About Harlan Hall - Marshall History Relative to Harlan Hall

Article Index
About Harlan Hall
Property Ownership
Building Significance
Marshall History Relative to Harlan Hall
All Pages


Clark County is situated on the eastern boundary of Illinois about midway between Chicago and Cairo. It is bounded on the east by the Wabash River and the Indiana state line. By an act of Legislature passed in 1819, Clark County was created in a vast wilderness area. In 1835, the county seat of Clark County was moved to Marshall from the river bank community of Darwin. Early settlers primarily arrived in the area via the Wabash River.

In 1827, construction of the Cumberland Road (National Road) entered the area. This highly traveled route to the West was and still is the main street of Marshall passing by the north side of the court house square. The construction of this road gave Marshall a flow of people and money that caused rapid settlement and much public improvements. The greatest development for the area was the building of the rail road, first chartered in 1850, but not completed until 1870.   The railroad paralleled the National Road and brought new interest and further prosperity to the area. With this new ease of transportation the use of the National Road rapidly declined and deteriorated. In 1879, the second rail line running from Chicago to the South was completed with the depot only one and one half blocks from Harlan Hall.

The first owners of two sections of the land were William B. Archer and Joseph Duncan (who later became Governor of Illinois and a U.S. Senator). They purchased the land directly from the U. S. Government for $200, as approved on January 12, 1829. They deposited the money with the state auditor on January 15, 1835. The town was founded and laid out October 3, 1835, by the owners Archer and Duncan and named for Chief Justice John Marshall. Archer soon acquired all of the holdings from Duncan.

The basis of the early economy was agriculture. The first business was a hotel constructed in 1836, the first tailor in 1837, and first physician in 1838. The first mill was constructed in 1839, and in 1838, a very exclusive private school was started by a minister. In 1871 it merged with the public school system. The only dentist in the county practiced in Marshall starting 1852.

The Archer House Hotel was constructed by the town founder in 1841 at the corner of the National Road and the Dixie Highway running from Chicago to Florida. This building is now a lovely bed and breakfast, is the oldest continually operating hotel in Illinois and is on the National Register. It is located just three blocks from Harlan Hall.

The current "main street" along three blocks of the old Cumberland Road (National Road) consists mostly of two and three story buildings constructed during the late 1880's and 1890's, primarily all are bracketed Italiante buildings. The midwest was late in picking up the newest trends from the coasts, so this style was constructed here much later than in the East. This shows that the building of Harlan Hall was right "with the times" in using the dominant style for new buildings in Marshall.

On the Court House Square, just across the street from Harlan Hall, is Marshall’s historic bandstand. Although the current structure was constructed in 1927, it houses the weekly summer band concert series from mid June through mid August. The hour long free concerts are performed by the Marshall City Band that has performed each year since 1875 – just three years after the construction of Harlan Hall.