Nestled between Peoria's picturesque West Bluff and energetic Main Street, High Street offers its residents and visitors a vibrant and elegant slice of historical significance. From the mammoth Easton house (now Converse Marketing) gracing the entrance to the renovated Greenhut mansion (now Bobbitt's Historical Quarters) at the foot, the magic of High Street has survived the years and resonates today.
Once dubbed "High Wine Avenue," High Street housed many of the original Peoria whiskey barons, including Joseph Greenhut, president and founder of The Distillers and Cattle Feeders Company. In the mid-1880's, an era before income tax, fortunes were spent on homes, massive legacies that still stand today. The expanse of Peoria's whisky riches is showcased in the diverse and ornate architecture of High Street.
During this golden age of Peoria history, the city established itself as the distillery capital of the world; High Street housed the city's exclusive nouveau riche, the properties offering both seclusion and breathtaking views. Each owner hired the services of individual architects, and thus High Street boasts styles ranging from Georgian and Gothic Revival, to Queen Anne and Flemish Revival. This combination of porticos, cupolas, latticework, leaded windows, and arches creates an eclectic presence unique to High Street.
Today High Street is home to artists, writers, politicians and families interested in living a piece of history. Many of the mansions have been restructured into apartments, and few single-family houses remain. A restoration revival swept the street in the late 1980's and early 1990's when owners began working with the city to uphold historical standards in the renovations.
On any summer day, visitors stroll the street, taking in the majestic homes and lush landscaping. Trolleys and tour buses creep along while tourists snap photos. Children and lovers alike hide within the limbs of the ancient oak tree at Giant Oak Park. Once the most exclusive residential street in Peoria, High Street continues to give citizens a taste of Peoria's past.
Located in the High Wine District across from Giant Oak Park, this Colonial Revival home was built around the turn of the century. On the ridge of the Illinois River, it overlooks downtown Peoria and the University of Illinois Medical Campus.
In the 1890's, a railroad agent and the treasurer of a local industry lived in the house. Later, the home was a boarding house and a halfway house for some years. It is reputed to be occupied by a ghost. The home was restored near its 100 year anniversary by Jack and Cathy Empson. Renovation was continued by the current owners, Beth Ruyle and Craig Hullinger in 2006.
The existing, original slate roof is moderately pitched and hipped, with a ridge. Classic one story fluted columns support the full length porch. Brick walls are edged with quoins. The interior boasts extensive stained woodwork and marble floors.