The McCoy Library

Postcard photo contributed by Dick Hardesty.  Thanks!


The McCoy library reminds visitors of another time and place. 

From: Newspaper Clipping--Source not identified.
*Contributed by Sheila Cadwalader

by Mary Shrawder 

McLEANSBORO, ILLINOIS---------It has been replastered, repapered, and stripped to the original wood as well as thoroughly cleaned and polished, but there's still a lot of work to do.
On the southwest corner of the public square stands the nearly century old McCoy home. It was willed by Mrs. McCoy to be a public library dedicated to the memory of her parents, Aaron Guard Cloud and  Eleanor. H. Cloud. Under direction of Wayne Pemberton, work foreman, the Historical Society is restoring the upper floors of the five story home to their original look.

Aaron Guard Cloud, a prominent banker, constructed his home for his wife and two children adjacent to his bank. From 1880 to 1884, 75 men worked at an average pay rate of $2.00 for a ten hour day. Reid Brothers of Evansville, In. were the architects and the original linen blueprints can still be seen.

When Mary E. Cloud's father died, she inherited the awesome house and married CHALON GUARD McCOY.  They had no children, and Mrs. McCoy specified in her will that the building become the property of the city of McLeansboro. She also set up a endowment fund for the upkeep of the home and stated that the city annually levy a library tax and appoint a board.

Mrs McCoy was a woman of letters, an artist--many of her paintings are displayed throughout the home--and an individual dedicated to the service of others. A copper plate commemorating the city's acceptance of the building is fastened on the outside of the building.
The whole house was architecturally designed so that all of the corners and walls are notched. As the building settles and gets older, it falls into the notches and becomes stronger. The walls are over 20 inches thick and the foundation nearly four foot thick.       

Thinking of the future again, builders layed the brick, which had been made in McLeansboro, with strips of wood in between. If there would be an earthquake, or just for the sake of the house aging, the brick would not loosen or crumble.

The house has nine different kinds of wood throughout and nine fireplaces, all from different countries. The Clouds traveled around the world bringing back ideas and artifacts from all over.

One of the upstairs bedrooms has an Italian fireplace with white marble. There is a German and French fireplace in addition to rooms done in oak, walnut, chestnut, and red cherry wood.

The bedrooms all have very small closets. This, Pemberton explained, is because only one or two days of clothing was kept in the rooms. Cedar lined clothes closets with eight foot white pine doors were in a separate room to keep the full wardrobes.

The majestic stairwell has 87 spinels which took over two weeks to clean. The wide carpeted steps are only a few inches apart. "Mrs. Cloud didn't like stairs, so their staircase is built so it seems like you are not even climbing steps," said Pemberton.

The servants' stairwell turns 10 times from top to bottom. Behind the servants' stairs is a dumbwaiter to hoist food up and down. At one time there were five servants in the house who had their own separate quarters. In one of their rooms sits a big wooden pull up toilet. Armrests are on either side, which were needed when the women wore big hoop skirts. The toilet is on wheels so it can be easily moved from one room to another.

"This is where they make spook stories," grinned Pemberton as he led the way to the attic. Stored in the attic are many gold leaf paintings and a set of dining room furniture. All eight chairs are in fairly good shape and worth quite a bit. The arms and headrest are hand- carved lion's heads. An ottoman type of furniture which Mrs. McCoy stood on while having dresses hemmed or made sits in one corner. A dress stand with a bodice of a black dress is still on the wire stand.. Mrs. McCoy had a 22 inch waist.

On the roof of the house is the black wrought iron widow's watch. From this peek you can see 65 miles around. Bars are on some of the basement windows, just like the bank's windows next door.

"I guess they were so rich they just didn't want to be bothered," said Pemberton, about the Clouds.

Some of the more valuable things in the house are old books. One dated 1859 has beautiful sketches of birds and there is a Charles Dickens Sketchbook.

In the downstairs living room, which is now the children's section of the Public Library, is the most unique fireplace. The fireplace has a window in it, something, Pemberton said, can't be found too often. An expert from Washington, D.C., said the wood mantel is so thick with so many crevices that there must be a secret passageway in it somewhere, but no one can figure out how it opens up.

In what was originally a library, is now a Norwegian fireplace. It is made with bird's eye maple, named so because of the tiny black specks resembling bird's eyes in the wood. Mary McCoy's doll in its original clothing is enclosed in a glass case on the mantel.

A great link here McCoy Library - McLeansboro Site

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