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Over 150 Years of History
One of the oldest standing homes in Washington (IL), the Dement-Zinser house, sits at 105 Zinser Place and has been home to many prominent Washington figures. 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 and stands as a sure structure in Washington.
The House: Style and 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 and the only home in Washington to feature the Greek Revival style. It was first listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 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 and did considerable remodeling in 1916. The current look of the home’s exterior stems from structural upgrades that Zinser did to the house, including the addition of a side porch in 1916. A front porch was removed by Zinser in this process. He was a lover and advocate of fresh 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, lavatory bowl, and toilet, all of which are presently still in the home. A kitchen was also added in extension.
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 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. 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 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, “ 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 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 Dr. Zinser slept on the 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, 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
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