The Cornerstone History
In 1887, members of the congregation of the Second Presbyterian Church in Peoria elected to build a new facility, not to exceed $40,000. Over $27,000 was pledged before work began in 1888 when architect W.W. Boyington, the designer of Chicago's Water Tower, was contracted to design the new building. Although the costs eventually exceeded the $40,000, Mrs. Elizabeth Griswold gave a generous donation which allowed the structure to be completed as originally designed.
By April 30, 1889, the 12,000 square foot church was completed. Boyington's design reflected Richardson Romanesque Revival architecture, featuring rusticated stone walls, heavy masonry, gables, towers, and round arches. The architecture, created by Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson, proved very popular in the late 1880's and is prevalent at Trinity Church of Boston and the Glessner House located at 18th Street and Prairie Avenue in Chicago.
The Second Presbyterian Church consisted of stonework cut from boulders found throughout the state of Illinois. The main sanctuary featured 52' ceilings with wide pine beams. Tiffany-style light fixtures graced the room, while ornate stained glass windows lined the walls. An ornate gold bas-relief was created in the front for the grand organ pipes, with a painted copy on the adjacent wall. The gold-based paint, which was used in the details, currently sells for over $900 per gallon.
On April 30, 1889, a cornerstone, containing a copper box with photos and documents, was placed in the southwest corner of the building. This date commemorated the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of President George Washington. The congregation dedicated the facility on December 29, 1889.
In 1937, the Second Presbyterian and First Congregational Churches merged to form First Federated. The two groups remained at the Madison and Jackson building until it was sold in 1949 to the Electra Chapter of the Eastern Star. The Eastern Star was able to purchase the building due to a generous donation from the Donmeyer family, and became known as "The Donmeyer Temple". A stipulation placed on the donation was that a memorial shrine to Issac Donmeyer be located in the building. The shrine was placed in the vestibule, and the ashes of Isaac, Ellen and Rose Donmeyer were placed in the repository in 1952.
The Donmeyer Association attempted to sell the site to Shell Oil for a gas station in 1969. The public outcry was so intense, however, that rezoning attempts failed. The building was listed for sale in the mid-1980's, and the Donmeyer ashes were removed from the shrine. In 1985, National Financial Planning, Inc. purchased the building for a dinner theatre, but plans fell through.
Local businessman William Haas then purchased the structure in October, 1987, and began extensive renovations for a banquet facility. It was at that time the building was renamed "The Cornerstone". Haas continued to operate the banquet facility until April, 1994 when financial strains forced its closing. , Andrew and Ellen Kleczek purchased the Cornerstone in October, 1995. The banquet facility was re-opened, in February, 1996, allowing the residents of central Illinois to retain and enjoy the use of one of Peoria's historic monuments, but during their attempts to sell the property they allowed it to deteriorate.
In October of 2009 "The Cornerstone Building" was purchased by local Attorney Verne E Dentino, who is determined to restore the Cornerstone to its former magnificence as a Wedding and Banquet facility and as a Cultural and Arts Center for the Downtown Peoria. Illinois Area. In fact the building has become the new worship center for "The Second Story Church" on Sundays.
Currently back under the management of Ellen Kleczek