Originally erected in 1874, the Eagle Block Building served as the headquarters for a plethora of businesses, and social activity. Some of the more popular recollections are: the American Dairy Association, the Strother Brothers’ Barber Shops, El Paso’s First Library Room, The Telephone Company, First National Bank, El Paso City Hall, and The City’s Opera House. Today the building currently houses four local businesses: Can Do Kids International, Heirloom Photography, The Legacy Opera House, and Virginia Lee’s, a home decorating business.
THE GREAT FIRE
Along with most of Front Street, the old Bank building was destroyed by fire in 1894. No papers or books of any importance were lost or injured. The vault stood the test and came through in excellent shape- the nickel trimmings on the safe not even being tarnished. The new building was at once commenced and was finished in the winter of 1895.
The accompanying cut is a fine representation of the building that was the pride of El Paso, and a landmark of distinction in Central Illinois from 1872 until destroyed by fire in July 1894. It was erected by Shur, Tompkins & Co., bankers, at a cost of $60,000. It consisted of three store fronts and the corner front, which has been used as a bank and was three stories high, with a fine basement. On its completion the city of El Paso and the Masonic bodies, per agreement made with the banking firm, took a portion of the second and third stories, the city fitting up its portion as a city hall and the Masonic bodies for lodge purposes. The first enterprises occupying the handsome structure were:
Shur, Tompkins & Co., bank; C. P. Frazier & Co., dry goods; H. Tobias & Son, groceries; Delos O'Brien, hardware; Harper & Cassell, law offices, two rooms; M. H. Patton, dentist; Journal Office, Gersh Martin, editor; D. A. Strother, barber shop; City hall, Masonic hall.
Those occupying the building when it burned were: First National bank; S. H. North, implements; H. G. McCord, groceries; J. H. Strathman, furniture; J. I. Kerr, office; ladies library; City hall and council room; Masonic bodies; D. A. Strother, barber; Journal Co.; J. W. Parkinson, veterinary office; W. O. Cotton, restaurant.
FAMOUS VISITORS TO EL PASO &
LEGACY'S FIRST NATIONAL BANK
WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN, orator, political leader and Secretary of State in Wilson's cabinet, lectured at the Grand Opera House, Wednesday, February 8, 1905. His subject: "The Value of an Ideal." He stayed that night at the Campbell House.
BLIND BOONE, sightless Negro concert pianist with a phenomenal musical memory, visited the McKinley School and played a concert in the Grand Opera House about 1906.
SAMUEL L. CLEMENS, better known as MARK TWAIN, stopped at the Campbell House the night of January 12, 1869, while on a lecture tour. He was simply resting up here and changing trains, but he sat up late that night and wrote a lengthy love letter to his girl Livvy in New York. It was published in the Atlantic Monthly for November, 1947 on pages 37-38, including the El Paso dateline.
JAMES M. COX, campaigning for president in 1920, halted his train here for twenty minutes and made a rear platform address at the railroad crossing. His running mate, a little known politician named Franklin D. Roosevelt, did not accompany Mr. Cox.
GEORGE CRAIG, former governor of Indiana, 1953-57, was a speaker at an annual Community-Legion banquet just prior to his election as national commander of the American Legion. No less than nine national commanders have addressed these dinners during their terms of office: Ossie Lee Bodenhamer, 1930; Edward A. Hayes, 1934; Ray Murphy, 1936; Harry W. Colmery, 1937; Daniel J. Doherty, 1938; Stephen F. Chadwick, 1939; Raymond J. Kelly, 1940; James F. O’Neil, 1948, and Lewis K. Gough in 1953.
ULYSSES S. GRANT, touring the nation after his round the world trip, held a reception at the Campbell House on Monday, April 19, 1880, after which he departed on the Illinois Central for Bloomington.
FLEET ADMIRAL WILLIAM F. HALSEY, JR., late in World War II the fighting commander of the greatest naval force ever assembled, and upon whose flagship Missouri the Japanese signed their surrender document, visited El Paso the afternoon of March 9, 1950, and was guest speaker at El Paso Post's Community-Legion banquet that evening in the high school gymnasium. He spoke on the navy's need for aircraft carriers and a well-balanced defense.
ROBERT G. INGERSOLL, colonel in the Civil War, noted Peoria lawyer and agnostic, was often in El Paso on legal business while a law partner in the firm of Harper, Ingersoll & Cassell.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN changed cars here the day after his Freeport debate with Douglas, August 28, 1858, and was at the depot and the Chlopicki restaurant for an hour and fifty minutes, changing cars to go to Peoria. He was again in town with his family on a special Illinois Central train in July, 1859, inspecting the yards and the railroad's property here.
CHARLES F. LUMMIS, "super-pedestrian" came along the T. P. & W. on one of his transcontinental walking trips in September 1884. The boys met him east of town and dog-trotted beside him until he had passed El Paso on his way to Los Angeles. To rest, he walked backwards, and traveled in that manner about as fast as others walking in the regular manner.
MAJOR GENERAL JOHN A. LOGAN stopped at the Campbell House on October 6, 1872 during a senatorial campaign. He made a political speech in a wigwam, or wooden building, which stood where the V. F. W. building is today.
MAJOR GENERAL GEORGE B. McCLELLAN was here upon several occasions before he became famous. He was an operating engineer and a vice-president of the Illinois Central railroad prior to the Civil War. His final visit here was on March 23, 1859, in company with Richard Cobden. (See Chapter on Ludwik Chlopicki.)
CARRIE NATION lectured at the Grand Opera House during one of her lecture tours following her smashing of Kansas saloons with her hatchet. It was about 1906.
JOHN L. SULLIVAN, the world's heavyweight boxing champ at that time, changed cars sometime around 1890 at the Campbell House, where he shook hands with a number of El Paso citizens.
OLIN F. STOCKWELL, Methodist Missionary for twenty years in China, who was taken by the Chinese Reds in late 1950 and imprisoned for almost two years, fourteen months in solitary confinement, addressed a packed audience in the Methodist Church on July 5, 1953. His subject was the same as the name of the book he wrote on the margins of a bible while imprisoned, With God in Red China.
ROBERT VOGELER, International Telephone and Telegraph Company vice-president who was arrested by the Hungarian Communist Government and imprisoned in Budapest for 527 days, visited and held a press conference in El Paso the afternoon of March 25, 1952. That evening he spoke at the Community-Legion banquet on his experiences and present beliefs, outlined from his book, I Was a Prisoner of Stalin.