The Jacob Henry Mansion’s striking red exterior, ornate white trim, and slate roof is a stunning example of Renaissance Revival architecture, the finest in Illinois by some estimations.
Built in 1873 by Jacob A. Henry, the mansion interior is 16,800 square feet, with over 40 rooms constructed of black walnut and oak. The foyer features a hand-carved, walnut staircase.
In 1976, the mansion won the Architecture Award at the American Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia.
Jacob A. Henry was born in New Jersey in 1825 and became employed with the Hartford & New Haven Railroad at the age of 17. Just four years later, he moved to the Midwest to secure railroad construction contracts there.
In 1858, he moved to Joliet, Illinois and became the road master of the Chicago & Alton Railroad. After a brief sojourn in Texas, he returned to Joliet and invested in several businesses, including a streetcar company, insurance company, bank, and opera house.
His mansion cost $70,000, which would be approximately $1.373 million today. It was an elegant addition to “Silk Stocking Row,” home to several prominent families.
Jacob died in 1908, and his heirs lost the estate in the Great Depression. Ken and Carol Pritz bought the mansion in 1985, at a time when the city was considering demolishing it, restored it, and opened it for tours and private events.
The Central Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Richards Street and First Avenue, is a Victorian Gothic style church today considered part of the Jacob Henry Estate. Its bell dates from the 1850s.
The Jacob Henry Mansion Estate is located at 20 S. Eastern Avenue, off E. Washington Street, in Joliet, Illinois. Previously open for tours, it now caters to weddings, dinners, and other special events.