building which houses the Labor & Industry Museum has four building dates
beginning with 1837. Conrad Bornman, believed to be the first German immigrant
to Belleville, purchased the lot at the intersection of North Church and
East B Streets in 1837.
Museum building, located at 123 North Church St. in Belleville,
was originally built in 1837 and expanded in 1870 and 1913.
1881 History of St. Clair County relates that Conrad Bornman a blacksmith
and strawberry farmer who became interested in brick making and the art
of bricklaying, and a fellow blacksmith named Small, were the first German
immigrants to Belleville. They were the vanguard of the largest German
migration to the State of Illinois, and they and their fellow Germans
contributed greatly to the 1830’s building boom and to the foundry/industrial
“Gilded Age” of Belleville and the Belleville area.
1837, Conrad Bornman was 20 years old and had lived in the new world for
19 years. In that year, he built a house at 123 N. Church St. in the town
of Belleville - two blocks from the Public Square. It is now the home
of the Labor and Industry Museum.
it was boarded up and slated for demolition in 1995, the Historic Preservation
Commission noted that it was the last remaining German Street House in
the original town of Belleville as platted in 1814.
and Elizabeth Bornman
box lid from Charles Beck's factory
built his 2-˝-room house in the classical severity of the “Klassizimus”
Style popular in Germany in the 1830’s and 1840’s . The brick street house
is 1-˝ stories, with gabled side walls and a cornice of brickwork across
the front. The original entry was a single door with sidelights and a
transom overhead to catch the summer breezes. The windows are evenly spaced,
and the wood lintels are original to the building. The interior of the
house has log lintels with the bark still on them. There is a trap door
to the cellar, worn pine thresholds and the original stairway and floors.
sold his street house to Charles Born in 1840. Born had emigrated from
Germany in 1839 and was a shoemaker by trade -- the 1860 Street Directory
lists Born Boot & Shoe Dealer in the first block of N. High St. He also
served as a city alderman and city marshal.
Bornman, Born changed careers and opened a machine shop with two of his
sons, John Charles and William F. They lived and worked at 123 N. Church
St., and the original house was expanded twice before they built a new
machine shop at 222 East B St. in 1885. John Charles was the patent holder
of six inventions of steam pumps, polishing lathes, and grinders. Charles
Born died in 1896, and in 1920 J.C. Born Machine Co. was sold to Columbia
Two of John Charles Born's six inventions. The machine on the left
is a steam engine. On the right is a grinder.
1913, the Born family sold the North Church Street building to Charles
Beck, who expanded it to house his cigar and tobacco manufactory.
Beck (1867-1933) learned cigar making from Louis Kaemper, a cigar maker
at 228 E. Main St. By 1901, Beck had his own shop at 208-210 W. Main St.
According to his grandson, Beck fashioned all the equipment used in making
cigars, chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco, including a stripping machine,
humidor and oven. The giant zinc-lined oven remains in the basement of
the museum. The last cigar was made in the building in 1957.
was active in the affairs of the Cigar Maker’s Union and served as its
vice president. He was instrumental in the formation of the Belleville
Trades and Labor Assembly in 1891 and served as that organization’s first
son, Sonny, closed the cigar business in 1957, and the building was sold
to Everett E. Sakasko, who operated Ed’s TV Repair Service. Sakasko’s
wife, Geraldine, was the proprietor of the “The Lady Orchid” Beauty Salon.
1995, the N. Church St. building was purchased by the East-West Gateway
Coordinating Council, and the property was to be demolished to provide
parking for the St. Clair County Transit District. However, with the cooperation
of City and County Government and the Historic Preservation Commission,
the City of Belleville Planning Department was given six months to find
a use for the building.
Belleville did not have a visitors center at that time, the city determined
that that would be a good use for the building, and funds were garnered
from Downtown Development & Redevelopment, Belleville Tourism, and the
Historic Preservation Commission to purchase the building from the Transit
District. Additionally, funds would be raised from the public and private
sector to restore the building and house a Labor & Industry Museum. The
museum would center on Belleville’s Gilded Age, 1865 - 1929.
1998, an official board was formed to restore the building and develop
the museum. The restored building was dedicated December 2000. Almost
1,400 people attended the Grand Opening August 10, 2002.
sidewalk stones outside 123 N. Church Street commemorate important
dates in the building's history and honor many associations
and individuals involved with the area's labor movement.
about the Building Renovation Project
by Judy Belleville, Collections Coordinator