March 16 2024, 10:00am

Reimagining Places of the Past Lecture Series

Reimagining Places of the Past Lecture Series

Hayner Genealogy Library

401 State Street
Alton, Illinois 62002

The Genealogy & Local History Library is partnering with Alton Area Landmarks Association (AALA) this winter to bring back their three-part Saturday lecture series in January, February, and March. AALA is dedicated to educating, promoting, and saving the architectural heritage of the Alton area. Feel free to register for one talk or all three! Seating is limited. Register at 1-800-613-3163.

Part 1: Freedom to Equality: Black History in the Riverbend with Jared Hennings
Genealogy & Local History Library
Saturday, January 20, 10:00 a.m.

In the first of these lectures, Jared Hennings will discuss Black history in the Riverbend area, including Alton’s significance on the Underground Railroad, abolitionists who fought against slavery, and local Civil Rights leaders. Hennings will mention Rocky Fork Church in Godfrey, the Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument at Alton Cemetery, Union Baptist Church, and other significant locations. He will also talk about notable Black Alton residents, such as Charles Newton, the first Black graduate of Alton High School in 1873; Scott Bibb, a former slave who battled for public school integration in Alton; Josephine Beckwith, who fought to secure equality for African-American youths and adults; and jazz great Miles Davis, who was born in Alton. Hennings will bring the historical figures to life with re-enactments, stories, and song.

Jared has been a character reenactor for a number of years with Vintage Voices at the Alton Cemetery beginning in 2004. He’s had similar performing experiences with the Madison County Historical Society - Chautauqua in 2018 & 2019. He’s acted at Alton Little Theatre in ‘Fences’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ‘Driving Ms. Daisy,’ ‘The Full Monty,’ and ‘Gee’s Bend.’ He’s performed with touring companies of the Black Rep and Historyonics Theatre Co. with the Missouri History Museum.

Note: The Riverbend is part of the National Park Service’s “Network to Freedom” passport program. A passport stamp honors Underground Railroad sites in Alton and Godfrey. Passport holders can have their passports stamped at the Alton Visitor Center or the Hayner Genealogy & Local History Library.


Part 2: Abraham Lincoln in Alton with Tom Emery
Genealogy & Local History Library
Saturday, February 17, 10:00 a.m.

Author Tom Emery of Carlinville will discuss Abraham Lincoln’s relationship with the Riverbend. Lincoln played a key role in the economic development of Alton with his staunch support of railroads to the city, and he was involved in several fascinating legal cases in the area, including one with a New York actress who fell into an open cellar door on an Alton sidewalk. There are also many connections of Lincoln to Shurtleff College, a fixture in Upper Alton for decades, the Alton prison, and Elijah and Owen Lovejoy. Lincoln’s appearances in Alton, his professional and personal relationships, and the city’s importance in his political career are covered in Emery’s book, Lincoln in Alton, which earned the Certificate of Excellence from the Illinois State Historical Society in 2021.

Tom Emery is a critically acclaimed freelance writer and historical researcher. Emery has compiled more than 40 book and booklet titles on an array of historical topics. Articles with his byline have appeared in over 150 newspapers across the United States including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Omaha World-Herald, Chicago Daily Herald, and many more.

To accompany the “Abraham Lincoln in Alton” lecture, on Saturday, February 17 from 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., the Lincoln letter to Simeon Ryder owned by Hayner Library will be on display in the Genealogy & Local History Library (a facsimile of the letter is on view at all times). Please see the article on the letter elsewhere in this newsletter for more details.


Part 3: The Gateway Arch: An Illustrated Timeline with John C. Guenther
Saturday, March 16, 10:00 a.m.

The Hayner Public Library District – Genealogy & Local History Library welcomes author, architect, and historian John C. Guenther to discuss his new book, The Gateway Arch: An Illustrated Timeline.

The book takes a chronological look at the historical foundations of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, beginning in 1699 with the Louisiana Territory, with 90 historical events which led to the realization of the Gateway Arch and the latest refinements to the memorial grounds and new museum.

As Guenther writes in the book’s Introduction: “As impressive as the Gateway Arch is, the story of how this monument came to be is equally remarkable. This book seeks to “connect the dots” of history, illustrating key points in time which led to the creation of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and the Gateway Arch. Within this context, the reader may better understand and appreciate the importance of this site, the historical events that shaped our nation, region, Missouri, and St. Louis across time, and how the Memorial and Gateway Arch grew out of these events, honoring, celebrating, and raising our awareness of them.”

Architect John C. Guenther, FAIA, LEED AP holds a fellowship in the American Institute of Architects for notable contributions to the advancement of the profession of architecture in design and was a lecturer in the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, where he co-founded and taught Mid-Century Modernism in St. Louis 1930–1970. John serves as president of the Society of Architectural Historians–St. Louis Chapter. He wrote “Missouri’s Architectural Treasures,” published by Missouri Life Magazine; “25 Must-See Buildings in Missouri” for USA TODAY; and the introduction to The Lost St. Louis Riverfront 1930-1943, which documents the historic riverfront architecture removed in anticipation of Gateway Arch National Park.

Upcoming Dates

  • Saturday, March 16 2024

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