More Goodies!

Up next on my favorite installment of Stuff We’ve Found are these beauties! Another glass bottle, a short rim cartridge, a frequent buyer punchcard from Romeiser’s, dominoes, and really, really old glass. Husband has been doing some rewiring work on our 2nd floor and to access some of those electrical lines, he’s been crawling in walls and prying up floorboards on the third floor. He’s started quite the little collection of items and I could not be more excited. Each piece just adds to the story.

I love to sit and imagine what happened on the days those items were placed there so long ago. Who thought to hide their glass bottle in the wall instead of burying it in the backyard? Who dropped their clothing punchcard between the floorboards and which curse word did they use when they realized it was gone “forever”? Was a child disappointed that they’d lost their dominoes? The endings to those stories are left to the imagination… but that’s my favorite part.

 

 

This Nehi soda glass bottle has a patent date on the bottom of March, 1925. It was bottled here in Belleville, IL. In 1924, the Chero-Cola company added Nehi to its roster of sodas, offering grape, orange, root beer, peach, and other flavors of soda. It was instantly successful (outselling the Chero-Cola name brand entirely), which caused the company to change its name to the Nehi Corporation in 1928. Sales boomed and, despite a dip in sales in 1931 due to the Great Depression, Nehi was widely a household name even through the 1940s.

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When chero-cola was rebranded at Royal Crown cola, the company saw yet another name change to RC Cola, the same RC Cola we see in stores today. It’s likely that this bottle was enjoyed by someone who lived on our third floor during the time it was parcelled into wartime apartments. It’s in remarkable condition, without a single nick or chip.

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This rimfire cartridge seemed pretty mysterious at first because the headstamp on the end resembles the German Cross (which would have been a no-no after about WWI…) but through pretty deep digging, we were finally able to track its source. This is a .22 short rimfire cartridge from the Western Cartridge Company based out of East Alton, IL. They used the Maltese Cross as a headstamp, later using it as their company logo. It’s not uncommon for the German Cross to be confused with the Maltese Cross, which is why we were a little confused in the beginning. The Western Cartridge Company transitioned to using a diamond stamp and logo in 1910, so this cartridge likely predates that.

One of the more interesting finds were these two fully intact sheets of plate glass. The label indicates that they came from the Pittsburgh Plate Glass company in Creighton, PA, the first financially successful plate glass company in the country. Established in 1883, they would become the largest manufacturer of plate glass in the world. Plate glass is different than other glass in that it is poured and rolled into shape, instead of blown. Extensive grinding and polishing operations–reducing the plate to half its original thickness–made the product smooth and shiny, free of optical distortion (AKA: no more wavy glass).

 

There’s no real way of telling if this glass was using during construction of our house in 1887 (with these being leftovers just being left behind) or whether Peter Romeiser was interested in using Pittsburgh Plate Glass in the windows of The Romeiser Company and had these sent as samples. Regardless, the glass itself is in perfect condition. The paper logo is worn but it’s at least 130 years old– what do you expect?! 🙂

Today Husband bought a giant high-power magnet to help grab up any other metal items floating around in the places he crawls through. Hopefully this isn’t my last update on things we’ve found in walls!

Lots of love,
Emily

Researching the History of Your Home!

Hey everyone! Today I had the pleasure of speaking at Belleville’s Museum Day activities. I was at the Garfield Saloon talking about how to research the history of your home. I figured these would be great notes to share with all of you. I don’t claim to be an expert in historical research whatsoever, but it is a hobby and passion of mine and we’ve had quite a bit of luck finding information about our house and the original family.

Researching the history of your home is a multi-faceted endeavour… it’s a little bit of determination, a little bit of stubbornness, a lot of patience, and a little bit of luck. My husband and I joke that we can very easily get sucked into an Ancestry black hole and not realize we’ve been staring at our computer screens for four hours until it’s 2 in the morning and our eyes are bloodshot.

The bulk of my research is done online. Today I provided all the guests with a handout of the websites I use… here it is in JPEG form so that you can save it to your phone or PC for reference. It is Belleville specific but no matter where you live, your city website and libraries should have similar information.

resourcesThe first should come as no surprise: Ancestry. This is a subscription service that has proven itself invaluable. I gladly spend the $20 a month to use this service and have discovered photos of original residents of our home that hadn’t previously been connected to our house. They do have a free trial available to use and I highly recommend using it a lot during that trial to see if it’s going to be a good fit. Once on Ancestry, you can search by name, birth date, marriage date, and death date. The search pages will yield results and potential results, perhaps people with similar names or in some instances, cases where the people you actually ARE looking for had their names misspelled on official documents. I discovered that Emma Romeiser actually had three children, one that died at birth. She gave birth to Roland Pannes in September 1916. His birth certificate was written in cursive and had combined the two N’s to be read as an R and an M together, changing the last name from Pannes to Parmes. I’ve purposefully searched the most common misspellings of Romeiser to see what information pops up.

The two websites geneologybank.com and familysearch.org are also incredible resources. Geneologybank blends ancestry like results with digitized newspapers all over the country. Familysearch is free but geneologybank is not. It also offers a free trial. A lot of times you’ll discover that these free trials require credit card information to be entered when you sign up– don’t let this scare you off. I have NEVER had an unauthorized charge on my account and if you cancel within the 2 or 4-week trial period, no charge is ever made to your card. Cancelling free trials is really easy and can be done online through these sites– there’s not even a need to call customer service and sit on hold for an hour. So as long as you click before the deadline, there’s no cost to you.

kitchenfire.pdfUnless you’re okay with spending the money– sometimes you’ll find it’s worth it. Like I pay for Ancestry every month. I also paid the $75 fee to use Newspapers.com for six months because it is such a huge resource to me. On Newspapers.com I search each individual members of my home by name and porr through the results. I also just put our address in the search bar and see what comes up. I found classified ads looking for help with cooking and the laundry, yard sales, and interesting tidbits like a kitchen fire in the early 1900s.

The library will prove invaluable. The archives at the downtown branch are extensive and they have microfiche for decades and decades of archived newspapers. Some of those newspapers have been digitized and are available on a searchable database by keyword. This is also available on the library’s website if you prefer to search from the comfort of your home. All you need to log-in is your library card number, and of course, if you don’t have a library card, they are free to get.

For those of you local to Belleville, the St Clair County Historical Society has archives available and their curator, Will Shannon, has a photo collection to pull from that helped us find photos of some of the Romeiser daughters. The Belleville Historical Society has a similar resource available on their website that lists area museums that have photos, documents, and stories if what you’re looking for is Belleville specific.

Then, of course, there’s just plain old Google. When searching, search names of former residents (if you’re unsure, you can search at the Recorder of Deeds office) and your specific address.

By searching all of these places, you’ll be able to fill in some potential gaps. We’ve used the Belleville City Directory to name owners of pretty much every house on our street and have been able to expand our search from there. I even search those names on Ancestry and see what photos pop up. Sometimes you’ll be able to find photos of neighbors that might have your home in the background or even residents posing with those neighbors.

Like I said, I don’t claim to be an expert in any way and have honestly been very lucky in our research. It takes persistence and patience. Essentially, don’t be afraid to ask local historians and archivists for help, don’t be afraid to search something that may not be entirely accurate (like a misspelled name or your neighbor’s address) because you may end up finding something really interesting, and don’t be afraid to sign up for that free trial or even spend a few dollars for a month or two to give yourself time to find information.

Happy hunting!!
The Brick and Maple Family

Opportunity Doesn’t Knock… it Rings the Doorbell

I can honestly say that I never once in my life pictured an afternoon spent researching the history of the doorbell. But, it’s still cold outside (surprise, surprise), so what else am I going to do? Clean? Yeah… right.

Recently, local Belleville history enthusiast and President of the Belleville Historical Society Larry Betz contacted me and my husband saying he had something of ours. He went on to explain that it was the original doorbell to the Romeiser house. When we met up with him, he explained further.

The house has been mostly occupied since it was built in 1887. The Romeiser family owned it until 1919 when it was sold, converted to a boarding house, and then later changing hands a few times over the years. When the house ultimately ended up in foreclosure in the early-20aughts, the house was essentially emptied. The fact that so much of our beautiful architectural details survived that time is impressive to me. Larry told us how he came in and was able to procure the home’s original doorbell and he’s been holding on to it ever since. He expressed how it was time to return it to its rightful place on the walls of this incredible home.

The doorbell itself is, at its core, simple, though advanced for the time. The fact that the Romeisers even HAD a doorbell is impressive. However, knowing how Peter Romeiser was at the forefront of basically every advancement and was a very progressive thinker, I’m not surprised. His store, The Romeiser Company, changed the way businesses operate. He was one of the first merchants to use a set-price model for his items… the price you see on the tag is what you pay, no haggling. His store was the first in Belleville to use interior electricity. We know for a fact he had a home telephone in 1906– if not earlier. He saw the value in invention, the beauty in progress, and he wanted to be a part of that.

We fully believe this doorbell is original to the home’s construction. (It looks almost identical to this image I found on Wikipedia of an 1884 doorbell from Budapest.) 640px-Lakáscsengő_-_Andrássy_út_94_szám_II._emelet_2_ajtószám_(1)Simple clapper doorbells work through high-school science. When you push the button, you complete an electrical circuit. This “push-to-make” switch powers a hammer that rings a bell. My husband (you know, the one I previously mentioned who just knows how to do everything? Yeah. Him.), he totally got this thing to work while tinkering with it down in the basement. We may wrap our heads around REALLY getting it to work but for now will still display it lovingly.

I am so thankful to Larry for thinking of us and being so devoted to preserving history and saving the details of these old homes. Without his dedication, this piece of Romeiser house history would likely be lost today and we’d have had no way of knowing it ever existed.

His work with The Belleville Historical Society, along with the work of other members, is inspiring and exciting. And it’s for those reasons that I’ve decided to partner with them and join as a member. I’m also really thrilled to be able to announce that they’ve nominated me to a position on their Board of Trustees which was approved at their membership meeting last week!

The way that the pieces of my life have fallen into place within only 7 months of moving here is nothing less than extraordinary. The ways in which people have embraced us and supported us and encouraged us to get involved have made us feel more at home than any place we’ve lived in a really long time. I am practically buzzing with excitement over the possibilities and wondering what the future holds; it’s exactly the kind of life I pictured for myself when I was a little girl.

To check out what the Belleville Historical Society is all about, visit their website and consider joining or donating! So here’s to many, many more years researching Belleville homes and families, and preserving those stories for years to come. Even if it means spending an hour reading about doorbells.

“Belleville, Illinois, Illustrated”

Published by the Reid-Fitch Publishing Company in St. Louis in 1905, the ‘Belleville Illinois Illustrated’ book is a fantastic depiction of Victorian life in Belleville.

It features text and photos of all the prominent businesses, structures, and homes in Belleville while also providing a little bit of history.

I was so excited to find not one but TWO photos of The Brick and Maple!!

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Zooming in, it’s incredible to be able to see old stained glass windows, the original porch, the horse hitching post, and how much land they owned before selling the neighboring parcel around 1919. This is also likely the personal horse and carriage of the Romeiser Family. By searching old Sanborn fire maps, we know there was a carriage house constructed with the home in 1887. According to stories from neighbors, it may have stood even up until the 1990s. It looks as if Peter Romeiser himself is sitting in the carriage! 

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The entire digital version of the book is available online and is a fun way to spend a chilly Friday morning! Check it out here!

Enjoy!
~The Brick and Maple Family

Music Room Facelift!

Because Pinterest is really French for “You Can’t Sit Still,” I am constantly taunted by exquisite home decor pins. When I stumbled upon one of a room painted Hague blue, I just knew I had to had to HAD TO have one of my own.

I’d been toying around with the idea of redoing our computer and music room so when we de-Christmased and I was staring at an awkwardly empty bay window, I knew now was the best time.

Check out the space before:

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It was perfectly functionally but a bit… boring. There was no spice, no flavor, nothing bold. I didn’t feel like I’d injected any personality into the room whatsoever.

But now? Ohhhhh NOW it is warm and pulled together and cohesive and I am SO happy I went with such a bold color.

Enjoy these after shots!

I used Sherwin William’s Showcase ultra deep base paint-and-primer in “Narragansett Navy” and updated the radiators with Rustoleum’s Hammered Copper.

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Design accents came from Target (their Project 62 line is to die for! Lamp, side table, and succulent are all Project 62), TJMaxx (throw, gold photo frame, and yellow flowers) and Amazon (rug, Persian Rugs Distressed 4620; shelf, Yaheetech). All the other design elements are antiques that I’ve collected over the years. The National Geographic Magazines belong to my great-grandmother Jennie and are all from the 1950s!

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I am so beyond pleased with how this turned out… I can’t stop staring!!!

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Let us know in the comments below… what’s your favorite feature?!

Note: I have no affiliate relationships with any of the stores or brands mentioned in this post!

Til next time,

The Brick and Maple Family ❤️

If Walls Could Talk…

Earlier this week Husband found our first artifact of any real note! In the walls of the 3rd floor, we’ve found things like a pair of pants, an old broom handle, a single baby shoe. (Which isn’t creepy AT ALL…) But this is different and special and OLD.

Monday Hubs was crawling around with our son just poking around the house. The lower half of the wall all around the 3rd floor is wainscoting and there are little doors throughout that open onto a perimeter crawl space, just wide enough to explore.

They found this old bottle!

In doing research (mainly through this edoc from the Society of Historical Archaeology), we discovered this is an old soda bottle from the Belleville Glass Company. The A. Koob (and A.K initials on the bottom) stand for August Koob Soda Works.

Belleville Glass Company was founded (under the Belleville Glass Works umbrella) in 1882 by your Belleville big-hitters. Locals (and readers of some past posts) will recognize these names: J. Eimer, J. Fuess, F. Sunkel and E. Abend. The new firm issued 250 shares of stock at $100 each and by November 1882, the plant was churning out 14,000 bottles a day. These bottles were used for soda and beer.

By 1886, the plant would be purchased by Adolphus Busch of Anheuser-Busch fame. Our bottle bears the A. Koob engraving which points a bit to the year it was made. Now, there’s not a ton of info out there but we did find a document that states that Koob purchased the soda works from Louis Abegg in 1879 and operated it until he died in 1888.

So Koob brand soda was bottled using Belleville Glass Company bottles and this would have had to have happened sometime between 1882 (when the glass company was made) and 1888 (when the soda company was sold). Since our house was built in 1887 and we found this up on the 3rd floor, perhaps it was a refreshment for some hardworking home builder?

An exact version of this bottle sold on eBay for $31 whole dollars. We’re rolling now, y’all! Obviously we’ll never sell this but will happily display it in the home we so lovingly occupy.

Til next time,
The Brick and Maple Family ❤

Jackpot?

As y’all know, my husband and I have been tirelessly researching the Romeiser family for months. We want to honor this house and the family as much as possible and feel like telling their stories is the best way to do that. Unfortunately, there’s just not a lot out there and not a lot of lineage left to ask.

So, in my searches on Ancestry and beyond, I’ve decided to spread the search out to extended family members: aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. to see what I might be able to stumble upon. I started with the matriarch, Elise Hilgard Romeiser‘s, branch of the family tree.

She was born and raised here in St. Clair County and had several siblings. Her sister, Anna, married Edward Abend and lived directly next door. When comparing a portrait of Anna to one of Elise, you can absolutely see the family resemblance.

 

 

It’s simply undeniable!

In searching for information on Anna, I found the most exciting photo yet. The owner of the photo (the person who uploaded it to Ancestry) knows nothing about the photo besides the caption and the identity of the youngest person in the photo. Check it out:

Abend family reunion 1903 - EWA small child in white front rowThe caption is “Family Reunion Abend, Easter 1908.” Now, could this mean Abend family reunion? Or family reunion ON Abend? Given the fact that the sisters were neighbors and close, I fully believe that this is an extended family photo and that it includes at least two Romeiser daughters… and everyone showing off their Easter Eggs! 😀

In 1908, Roland would have already passed away and (at this point), Petranella was already institutionalized. (Wondering what I’m referencing? Read about their stories here and here!) The eldest son, Theodore, was already out of the house. That leaves Emma Romeiser, Corona (we’ve yet to tell you her story!), and two younger sons Edwin and Alvin.

Now, this is purely speculation given that the only identity we’re sure of is that of young Edward Abend Jr (seated on the lap of the girl in the white dress. He would have been three.), I truly feel in my heart that we are looking at a photo of Anna, their third sister Emilie, and Elise, Emma, and Corona, and that they are all standing in the yard of either The Brick and Maple, or the Abend house next door.

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I believe Emma is far right, almost next to her mother wearing black (could she still be in mourning over Roland and Petra?)… and perhaps Corona is the one behind her looking directly at the camera. In 1908, Emma would have been 28, Corona 21, Elise 59, and Anna 71. Could Edwin (aged 24) be standing next to Corona (wearing the hat)? Is it possible that the youngest Romeiser, Alvin (aged 15), is seated on the far left? It may be a stretch… but maybe it’s not.

The 1910 census lists Emilie as a resident of the house as well, so it stands to reason that she could have lived here in 1908 and simply stepped out with the rest of her family to snap this photo on Easter. Could Peter Romeiser be the photographer? Perhaps we’ll never know. But for now, I’m feeling like maybe someday we’ll find more hints about life here at The Brick and Maple over a century ago.

Til next time!
The Brick and Maple Family