The Boom Years (Part 1 of 3)

by the Dwight Historical Society

Note: This is part of a weekly series of articles about the Keeley Institute that will be appearing in The Paper until the July 14-17 Alcohol and Drug History Society conference in Dwight.

cornell_house

THIS LOOKS south on W. Main in Dwight at its intersection with Mazon Avenue, showing the Cornell House next to its expansion, the Livingston House, the space for the administration building and The Keeley Co. office. Submitted photo

After the 1869 fire, Dr. Leslie E. Keeley moved his office to W. Main and opened his first sanitarium in 1888 on that street.

Keeley, individually, purchased 65 feet at the west end of the 100 block of E. Mazon and continued to buy farmland.

At various times in 1889, The Keeley Co. bought lots along W. Main for expansion. In May, 1891, The Keeley bought two of the opera houses for treatment rooms, one at the end of E. Main and the other at the end of 100 E. Mazon.

Dr. Keeley’s nephew, Dr. Milton R. Keeley, was hired by the institute, all confirming a commitment to growing the business in Dwight.

In the early 1880s, W. Main was Dwight’s “hotel avenue.” The old Cornell House and livery stable remained at the Franklin Street intersection. The Clinton and Dwight Houses and The Amos and the Chambers European Hotels, all located in the middle of the block, were destroyed by fires.

Although the Cornell was expanded in 1889, it and the four remaining hotels could not house the increasing number of Keeley patients.

The Scott Boarding House will be the subject of another article.

was built in the late 1860s at the south end of E. Main. The Perry and Strufe Houses were on E. Mazon across from the Cornell. The first floors of these hotels were not saloons, but rather, the front desk with reception lounge, a room to take private baths, and the proprietor’s quarters.

All but the Strufe House had dining rooms to serve patrons and the public, and the kitchens had iceboxes.

The guest rooms had a pitcher of water and bowl with matching chamber pot, and alcohol lamps provided light. Although enduring these meager accommodations over four weeks may have contributed to sobriety, it was embarrassing for Dr. Keeley as many patients were wealthy city dwellers and accustomed to running hot water, private toilets and electric lights. In the fall of 1890, the Keeley Co. broke ground south of the Cornell to construct a large modern hotel. Fortunately in February of 1891, the C&A rail- road began running Pullman sleeping cars, so passengers no longer needed to spend the night in Dwight. Ironically, the cars had hot and cold water in every compartment and toilet rooms, which the hotels did not. The C&A western expansion was now

completed with a roundhouse to turn the steam engines back west. The Indiana, Illinois & Iowa Railroad (the 3-I) along the north side of Dwight was operating and a wooden depot was built in the intersection of N. Franklin and Spencer Streets. The modern, stone C&A depot opened in February, 1892, and together were receiving passengers from 17 daily trains.

The little village, however, was not prepared for Keeley’s vision of hosting thousands of patients, as there was no public water or sewer, and limited electricity. Water from shallow wells and cisterns was forced into buildings by hand pumps, and outhouses lined the grass alleys.

The oil street lamps provided little illumination to navigate the dirt roads and wooden sidewalks. More progressive cities approached Dr. Keeley to relocate, so on May 30, 1891, the Dwight Village Board, the Keeley Co., the C&A and David McWilliams made mutual pledges to keep Keeley in Dwight. A five-man citizens committee consisting of successful Dwight businessmen was appointed to negotiate the terms of these promises.