Howard House

516 S. 6th Avenue     (View on map)

Image credit: St. Charles Public Library

This residence was built in the Greek Revival style in 1837. Originally from Sharon, Vermont, Leonard Howard was a skilled mason and builder. He was also proprietor of the Howard House Hotel, and later justice of the peace, probate justice, and tax assessor. His wife, Caroline, was a member of the spiritualist movement and believed that the spirits of the dead could send and receive messages through her and other spiritualist "mediums" during seances.

Mrs. Howard reportedly played a role in the infamous Richard's Riot of 1849. According to local legend, Caroline Howard's psychic powers enabled her to reveal the location of Mrs. Kenyon, a young bride who had died just days before and had been buried in Sycamore, Ilinois. Mrs. Kenyon's body had been stolen from a grave site by a Franklin Medical College student.

Caroline Howard and her daughters held many seances in the house, and the services that Mrs. Howard offered became popular with grieving wives during the Civil War. Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln, who had suffered the loss of her huband and two of her sons, came to St. Charles in 1871 to meet with Mrs. Howard. Mrs. Lincoln is said to have consulted with Mrs. Howard daily while she stayed at the Howard House Hotel under the alias of "Mrs. May."

Leonard and Caroline Howard's daughter, Florence, continued conducting seances in the house after Caroline's death. Florence married undertaker C.L. Blanchard in 1896. For a short time, the Howard House served as a funeral home. The parlor of the house was used as an embalming and viewing room until Mr. Blanchard relocated his funeral business to a building on Main Street. The front door of the house still has the name "C.L. Blanchard" etched into the glass.

The Leonard Howard House served as a residence for three generations of the Howard family. After the last of the family passed away, the house was sold and renovations began. Several discoveries were made during the renovation of the house. Two antique parasols, one of which now resides in the St. Charles History Museum, were discovered in the house. A book dating from 1834 was found hidden between two walls. A shawl belonging to Mary Todd Lincoln, along with several other important antiques and artifacts from the house, were auctioned at an estate sale held in the 1990s. The shawl is said to have been presented to Caroline Howard by Mary Todd Lincoln in appreciation of Howard's services.

The house has been restored and it remains one of the most historic buildings in St. Charles.

For additional photographs see:

    Historic Houses Local History Vertical File
    Reflections of St. Charles p 48

See also:


  • Clauter, Hazel. Our Community--St. Charles. 1967.
  • Pearson, Ruth Ann. Reflections of St. Charles. Elgin: Brethern Press, 1976.
  • "Realtor Renovates an 1837 Residence." Kane County Chronicle 19 Dec. 1997, C:16:1.
  • Ressinger, Diane. "St. Charles Spiritual History." St. Charles Chronicle 1 April 1988.
  • St. Charles Chronicle. 11 June 1969.

See also