Fred Francis

Imagining Accessibility

Fred Francis designed and built Woodland Palace in the 1890s as a home for him and his wife, Jeanette. He endeavored to make the house accessible for Jeanette who suffered from tuberculosis, and since fresh air was considered important for treating her disease, he built Illinois’s first ever air conditioner.

In the solarium, a room Fred dedicated to Jeanette, he created a system that cycled the air every minute.

Indeed, Woodland Palace sprung from a place of love, but it was also a testament to Fred’s imagination. A mathematical and engineering genius, Fred created a refrigeration room that never rose above 50 degrees and designed a complex water filtration system that purified rainwater as it flowed underground through sand, gravel, and charcoal before reaching Woodland’s cistern. Above all, Woodland was a place for Fred and Jeanette to grow old together. When Jeanette passed, Fred honored her memory by installing a marble sculpture in the solarium.


Object label:

Francis’s Bicycle

Fred Francis’s bicycle that he adapted so he could transport his wife and construction materials.

Courtesy of the City of Kewanee

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