Elijah Iles was one of the founders of the town of Springfield (originally platted as “Calhoun”), which would become the capitol city of Illinois. Iles was a storekeeper, and built the first commercial building in what would become Springfield in 1821. His store consisted of a two-story log structure built upon a large limestone-walled cellar. The building was converted into a residence by 1840, and was torn down in the 1890s.

The archaeological record of Iles’ early years at the site, however, remained intact behind and below the site of the building. The remains were covered over by another commercial structure during the 20th century, but that building was demolished in 2003. About to be redeveloped again, (and not subject to state-mandated archaeological survey) the fragile remains at site were immediately threatened.

With the cooperation of the property owners, the Center conducted a weekend of last-minute salvage excavations at the site. With hours, the crew located not only the heavily damaged stone-lined cellar of the store Iles built 182 years earlier, but also a better preserved pit cellar associated with a small outbuilding or rear addition to the building. 

That feature produced a number of artifacts dating to the earliest years of Springfield's history. These include several glass tumblers, used to serve liquor by the serving, as well as a rare brass "hawk bell". Such bells were commonly used in the Indian trade, and Iles himself recalled that during his first years of business, half of his clients were Native Americans.   

The results of our work at the Iles Store site were published in the Center’s Research Bulletin series, but that volume is now out of print. The information was reprinted in in Mazrim’s 2007 book, The Sangamo Frontier, published by the University of Chicago Press.
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The Iles Store building as it was being demolished in the 1890s. ELIJAH ILES’ STORE IN SPRINGFIELD
The site of the store in 2003. The bottom layers of sandstone used by Iles to wall the cellar of his store in 1821. The bases of flint glass tumblers and a brass hawk bell, found behind the store. Fragments of two pearlware vessels, shown with intact antique examples.