A HISTORY OF THE BOLAND MORTUARY


[The following information and photographs have been provided by Mary Ann Ryan O’Connor, daughter of John E. and Marie Hart Ryan. Mary Ann is a grand-daughter of James E. Hart. Any discrepancies in the details described are not intended to be misleading in providing the history of the Boland Mortuary and its founders.]


Daniel Boland Sr. was the original founder of the Boland Mortuary business. In the Peoria, Illinois 1880 U.S. federal census, Daniel is listed as a policeman and lives with his wife and children at 1815 Washington Street. The 1890 Peoria, Illinois City Directory shows that Daniel Boland worked as an undertaker with George F. Tobias. The business name on record was Tobias & Boland, located 406 Main Street. In a 1925 Peoria Transcript advertisement, a reference is made to the establishment of the business in 1890. It is unknown what business dealings transpired between Tobias and Boland.

A funeral bill dated July 15, 1898 shows the D. Boland & Son, Undertakers and Embalmers to be located at the Rouse Building, 406 Main Street, in Peoria, Illinois. Daniel T. Boland died in December of 1908, leaving the business to his son, John T. Boland. The business moved to 124 N. Adams sometime prior to 1912. On January 1, 1919, John T. Boland entered into a partnership with James E. Hart, who had worked for his father. The D. Boland & Son firm was incorporated under the name of J.T. Boland and Company. John T. Boland served as president and James Hart became secretary and treasurer of the company. John T. Boland died at age 56 in 1924.


At the death of J.T. Boland, James Hart, with partner Albert A. Franks, took over controlling interest of the business, and James Hart became manager. These business partners established a new ownership location at 300 N. Perry in a home that was formerly the Hodges residence, built circa 1885. The Peoria Transcript of December 17, 1925 featured a full page announcement of an Open House at the newly relocated Boland Mortuary on Perry Street. James Hart and Albert Franks maintained a business partnership until Mr. Frank’s death in 1951.


Marie Hart Ryan began working for her father in 1938. Her husband, John E. Ryan would join the business in 1940. With the death of James Hart in 1954, Boland Mortuary continued as a family business. John E. Ryan served as Funeral Director and president with Marie Ryan serving as secretary and treasurer. The Ryans were honored to serve the families of Peoria. When John Ryan died in 1968, Marie continued to operate the Boland Mortuary until 1979.


In 1979, although the building was not advertised for sale, a local attorney, Dennis Triggs, came into Boland’s asking whether the building might be for sale. Marie Hart Ryan had considered moving the business from downtown Peoria but was concerned about the demise of the building at its present location if she did so.


Mr. Triggs explained to Mrs. Ryan that he was interested in maintaining the integrity of

the building and utilizing the space as a law firm. It was Mrs. Ryan’s primary interest for the building to escape the “wrecking ball” and to be appreciated for its craftsmanship and historical significance. Mrs. Ryan and Mr. Triggs agreed to move forward with the acquisition of the building. As Mrs. Ryan was of retirement age, she chose to liquidate the J.T. Boland Company and retire from business.


Mr. Triggs owned the building for several years. The building was sold and used for a brief time as an art gallery/studio, but it eventually fell into deterioration. Fortunately, the building was purchased by the Benassi law firm for offices. A. Lou and Patricia A. Benassi remodeled, restored and renovated the building. The fireplaces, mirrors, chandeliers, pocket doors and grandeur still remain.


It is of significant consideration that in 1967, John Ryan had the occasion to visit the Peoria City Planning and Zoning office due to street traffic changing Fayette Street to one-way, southbound. As he reviewed the documentation available, he discovered it was the intent of the City of Peoria to utilize the location of 300 N. Perry Avenue, the site of the Boland Mortuary, as a parking lot in their future planning. To date, the Be-nassi building, formerly the Boland Mortuary building and formerly the Hodges residence, has survived 114 years of Peoria area history. Hopefully, it will continue to be appreciated for its beauty and history.

 

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The undertaking business in the late 1800’s used horse-drawn coaches to traverse from town to the home of the deceased with the necessities for embalming. At that time, funeral services were held at the family’s home rather than “in town.” It was difficult to travel with embalming fluids and materials during inclement weather conditions.

The undertaking business turned to an alternative approach - one of offering a homelike setting in town for family and friends to meet for the wakes and funeral services. It is believed that John T. Boland wanted to provide a modern, quality environment for families to feel comfortable during a difficult time in their lives. Boland’s was among the first funeral homes in Peoria to offer this service.

Boland Hearse circa 1890

(Original photo courtesy of Mary Ann Ryan O’Connor)

 

 

Boland Mortuary 1925

(Original 1925 photos shown here are courtesy of Mary Ann Ryan O’Connor)

 

Under the leadership of James Hart and Albert Franks, the Boland Mortuary relocated to 300 N. Perry in the former Hodges mansion. The furnishings were mainly composed of wicker, and large religious paintings and portraits decorated the walls. A large grandfather clock adorned the landing of the staircase. Regretfully, no one seems to know of the whereabouts of the grandfather clock now.

 

Main Hallway - 1925 Family Room - 1925
 

 

Reception Room - 1925 Layout Room - 1925

 

Boland Chapel - 1925


 

Although each of the main rooms offered a beautiful fireplace, I am to understand they were not used. The heating was provided by a boiler, with radiators stationed throughout the building. The rooms were separated by large panel pocket doors, which still are used by the present owner. The gas lamp fixtures centered in each room were converted to electric. The gas line that ran down the staircase to a gas lamp on the bottom post was disconnected and an electric lamp installed. The Hodges’ kitchen was converted to an office and an elevator was installed as another modern convenience. The building did not offer air conditioning.




 

Boland Mortuary

Prior to the building of Interstate 74, a large garden area existed north of the building. Flower beds, a goldfish pond, and lawn chairs provided a place for friends and family to visit together. It was one of James Hart’s fondest places to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Daniel Boland Sr.

 

Daniel was born in January of 1834 in Ireland. He immigrated to the United States in 1858 and married Margaret Cody in 1862. The 1880 U.S. federal census lists Daniel and Margaret as the parents of Mary (16), John (12), Catherine (9), and Daniel (2). They live at 1815 Washington Street, and Daniel is employed as a policeman. The 1900 U.S. federal census lists the family residence as 2216 S. Washington Street. Daniel and Margaret are listed as the parents of eight children with only three living, John, Daniel, and Maggie. Margaret died in 1901 while Daniel died in 1908. Both are buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Peoria.

 

John T. Boland

 

 

John T. Boland, also known as J.T., was born in October of 1868. He and his wife, Emma, had no children. Following the death of his father, he relocated D. Boland & Son from the Rouse Building on Main Street to 124 N. Adams. On January 1, 1919 he entered into partnership with James E. Hart who had worked for his father for many years. D. Boland & Son was incorporated under the name J.T. Boland and Company. J.T. Boland died in 1924 at age 56

 

J. T. Boland in 1896


 

James E. Hart

 

 

James E. Hart was born September 28, 1885 in Peoria, Illinois. He attended St. Patrick’s Catholic Grade School and worked for Cumerford-Endsley Funeral Home prior to 1903. He attended Barnes School of Anatomy, Sanitary Science and Embalming in Chicago, receiving his license from the State of Illinois Board of Health on January 1, 1906. James began working for D. Boland and Son in 1906. When the firm incorporated under the name of J.T. Boland and Co. in 1919, James entered into partnership with John T. Boland, becoming secretary and treasurer of the company. James and partner, Albert Franks, took controlling interest of the Boland Mortuary upon the death of J.T. Boland and moved the business to 300 N. Perry in 1925. James Hart and Albert Franks maintained a partnership until Mr. Franks died in 1951.

 

James E. Hart married Amelia Fredericka Krenz on March 11, 1912. They had one child, Marie. James Hart died on June 6, 1954 at age 69.

 

 

It should be noted that James Hart was not able to attend his actual St. Patrick’s Grade School graduation because he did not have the clothes to appear at the ceremonies. His mother had passed away in 1902, and none of his family would provide the money for his graduation. His determination to succeed in life was not hindered by this incident as he became one of the most respected businessmen in Illinois during his lifetime. The following description of him appeared in the 1925 edition of Illinois and Its Builders, “Mr. Hart is recognized as a professional man of high standing and as a civil leader of influence.”




 

Marie Hart Ryan

 

Marie Hart was born November 23, 1916 in Peoria, Illinois. She attended St. Bernard’s

Grade School and graduated from the Academy of Our Lady. Marie went on to receive her license from Liberty Beauty Culture and also received a Teacher’s License for teaching at Liberty Beauty School. She began working for her father, James Hart, in 1938. Following the death of her father in 1954, she and her husband continued the family business with John Ryan serving as funeral director and president and Marie serving as secretary and treasurer. Marie Hart Ryan owned and managed the business until 1979 when the building was sold to Dennis Triggs. The J.T. Boland Co. was liquidated following the sale of the building, and Marie retired.

 

Marie M. Hart married John E. Ryan on January 2, 1940. They had two children, Mary Ann and Kathleen. Marie Hart Ryan died on April 6, 2005 at age 88.

 




 

John E. Ryan

 

John E. Ryan was born November 6, 1906 in Peoria, Illinois. He graduated from St. Patrick’s Grade School. In March of 1940, he graduated from Worsham’s College of Embalming in Chicago, Illinois. He began working for James Hart at Boland’s in 1940. He served as funeral director and manager of Boland’s Mortuary until his death in 1968.

 

John E. Ryan married Marie M. Hart on January 2, 1940. They had two daughters, Mary Ann and Kathleen. John served as a Peoria alderman and was a member of the 4th Degree Knights of Columbus. He died on June 30, 1968 at age 61.

   



 

John and Marie Hart Ryan in 1966

 

A bill from 1898 shows the original location of D. Boland & Son

in the Rouse Building at 400 Main Street, Peoria, Illinois.

Advertisement card for the J.T. Boland Company

Postcard produced by the Edward W. Meredith Company, Peoria, Illinois




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