By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
Anna E. Brown's 137-year-old home was poised to make a comeback before it was reduced to rubble in a spectacular blaze that drew hundreds of onlookers Thursday.
"It's a shame. It was a nice, historic property. The previous developer ran out of cash and then got himself into financial problems" before it was sold to an Adams County couple committed to restoring the building, said City Planner Chuck Bevelheimer.
The 135-year-old building was one of Quincy's grandest homes when it was erected circa 1875 at the northwest corner of Fifth and Maple. Anna Brown had been widowed by Charles Brown in 1868. She built the three-story brick house and lived there until her death on October 22, 1893.
"In her will she provided for the establishment of a home for the aged, to which she devised her home at Fifth and Maple streets and endowed it with interest bearing securities worth $55,000, thus was founded the Anna Brown Home for the Aged," according to the Transaction of the Illinois State Historical Society for the Year of 1915.
A history of Quincy and Adams County by David F. Wilcox indicates the home opened in January 1898. The Anna Brown Home merged with the Good Samaritan Home on Sept. 1, 1970.
The home later was owned by a series of developers who operated apartments and became vacant when it deteriorated.
Bevelheimer said an out-of-state developer who bought the house a few years ago set high goals before running into financial trouble.
"My recollection is that he spent about a half million dollars on it, but wasn't even close to being done with it. He put in windows and doors and had concrete poured," Bevelheimer said.
At some point the developer ran out of money and was put on notice by the city that it needed to be secured. City crews cut the grass when it became an eyesore and liens were put on the property. That owner eventually went into bankruptcy.
Toni and Neal Hemming bought the building in December and planned to create apartments.
"It had 26 units the last time it was occupied," Toni Hemming said.
"We were going to put five units per floor (on the original house) and four units on the north structure."
The Hemmings said they still hope to salvage a small part of the project if the north building is found to be structurally sound.
Shanna Willis who lives at the corner of Fourth and Maple said she was raised in the neighborhood and the building was a fixture. She and her sister used to roller skate through the halls of the building when they were younger and had relatives living in the apartments.
She had been looking forward to seeing new life in the building.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The age of the building has been updated from a previous story.