayette and lived there with her children Kate and Charles. The millinery business must have been quite successful for a widow, who has three children to raise and a business to run, to be able to build a home of this stature and charm.
Kate Stewart married Charles A. Willis on December 5, 1885, at her mother’s home and they continued living there (along with brother Charles) even after their daughter was born. Willis was also in the millinery business and he owned a shop at 203 W. Morgan.
The 1890s brought a lot of heartache for the family. On January 4, 1893, Charles died from a self-inflicted gunshot in “his rooms” above George Porten’s tailoring shop. He was to move back home the following week. In his obituary, it is revealed that his brother, Harry, had died several years earlier. The Stewart Millinery Shop closed in 1893 and Mrs. Annie died in 1894. Her daughter Kate, son-in-law Charles and their daughter moved into the house on Lafayette and lived there until 1905. Their daughter, Annie S. Willis, came back to visit the property in the 1970s and told of many memories of the home.
The home is a late Italianate style. It is a two-story structure with decorative dentils on the cornice. The windows are long and double sashed and are squared off rather than being rounded. The home has gone through several hands over the years and was even broken into apartments at one point, but it has maintained its dignified characteristics and adds a lovely touch to the Jacksonville Historic District.
The commission would like to acknowledge and thank Jo Anne Beard for the wealth of knowledge she put into “The Legacy of Historic Jacksonville,” from which this information was found.