The Lucius Read House and Byron Museum of History are part of the Byron Museum District in Byron, Illinois. Since its organization in the early 1990s, the Museum strives to preserve Byron’s rich local and area history.
The Read House that currently stands on the Museum site was constructed in the early 1840s. Lucius and Emily Read came to Bloomingville (one of two early names of Byron) from Vermont in 1836. Originally, the Reads built a log home, probably very near the site of the current house. In time, they determined that a more permanent structure was needed, and Emily Read’s brother, Pardon Kimball, constructed the Byron brick home for them in about 1843. This fine frontier home is one of the oldest structures in present-day Byron.
From the early days in their log house, the Read’s home was a focal point of activity in the young community. In 1837, the first meeting of the Congregational Church in Bloomingville was held in the Read house. Over the years, Lucius conducted a variety of business endeavors from his home and he was active in both community and church activities.
Information indicates that the Read family was also active in the abolitionist movement and that they provided a safe haven for runaway slaves being smuggled north through the Underground Railroad. Lucius Read’s daughter, Lydia Read Artz, recalled a dark night in 1862 when the last wagon with hidden slaves reached their door. In time the Read house was sold to the Kennedy family and, it is believed, they added the wraparound porch seen in the black and white photo (circa 1930s).
The house remained a residence until 1945 when it was sold and became a restaurant and tavern. In 1988, a group of investors purchased the home, and in 1990 the Museum District was formed to care for and operate the facility. Eventually, the building next door was also purchased and an exhibit area, work spaces and archive room were created in this annex facility.