EDWARDSVILLE — When the Col. Benjamin Stephenson House was first built in Edwardsville more than 200 years ago, it’s likely there were gatherings of friends and family to enjoy food, drinks and music as a way to wrap up the summer and prepare for the hard work of fall harvests.
So it’s only fitting the house’s Friends organization hosted a fundraiser at the home on a sunny September Saturday, offering a glimpse back to celebrations at the historic home.
Ben’s Bluegrass, BBQ and Beer Bash took place Saturday, Sept. 10. The fundraiser, coordinated by Friends board members Joe Galbraith and Liz Edwards, featured barbecue provided by Doc’s Smokehouse of Edwardsville, beer and ale from Recess Brewery, and bluegrass tunes performed by Keith Dudding and The Mountain River Valley Boys. Attendees gathered under a tent and on the house’s outdoor patio to listen to music, eat food, and, most importantly, enjoy the fellowship of others.
Some visitors even took on the personae of residents of 200 years ago, putting away cellphones and technology to entertain themselves in simpler ways. A group of young girls engaged in a card game. Children played tag in the side yard. A couple sat listening to the music, spooling yarn and knitting. And Angela Otto, a volunteer at the house for 10 years, donned a period dress made by her mother while she worked on her needlepoint sampler. It took on the flavor of what a similar gathering might have been in Edwardsville some 200 years ago.
“We hope that it continues for many years,” co-chair Joe Galbraith said of the second-year fundraising event. “We are looking at changing it somewhat next year by starting a little earlier in the day and continuing until the evening hours. That would allow us to invite more bands, including maybe local children’s bands, to fill the day.”
Funds raised from the event, as with all benefits of the Friends group, provide support of the programming and maintenance of the home.
The house has welcomed visitors since 2006 after a group of interested Edwardsville citizens, the late state Sen. Evelyn Bowles and the city of Edwardsville joined forces to secure funding to restore the building, 409 S. Buchanan St. in Edwardsville. The house and grounds are continuously undergoing restoration projects to return the home to its original grandeur as built by Stephenson more than two centuries ago. They welcome tourists Thursdays through Sundays to share in a piece of history.
“The support of the community is important to us,” Galbraith said. “I especially want to thank Jane at the Dairy Queen across the street. She is always willing to step up and provide us with additional parking to make events like this possible.”
The next major fundraiser for the Stephenson House will be the annual 50/50 Antique Auction from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2. The auction features items under consignment and donated to the Friends group. Proceeds fund the programming and restoration of this piece of Edwardsville and Illinois history.