A HISTORY OF THE BOLAND
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
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
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
Mr. Triggs explained to Mrs. Ryan that he was interested in
maintaining the integrity of
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.
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
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 -
||Family Room -
||Layout Room -
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.
|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 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, 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
James E. Hart
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
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.
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
Hart was born November 23, 1916 in Peoria, Illinois.
She attended St. Bernard’s
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.
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
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.
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,
Advertisement card for the J.T.
Postcard produced by the Edward W.
Meredith Company, Peoria, Illinois