Shopping Small on Main Street

Gooooood mornning Belleville!

I’ve been woefully inferior about maintaining any sort of regular posting schedule, which I absolutely apologize for! I’ll get right on fixing that. 😉

This morning, I want to share with you an incredible photo from the Romeiser Company during their heyday!

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These beautiful street fairs were wildly popular… and honestly, not much has changed. There’s definitely this running “joke” about What’s Going on in Belleville this Weekend? Becuase there’s inevitably some sort of festival or fair or parade.

The Fall of 1906 was not a good year for the Romeisers as a family unit and I have no idea when this photo was taken… whether it was Spring or Summer or what. It’s somewhat chilling to see the year and think about everything they were going or would go through come November…

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I would really love to track down the story of this photo. Emil Geil was Peter Romeiser’s business partner, trusted confidant, and friend. They worked together at the company, with Mr. Geil carrying on his duties after Peter’s death. That this photo came from an employee of The Romeiser Company feels super special and I’d love to know who it was.

This photo is right in line with the theme of the 2019 Belleville Historical Society’s annual calendar, “Shopping Small on Main Street.” Naturally The Romeiser Company is featured in the calendar. It’s really beautiful and I’m proud to be able to offer them for sale. They’re $10 and if you’re wanting a copy, email me via our contacts tab!
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If you’re local to Belleville, these are also for sale at the following locations: Artiste de Fleur, Dill’s Floral Haven, Peace by Piece Boutique, Circa Boutique, Happy Hop Home Brew, Eckert Florist, Local Lucy’s, Eckert’s Country Store, Papa Vito’s, and Keil’s Antiques.

We will also have some for sale this weekend at Garfield Saloon, home to the Bellevile Historical Society. On Saturday, Sept. 15, there will be a community tag sale filled with vintage and antique items (and calendars!) followed by the 7th annual Plein Air Art Auction. Local artists are painting historic sites around town and will then auction their paintings at 1:00. It’s a great fundraiser for our organization and I’m excited to be a part of it all.

Lots going on in Beautiful Belleville! Hopefully we’ll see you this weekend at Garfield Saloon!

Lots of love,
Emily

Daughters

Imagine the twinkle in a Father’s eye as he gazes upon his sweet children. Picture the care and devotion that went into nurturing tiny loves, joy felt in watching them reach milestones, the swelling of pride as they learned to read and sing and dance. Imagine an outing to a photographer in St. Louis specifically to capture those little moments forever. The year would have been sometime in the early 1890s- perhaps 1891 or 2…

I can see it now. Peter and Elise Romeiser rise for the day and, with the help of their house maid Lizzie, delicately clean and ready three crisp, white dresses, stockings, and hair ribbons. They bathe the three sweet, beloved Romeiser daughters and tie their hair in bows. Peter readies the carriage that will take them into St. Louis to photographer F.W. Guerin.

Fitz W. Guerin was a New York native and at the age of 13 set out for St. Louis to work for Merrill Drug Company. As a teen he joined the Union Army, later becoming the recipient of the Medal of Honor in the Civil War. On returning to civilian life, he became a successful society and celebrity photographer in St. Louis.

The Romeisers, being of high society, utilized his services on this day in the early 1890s. The photograph, preserved for over a century, comes to us via the St. Clair County Historical Society and the hard work of their curator, William P. Shannon IV. In meeting with him yesterday, he supplied this image that actually made me cry.

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Photo Collection, St. Clair County Historical Society, Used with Permission

In the photo, you’ll see eldest Romeiser daughter Emma, born in 1880. She would be around 11 or 12 in this photo. In the middle is Petra, aged 8/9, and on the far right is Corona, who we haven’t introduced to you yet, dear reader. Corona was born in 1887, the same year Peter built this impressive house on Abend Street.

I look at these sweet faces and at once am both overjoyed and saddened. Overjoyed because I know how deeply they were loved. Saddened because I know of the harrowing and heartbreaking experiences they will encounter as they get older. Their life at this point is so charmed… I am comforted by the fact that they won’t yet experience the first of their tragedies for another 15-years.

It’s how I can also see this lovely photo of Emma from 1899 with still a modicum of joy. Also provided by Will at the SCCHS, this photo is dated and signed by Emma. Christmas, 1899. She would have been 19… she was living life as a new adult, enjoying parties, engagements, and life in high-society, even having been named to the court of the 1898 Belleville Flower Carnival.

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Photo Collection, St. Clair County Historical Society, Used with Permission

Of all the Romeiser children, I feel a special connection with Emma. Perhaps in name, perhaps the fact that she’s the eldest of their three daughters, I don’t know why– I just know deep in my bones that I have to tell her story. Tomorrow (Friday, April 27th), I’m meeting with a reporter from our local newspaper so we can put forth a special article about Emma ahead of the anniversary of the crashing of the Hindenburg. (To read my full post on Emma’s life, click here!)

It’s the first step in a long, thought-out process of getting Emma’s story published, of securing her place in the annals of history, of ensuring that no one ever forgets what happened to her and her family.

But for now, I can gaze upon these sweet faces and think about what their lives might have been.

Endless thanks to Will Shannon and the entire staff of employees and volunteers at the St. Clair County Historical Society. They work tirelessly to preserve these pieces of history and we could not be more grateful.

Stay sweet, be grateful, hug your babies. Take their photo today and cherish it.
The Brick and Maple Family ❤ 

The Belleville Library: Part II

Last week, we introduced you to the connection between the Romeisers and the Belleville Public Library. Missed the first post? Check it out here!

And here… is the rest of the story.

At the end of Part I, you learned about how monies from leftover Romeiser Company stock had been donated to the library by Peter’s children. It was the first public donation made to the library and (in today’s terms) totaled upwards of $20,000.

On the 2nd floor of the library hangs a portrait of Peter. There is a small mark in the corner designating the photographer (Strauss of St. Louis) and the year, 1917– the year after his death. The library was constructed and dedicated in 1916 and the donation from his children came shortly thereafter. It only makes sense that this print was made specifically to be donated to the library along with the endowment funds. It is the only actual photograph of him we know to exist… everything else is either a drawing or a newspaper printing.

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Forgive the glare… with all the windows, this was the best we could do. 🙂

The library is filled with photos depicting prominent people and events in Belleville’s history. After spending so much time there, Mr. Brick and Maple and I just all of a sudden realized that of ALL the photographs hanging, Peter’s was the only one without an information marker. All the others have little placquards explaining their significance.

Well, if you know anything at all about me, you know that just didn’t sit well. So, I reached out to the library director to see if they would allow us to donate a plaque with a description of Peter and why he’s so important. We were thrilled when Mr. Leander Spearman, Director of the library, agreed!

As it turns out, there was no plaque next to Peter’s photo because there never HAD been one. Mr. Romeiser’s significance, his story, his family’s involvement in the development of the library, had all been lost to time. Mr. Spearman went on to explain that the portrait– Peter’s portrait– has remained somewhat of a mystery to the entire staff.

Today we were able to deliver the plaque to the library and have this small part of the Romeiser’s story saved for generations to come. We were also able to submit a blurb for the library’s new website and newsletter and have been asked to compile an informal book to add to the library archives for posterity.

 

It’s these kinds of passion projects that I absolutely LIVE FOR. I spend everyday excited that we can contribute in this way, that we have a small part in making sure no one forgets.

Next time you’re at the library, pop up to the second floor and say hey to Peter. You’ll know it’s him by his smile lines and the kindness in his eyes.

Until next time,
The Brick and Maple Family

“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 ❤️

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