The Hobbs Building is (or was?), in my opinion the most beautiful building downtown Aurora. I was so devastated when I drove by one day and discovered that the gorgeous onion dome was gone (I read it was even more beautiful back in the days, made out of copper). I know it’s considered Romanesque Revival, which might explain why I love it so much. It might remind me of the beautiful old buildings that I love in Europe.
At first I thought Henry Hobson Richardson, a very famous architect would have designed it, but that’s impossible, since he passed away in 1886. I thought that might explain the name Hobbs Building, but I was wrong! I found out that A.J. Hobbs owned a furniture store inside the Hobbs building from 1892 until 1926, when Mr. Hobbs passed away.
The Hobbs building was built in 1892, and used as a furniture store and loft building. To my surprise, they also were undertakers. I never knew this, but there used to be more business that made furniture and coffins.
However, in more urban locations, upon the death of a family member, local furniture makers would be called upon to undertake difficult and emotional tasks for the family when handling a death. Because these skilled tradesmen were pioneers who moved into areas needing furniture, they also undertook the task of preparing the dead by constructing caskets.
These early furniture makers, who often hung out a shingle that read Furniture Maker and Undertaker would be called upon by a family to measure the deceased, and further fashion a six-board coffin for which the body would be laid out in for a one-night vigil that gave family and friends a chance to pay respects. The purpose for the one to three day vigil gave the deceased a chance to awake from a coma or show indications of life. Within 24-48 hours of death, the coffin would be carried to the village burial ground and interred in a final resting place. ~ link to article.
The architect of the Hobbs building was Minott (he also designed the Aurora Fire Station at 51 N. Broadway, the German M.E. Church at 523-525 E. Downer Place, the Quereau residence at 419 S. Fourth Street, the Judson residence at 460 W. Galena, and the Rice residence at 461 W. Downer Place).
J. E. Minott was a carpenter and an architect. He was born on June 20, 1849 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He passed away On November 19, 1920 in Aurora, Illinois. Mr. Minott was orphaned as a young teen. Nobody knows where he learned his architectural skills.
After A.J. Hobbs passed away, the store got taken over by Simons Furniture and Rug Company from 1927 till 1932. Then Main Furniture took over until 1938. J&R Motor Supply (a totally different kind of business) was in the building from 1938 until the 1940s. In 1952 A. Beverly Crosby opened Crosby’s Sport Shop in the Hobbs building. It stayed open until 1983. In the late 80’s there was a tool outlet shortly and after that it has been vacant.
Ever since I’ve lived in the area, I had a vision of it becoming an art museum for kids (and their parents), kind of like the City Museum in St. Louis. That would be so cool! There are a lot of artists in Aurora and this building is on a good spot downtown as well. It would eventually earn the money back and it would definitely make Aurora more lively and way cooler for kids (and their parents).
I am not so sure about the inside of the building though, it probably needs a lot of work. I’ve seen ladders in there ever since I drove passed it starting at about 5 years ago.
In an article of the Beacon-News, written by Steve Lord, I finally found out who owns the building: the City of Aurora. That’s great news, at least someone is finally taking care of it (please Mayor Richard C. Irvin, could you make my dream for the building come true?)
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