Visitors Guide to
State Historic Site
4230 Kaskaskia Street
Ellis Grove, Illinois
Sitting at the base of Garrison Hill
Bluff, almost directly below Fort Kaskaskia, The Pierre Menard Home is one
of the finest examples of Southern French Colonial architecture in the
middle Mississippi River Valley. Pierre Menard, a French Canadian fur
trapper and entrepreneur, began construction on this post-on-sill home in
1800 in the manner that most homes in the area were built, with hand-hewn
timbers laid on the foundation (sills) and vertical studs mortised and
tenoned into the sills. Local sandstone and limestone was used for the
foundation, walks, and walls. Native woods used for the frame construction
and finishing included oak, walnut, ash, cypress, and poplar. The home was
built in a pecan grove and when the home was built it was at the edge of
Kaskaskia village. Floods and erosion forced Kaskaskia to move and the
Menard Home is all that is left of the original village that was once the
first State Capitol of Illinois.
rooms in the home are all large, with high ceilings and consist of an
entry hall, a parlor where Menard entertained many notable politicians and
businessmen, a dining room, bedrooms, and servants quarters. The kitchen,
made of three wooden walls and one stone wall that holds a large oven, is
directly behind the main building connected by a stone walkway, which was
common for the period due to the fear of fire. The springhouse to the
north was used as a source of fresh water and for refrigeration and
storage. Other buildings include a carriage house and a smokehouse. Field
slaves lived in small cabins at the foot of the bluff, and have decayed
over the years with nothing visibly remaining. The home has been furnished
with period items, many from the Menard family itself, to give the visitor
the sense of the upper class French-American lifestyle of the early 19th
Menard (1766-1844) was born in Quebec and left school at the age of
fifteen signing on with a trading expedition to explore the vast Illinois
Territory. In 1791, Menard moved to Kaskaskia and by the age of 30 had
become a prosperous merchant, fur buyer and trader. He was active in
political affairs and held many political offices including regimental
Major, judge, and delegate to the Indiana Territory Legislature. In 1812,
he was elected president of the first Illinois territorial legislature and
was selected to write the constitution for the new State of Illinois. In
1813 he became the State's first Lieutenant Governor after the
constitution was amended to allow the foreign born Menard to hold office.
At the end of his term as Lieutenant Governor, Menard returned to his home
at Kaskaskia where entertained, attended to his business matters, and
helped in dealings with the Indians. He is also remembered for his work in
dispensing aid to the poor.
The Pierre Menard Home State
Historic Site is operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Society. An
audio-visual program and museum are located in the lower level of the
home. The main level of the home is handicapped accessible.
Visiting the Pierre Menard
Home State Historic Site
Wednesday - Sunday: 9 am to 5 pm
Closed on Major
The home will be locked. Visitors need to find the staff on grounds or at
the visitor center located in the basement to
visit the interior.
There is no charge to visit the Pierre Menard
Home State Historic Site, although donations are appreciated.
Directions: The Pierre Menard Home is located 6 miles north
of Chester, Illinois off of IL-3. Turn west on Fort Kaskaskia Road and go
2 miles and go past the Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site entrance to
Kaskaskia Street (IL-6) and turn right to reach the Pierre Menard Home.
N 37° 57.669'
W 89° 54.403'
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