The Illinois State Fair was held in Springfield in 1853 and 1854 and then moved to other locations throughout the state. After much lobbying Springfield was chosen as its permanent home. The first State Fair at the current location was held in 1894. In the provided Illinois State Register articles and some minutes we found that in 1895, as part of a fundraising effort, the well-known King's Daughter's had secured space under the east stairway in the Exposition Building. They served fresh, nice lunches and coffee and ice cream. During this time, arrangements were made to board twenty-five or more persons at the home, providing them with breakfast and supper. There was a plea to the public for donations of provisions or money, or both. All persons were to send such items to the home, but money donations were to be paid to Mrs. E. W. Dana (otherwise known as Susan Laurence Dana of the now Dana Thomas House) at Fourth and Cook streets.
Picture the fair of 1895. The only remaining building you see today is the historic Exposition Building which was constructed in 1894. This was a time when Springfield had a population of 29,000 with twenty-one blacksmiths, four carriage makers, fourteen horse dealers and eight livery stables.
The other building present at that time which no longer exists was The Dome Building with walks or covered walkways leading to other Fair buildings. Its massive glass dome had been an outstanding feature at the Chicago World's Fair in 1892 and 1893. The building was admired for its great proportions and all enjoyed the fair attractions housed within it. It was moved to the State Fair Grounds in 1894 and until 1917 when it was destroyed by fire.
In a write up in 1948 done by Sylvia F. Graham, secretary, on the workings of the home, she tells that the board was constantly planning ways to make money. They housed State fair visitors using blankets loaned them by General Orendorff from the State Supply. Cots were placed in any available space to accommodate their State Fair Guests.
We found several ads in the Journal Register that week; Offering first class lodging this week at the King's Daughters Home at 6th and Black, or Good Board and Lodging at the King's Daughters Home.
From the historic standpoint of the home, realize they were doing all of this with the fair running from Monday, September 23 thru Saturday, September 28. On October 7, just 9 days later was the grand opening of the home. What an incredible feat to have 18 circles pull together, to renovate and prepare a home for aged women, do all of the fundraising to open the Home for Aged Women, as it was called then, with no debt, take in state fair visitors and feed them and run a food booth at the fair.
We were unable to find anything that gives us an idea of the success they had with this undertaking. However, it tells us of the dedication and incredible amount of work accomplished by this group of the hard working women in the early days of King’s Daughters
More information on the fair with thanks to the Mike Kienzler and the Sangamon County Historical Society can be found at this link. https://sangamoncountyhistory.org/wp/?p=1973 More articles and pictures can be found at http://www.statefairmuseum.org/History.html
Thanks to both Stephanie Martin with The Sangamon Valley Collection and the Illinois State Fairgrounds History Museum and Tom Fitch for many of the pictures.