1202 S. Fell is a farmhouse-style home built in 1872 for Kersey Fell, brother of Jesse Fell, using balloon construction. Kersey owned the area between what is now Virginia and Vernon avenues called the Kersey Fell Addition, with Kersey‘s home at the southeast corner of the plot. In 1872 it was rural property between Normal and Bloomington.
Kersey Fell arrived in Bloomington in 1836. He was a clerk with Covel and Gridley, who operated a general store. Fell wanted to become a lawyer, an ambition that was encouraged by Abraham Lincoln. He was admitted to the bar in 1841 and practiced law until 1856 when he gave it up and his focus shifted to buying and selling land. In 1856 at the famous “Lost Speech” convention in Bloomington, Fell nominated Lincoln for delegate to the National Convention at Philadelphia. Lincoln declined, citing poverty and Fell went instead. Fell is also credited with being the first person to nominate Lincoln for president.
Fell, along with his brother Jesse, were Quakers but were also leaders in organizing the local Unitarian Church. One of the earliest preachers for the church, the Rev. C. C. Burleigh, lived in Kersey Fell’s home.
In a 1925 Pantagraph article it was noted that Fell’s home “...was famed for its hospitality, while Mr. Fell was a man of courtly mien, gallant, and chivalrous and one of the finest types of citizenship”. The home was designated as a historic landmark in 2000.
The current owners purchased the Kersey Fell home in 2011 and have renovated many rooms including the kitchen, bathrooms and living room, which included removing the ceiling that had been lowered to restore the original height to the room. They also added built-in bookcases in the study that look like they were original. Previous owners converted the sleeping porch (behind the current kitchen) to a family room and added a basement below it. All of the renovations were done with an eye towards the history of this house and the original charm remains – hardwood floors, original trim, staircase and fireplace – much in the same condition as they were during the time that Kersey Fell and his family resided here.
Things you won’t want to miss:
The servant’s quarters in the back of the house which includes a pine floor that “steps down” where the other floors on that level are oak. This room originally had a spiral staircase that led up into the room from the first floor.
The pantry doors in the recently remodeled kitchen are ~150 years old and salvaged/imported from France.
Each window in the house was rebuilt to match the original style and materials, and most of these windows still have the original wavy glass that was in them.
Thank you for being an Old House Society member!
Special thanks to Old House Society President Quentin Rabideau and his wife Christie for hosting this bonus house for you to tour!