The History of the Bushnell Wheeler Home & South Beloit
In 1850 Professor Jackson Bushnell of Beloit College began investing in real estate. He admired the view of the bluff south of Turtle Creek and purchased the land.
In 1856, Reverend Alexander Montgomery, the agent for the American Board of Foreign Missions, purchased the five acres on which the house stands to build a retirement home for missionaries. The home was completed and he lived there for three years before dying in 1860.
The property was deeded over to the Bushnell Family and Jackson Bushnell lived there until his death in 1873.
Bushnell’s family occupied the home until 1883 when it was sold to Leonard Wheeler and his son William.
Wheeler was founder of the Eclipse Windmill Company, later to become Fairbanks Morse Corporation.
Wheeler lived in the home into the 1890’s.
The house was then sold to the Amends, who in turn sold it to the Benjamin Hoffman family. The Hoffmans at that time owned The Butterfly Club and lived in the home until the 1930’s.
The house was purchased by the C.E.F. Scheibel family in 1936.
Scheibel converted it into a rooming house and it remained as such until the early 1980’s.
The house then stood vacant and in disrepair.
In 1985, Mrs. Scheibel sold the property to the city of South Beloit, IL.
Several small structures surrounding the home were torn down and the city considered demolition of the house.
Local businessman Mac McCleary stepped forward and financed the addition of a new roof and several other structural repars.
In 1991, at the urging of local citizens, the South Beloit City Council formed a Historical Sites Committee to explore their options with the home.
Out of this committee was born the South Beloit Historical Society which purchased the property for back taxes.
With volunteer labor from the society, members, and support from city tourism funds, interior restoration began immediately.
By the summer of 1992, during the 75th anniversary of the city, the home was first opened to the public.
Restoration continued with volunteers doing the bulk of the work.
By 1997, the main floor was completed.
In 1999, the second floor was furnished and includes a museum of local memorabilia and pictures.
In addition to being the home of the South Beloit Historical Society and a local history museum, the home serves as a public meeting facility.
Society members continue the restoration and maintenance of the home and grounds.
In 1999, the home was officially named the Bushnell Wheeler House in honor of two of its early historical resident families.