|The Ballance-Herschel House|
In 1979, the Junior League of Peoria purchased the Ballance-Herschel House, located at 256 N.E. Randolph, with the goal of restoring it to its original appearance. The Ballance-Herschel House serves as the headquarters for the League. In addition, it serves as a visible statement in support of historic preservation.
The house was built in 1888 by Willis H. Ballance, Sr. Willis was the son of Col. Charles Ballance, a pioneer Peorian, who settled here in 1831 to practice law. Col. Charles Ballance was very active in civic affairs as he equipped an Illinois regiment during the Civil War, served as mayor of Peoria in 1855, and published a history of Peoria in 1870.
Willis Ballance, Sr. was owner of Gipps Brewing Company, which stood on the corner of Water and Franklin Streets. Willis and his wife Augusta raised their seven children in this home. Upon Willis Ballance's death in 1913, the house was sold to Paul E. Herschel, Sr. of the Herschel Manufacturing Company, makers of agricultural implements. Herschel was born in 1866 in Germany and emigrated to Chicago at age 14, joining two of his brothers. The three brothers moved to Peoria and founded the Herschel Company. Prior to the purchase by the Junior League, the house was still in the Herschel family.
The architect for the Ballance-Herschel House was Warren H. Milner, designer of several homes in the historic Randolph-Roanoke District. The exterior style of the house is Queen Anne with Romanesque detailing seen in the cut stone arch over the front window and the terra cotta inset on the chimney. The interior of the house is of the Eastlake period. This house provides a historic link between the Victorian Morron House, built in 1863, and the prairie style architecture of the Francis W. Little House, a Frank Lloyd Wright design, built in 1902.
Over a period of seven years the League’s restoration objectives were three fold: authentic restoration for the first floor, adaptive restoration for the second floor, and rehabilitation for the third floor ballroom.
The first floor has been restored to its original state, which included period stenciling found when ceiling canvas was removed and duplicated from the design. Original paint colors were applied as determined by stripping down to the bottom layer of paint. The furniture and accessories on the first floor are of the Eastlake period as well as other styles which would have been used in the late 1800's.
The second floor has been redone with reproduction period wallpaper and paint colors that are reflective of the period. This floor serves the League with office space and meeting rooms.
The third floor ballroom has been divided into a large meeting room that will accommodate fifty people, a working kitchen, a sitting area, lavatory facilities, and three storage areas. The cabinets in the kitchen were copied from the design of original ones in the first floor kitchen and the third floor furnishings are complementary to the period.
The exterior of the house has also undergone structural and decorative renovation. An outside exit form the third floor located at the rear of the house was added; the foundation and bricks were totally tuck pointed; repairs have been made to porches, roof, and siding; and the entire house has been painted. The colors used were original to the house. The League members have been involved in every aspect of the restoration of this home.
The League has researched the history of the Ballances', extensively studied the Eastlake period of interior design, and has been completely immersed in all phases of the physical labor from the strenuous job of tearing out and removing plaster to the artistic stenciling of the walls and ceilings.
The Junior League of Peoria is truly proud to have been involved in the preservation of a part of Peoria's past.