Lindbergh, Lovejoy, Wadlow, Hayner, Haskell.
Alton's past has housed its fair share of nationally and locally prominent men and witnessed the events of their lives that define our community. The list is not comprehensive and could be amended to include many more, but these names most aptly describe our past for us and for those that seek to know us. We have honored these men with monuments and statues. We have named some of our important buildings after them, and we have preserved their legacies with stories, markers and the preservation of their places.
One of the many places we have kept is Lucy Haskell's Playhouse. Lucy was born to prominent Alton parents, Dr. William and Mrs. Florence Hayner Haskell. Her grandfather John Hayner had local architect Lucas Pfeiffenberger design a playhouse for his young granddaughter. According to the Illinois State Historical marker, the playhouse was built in Queen Anne style in 1885 when Lucy was 5 years old. Four years later little Lucy died of diphtheria. When her mother died in 1932, the estate was given to the city of Alton, and the playhouse was preserved in Lucy's memory.
It's not very often that a little girl is given a place to play where she can be the doll in her own dollhouse. It's unique and it highlights pieces of the past, from the well-known names involved in the building to the telling, medical tragedy of her youthful demise. Lucy's voice can be heard in her playhouse, and it's the voice of many children from her or any era. It's the voice of innocence and one that needs protection.
One of the more unfortunate aspects of historical preservation is the gender, racial and age bias that accompanies it. Men seem to dominate the field of history and historiography, and while there is nothing wrong with honoring their personage, achievements, and events, the complete story of our past can never be told if requisite attention is not given to all. Preserving Lucy's Playhouse not only allows our community to ensure a unique and truly Altonian place remains intact for the foreseeable future, but also permits us to push beyond the partiality of traditional historical preservation by honoring a young lady's legacy in the same way her grandfather honored her youth by building her a place to play.