Frances Willard House

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1730 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL 60201, United States
Cooksville , Illinois

Frances Willard House was the home of Frances Willard and her family and was the longtime headquarters of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Willard called the house Rest Cottage because it became a place for her to rest in between her tours and WCTU activities.


Frances Willard was born in 1839 in Churchville, New York. When she was two, her family moved to Oberlin, Ohio, a town recently founded by ministers who wanted to build a community with strong Christian morals. When she was 18, Willard moved with her family to Evanston, Illinois to attend the Northwestern Female College. She spent the next sixteen years of her life as an educator at a variety of institutions across the county. In 1865, her father Josiah, who stayed in Evanston, built a house, which remains as the southern portion of the current structure. Frances Willard returned to Evanston and moved in with her father in 1871 when she accepted a position as Dean of the Women's College at Northwestern. Unhappy with the role of women at the university, and frequently at odds with University President Charles Henry Fowler, Willard resigned three years later.

Willar's resignation prompted a change in her life. She resumed her position as a travelling educator, but began to focus on the study of temperance. In the summer of 1874, Willard travelled around the East Coast to meet with other temperance advocates. She also became a noted public speaker on the virtue. Returning to Evanston, she helped to found the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and was elected its first corresponding secretary and first president of the Chicago chapter.


The original 1865 house was probably based on a pattern book. It was an L-shaped building with vertical board and batten siding. The 1878 addition was consistent with the architectural form of the house but greatly expanded it. Proceeds from the sale of Willard's autobiography were used to add large bay windows on the main facade around 1890. Willard made another addition in 1893.

The two-story house is in the Carpenter Gothic style. It is painted pearl grey and has white trim. The front of the house has two columned porches. Three small porches lead to other entrances, and the second floor has a balcony on the rear. The three gables on the main facade have decorative trim and a turned finial in the center. There are seventeen rooms in the house, most with oak and walnut flooring.

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