327 N. Clay Street
John T. Keller, a skilled cabinet and furniture maker as well as an architect, built the house at 327 N. Clay in 1883. He worked by candlelight and on Sundays to complete the house. According to family legend, this caused a rift between Keller and the local priest who didn’t approve of John missing church to build his house.
This home is an example of a frame Italianate style building. Due to the occupations of the builder and his father, this home is rich in detail. The local landmark application for the home points out the “cathedral caps” over the doors and windows, decorative bracket work, three sets of double French doors across the front and one side of the house, plus original wooden shutters. The name “Keller” is etched in the glass above the front door.
Inside, the house many original features remain including bordered hardwood floors in the dining room and entrance hall, a quarter turn wood staircase with a carved wood design on the edge of each riser, 10-foot-tall pocket doors in the living room, and a fireplace with a charcoal slate mantle. There is no evidence that a kitchen was part of the original house. One was added later with an addition to the back of the house. Appropriately, the house sits on a corner with original brick streets at the front and side of the building.
John T. Keller was born in Switzerland in 1845 and came to America with his family in the early 1850s. He was the brother of Alonzo Keller, a builder who also served as Edwardsville mayor from 1877-1887. John married Sarah Middleton Smith and they had three children, a son, Jule Milton Keller, and twin daughters, Nellie Brink Keller and Lucy M. Keller. Jule left home at the age of 12-13 to distance himself from his father, a strict disciplinarian who according to the family’s oral history would lock Jule in the attic with bread and water for 2-3 days until he was sorry for what he had done. Jule became an Edwardsville lamplighter, and later a telegrapher for the railroad.
John Keller died in 1918 but his family was to remain in the house for many years. His widow Sarah and daughter Nellie were both teachers. Sarah passed away in 1932. Nellie, who never married, lived in the home from the time she was eight until her death in 1945. Nellie’s twin sister, Lucy, married a man from Greenville where she lived the remainder of her life. The sisters died within three months of each other at the age of 70.