Washington Illinois Historical Society - Washington, Illinois - Founded 1825

The Dement-Zinser House

105 Zinser Place
Washington, IL

The Dement-Zinser House is open most 
Saturdays 11am-2pm 
or by request Spring-November. 
For a private tour outside normal hours or to access research materials, please call 
309-635-3016 or 309 444-4793.
Over 150 Years of History

One of the oldest standing homes in Washington (IL), the Dement-Zinser House holds quite the storied past. It sits at 105 Zinser Place and has been home to many prominent Washington figures, now standing as a small page in the lives of many who passed through the city during its over 150 year existence. Originally built in 1858, the house has had eight different families call it home, most notable being Dr. Harley Zinser from 1905-1939. It was, at one time, a boarding home to railroad travelers, temporary housing for up and coming businessmen, and most recently, the headquarters of the Washington Historical Society (1994), now housing the memories of those who came before.

From its original owner, Richard C. Dement in 1858, to the well-known Dr. Harley Zinser’s restoration and ownership in 1905, it has been a landing point for many people, and stands as a sure structure in Washington. 

The House: Style & Remodel 
The house itself was constructed for Richard C. Dement in 1858 and is of the Post-Colonial style. It combines elements of both Federal and Greek Revival, and is in fact the only home in Washington to feature the Greek Revival style. It was first listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, and was added to the Washington (IL) Historic Preservation Commission by the City of Washington in 2011. It currently serves as the headquarters of the Washington Historical Society. 

In its original construction, the house was built with walls of bricks – thickness of 3 – and hand-hewn timbers in its frame. The floor plan included six rooms in its two-story stature and was constructed by contractor G. W. Gayle, who was noted as “our friend” to the Washington community. 

For almost 30 years, the home stood in its original fashion and the architecture was untouched by the owners who passed through. That is until Dr. Harley Zinser purchased the home in 1905. Dr. Zinser began updates on the home right away, and did considerable remodeling in 1916. The current look of the home’s exterior stems from structural upgrades that Zinser preformed on the house, including the addition of a side patio in 1916. A front porch that was once an evening gather place,  ultimately was removed by Zinser in this remodel process. He was a lover and advocate of fresh air, and slept most nights in the two-story screened-in-porch addition.  Becoming one of the first Washington Township homes to have indoor plumbing, Zinser added on to the back of the house in his first year of ownership, giving way to a bathroom complete with cast-iron bathtub, cast-iron lavatory bowl, and toilet, all of which are presently still in the home. A kitchen was also added in extension. 

Although the home has changed owners many times in over 150 years, it has remained consistent throughout its latter years, and currently houses artifacts from its storied past. 

Home Ownership:

1858—Richard Dement

1861---Asa Danforth

1864—Peter Fifer

1881---Dr. Robert Grover Allen

1883---Gideon Rupert Hornish

1895—Mary Grady Hornish

1905---Dr. Harley Zinser

1939—Caroline Zinser Martini

The first homeowner, Richard Dement, never lived in the house as his wife became ill and died before the house was completed. 

Asa Danforth sold the house the same year his home on Holland Street was finished. 

Peter Fifer was the first mayor of Washington, and he and his family lived in the house. 

Dr. Allen, his wife Emeline, and their four children lived at 105 Washington for only three years.

Gideon and Mary Grady Hornish became the next owners of the house. Mr. Hornish died in 1895 and his widow’s sister died in 1898. Mrs. Hornish then married her former brother-in-law, Solomon Linter Zinser. Mr. and Mrs. Zinser ran a store across the street to the south (now the parking lot) before he died in 1902. After his death Mrs. Zinser operated a boarding house until selling to Dr. Harley Zinser (Solomon Zinser’s nephew) in 1905.

In May 1985 Caroline Martini (daughter of Dr. Harley Zinser) told about the house. “… My father built the bathroom in 1905 (the kitchen had already been added on by 1905). This is the year he purchased the house for $8,000.  A story told me by an old timer was that – his mother worked here as a cook when it was a boarding house (1902-1905).  They served noon meals for the many traveling salesmen who used the many trains that passed in and out of this town.  She said they used this old stone step into the kitchen to pound the steak after it had been scrubbed clean daily.  When Dr. Zinser first came back to Washington, after practicing in Roanoke, Illinois, he used the two east rooms of the house as his office.This was not of long duration.  Then,he moved across the street in the Heiple Building, which has now been razed.

In 1916 he built the office (at 101 Washington St.), which is now the home of the Washington Historical Society.  This dwelling has not been changed at all.  However, our home has been changed.  The old front porch was removed and the stoop placed there. The porch on the east side was added – and the house was painted white.  It had originally been red brick.”  

Architects have described it, “Post Colonial Style but with elements typical of the Federal Style and the Greek Revival Style- Note the symmetrical façade, low pitched roof with a wide entablature, and the front door surrounded by side lights and a rectangular transom.”  The walls are three bricks thick and the framing is from hand-hewn timbers. The cast iron bathtub and lavatory are original to the house. 

Dr. Zinser added the two story side porches. On the first floor porch, where family and friends often gathered, the children loved the large swing. Throughout most of the year Dr. Zinser slept on the second floor porch.

Dr. Harley and Harriet Heiple Zinser had two children, Eugene and 
Caroline.  The piano in the parlor was a 16th birthday gift to Caroline who married her high school sweetheart, August Martini, on December 26, 1925 in same room. 

The Martini family returned to Washington to care for Dr. Zinser after her mother’s death in 1939. The Martini’s purchased the Zinser home 
in 1939 from her father. 

August Martini worked at a hardware store on the square and was an active and enthusiastic musician who participated in many of the Wednesday night Band Concerts in the center of the square. He passed away in 1976 and Caroline, a secretary at Washington Grade School, continued to have an active life until she broke her hip in 1994 and passed away 6 months later.

The Dement-Zinser House remained in the Zinser family for 90 years.  
Today, it is the headquarters for the Washington Historical Society

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