Hart House

HART HOUSE (Circa 1860)

522-524 Belle Street

Hart House
Alton Area Landmarks Association - Hart House

During the first part of the 19th century, Belle Street was a fashionable residential neighborhood. Among the residents were relatives of the Chouteau family (founders of St. Louis) and Dr. Benjamin Kirtland Hart. Dr. Hart came to Alton in the early 1830's and had not planned on staying there. After successfully treating some local residents, the citizens persuaded him to stay. The town would greatly benefit from that decision. Dr. Hart soon became a leader in town, becoming involved in its incorporation in 1837. He served on the city council and soon led the efforts for a free public school system. Though he lived on Belle Street, it has not been determined that he actually lived in this house. Men of his position, like those of today, often owned numerous pieces of real estate as investments.

The home was built as a duplex in basic Federal style with double chimneys on the gable ends. Early northern Greek Revival embellishments can be noted particularly around the twin entrances and the interior woodwork. The house is only one of two surviving residences along Belle Street, which, after the railroad was built, transformed the area into commercial/ Industrial use.

The Alton Area Landmarks Association (AALA) holds its monthly business and general membership meetings on the lower floor of the north unit. It is the goal of the organization to renovate the remainder of the structure for adaptive reuse. The house will be restored and decorated with sensitivity to its architectural heritage.

The south unit has been leased to various businesses, including an antique store and the current occupant, Herlacher Angleton Environmental Services. In 2001 a new roof was installed and during 2005 air conditioning and heating was installed on the second floor so that the occupant could expand office space. There are many other projects that AALA intends to pursue, based upon available funding. The annual fall house tour that AALA hosts each October raises funds to further our renovation of the Hart House.

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