Our History

The St. Clair County Historical Society is one of the oldest county historical societies in Illinois.  Since its founding in 1905, the Society has changed names, changed people, changed homes and changed focus.  One thing that has never changed, however, is our commitment to helping St. Clair County to tell its story.

This is a timeline of some important milestones in the history of the Society.  We are proud of our past and view it as an inspiration for what we do today.

  • 1905: The Historical Association of St. Clair County, Illinois is established in the parlor of J. Nick Perrin in Belleville on September 14th.  Perrin was a lawyer, legislator, judge, orator and historian.  He established the society with like-minded people to safeguard the early records of the county’s history.
  • 1933: The early records collected by Perrin and other Historical Association members are moved to the County Recorder’s Office from the, “museum room,” in the St. Clair County Courthouse where they had been left unprotected for many years.
  • 1940: J. Nick Perrin dies and the early records are given to the Illinois State Archives in Springfield for permanent preservation.  Perrin’s son, L. Nick Perrin, is elected President of the Association.  A constitution is adopted and the name is changed to the St. Clair County Historical Society.
  • 1950: After years of declining membership and interest, the Society enters a period of inactivity.  The treasury only held a balance of $12.00 and no further meetings were being held.
  • 1960: The Society is revived with Belleville attorney J.D. Trabue at the helm and (partially) in anticipation of Belleville’s sesquicentennial in 1964.
  • 1962: The first Landmark Awards are given for historically and architecturally significant buildings in St. Clair County.
  • 1963: After searching for a permanent home for the Society, the house at 701 E. Washington Street in Belleville is purchased with the generous help of Mrs. Henry Lengfelder for $5,300.
  • 1964: The first Candlelight House Tour is held.  This event, which takes participants on a fascinating architectural tour of some of Belleville’s historic homes, remains one of the highlights of the Society’s year to this day.
  • 1968: After five years of extensive restoration and rebuilding, the Victorian Home Museum opens to the public.  Decorated in the styles of the late nineteenth century, the museum brims with donations of period artifacts from members of the Society and members of the community.
  • 1972: An 1830 German, “street house,” that stood at 124 E. Washington Street is donated to the Society, moved to 602 E. Fulton Street and set atop a new foundation.  Rehabbed and preserved by members and furnished as a working class dwelling, the Emma Kunz House would open as the Society’s second museum in 1978.

Note: The above chronology is adapted from: “History of the St. Clair County Historical Society, 1905-2005,” Journal of the St. Clair County Historical Society 34 (2005), 3-8.