Spring Valley House--Sulfur Springs Hotel

Also known as: Half-Way House
Dee Bennett Rd., Utica, Illinois


Half-Way House

name derived from fact that it is half way between Chicago and St Louis, built 1852, location is also the site of Kaskaski-an Illinois Indian village of 1673 to 1700 explorer La Salle estimated population in 1680 @ 20,000



Excerpts from Hikiing the Illinois & Michigan Canal 

Philip E. Vierling, author, copyright 1986

Half-Way House is a large stone farmhouse located about 0.7 mile west of the Starved Rock Marina and 0.5 mile south of the I & M Canal. The four story, 28 room building was constructed in 1852 by Joel Smith, of Ottawa, as a tavern (inn) on the stagecoach road half way between Chicago and St.Louis. The building has sandstone walls 30" thick, and beams affixed with wooden pegs. The ground floor (basement) was the inn's bar and dining room; first floor-parlors and reception room; second floor-sleeping rooms; third (top) floor a dance hall. Heating was by fireplaces-one in each of the guest rooms. It had a primitive plumbing system that took water from the springs behind the hotel and circulated it to the inn's lower level, the livestock tanks, and then to the Illinois River. Because of these springs in back of the house, Half-Way House was also known as the "Sulphur Springs Hotel." There were 3 wellheads in the yard, all coming from the St.Peter Sandstone, with a cumulative flow of several gallons per minute. The water, which still bubbles thru the sand, is strongly impregnated with sulfur and contains some magnesia and iron. Guests at the hotel included Abraham Lincoln, the singers Carlotte and Adeline Patti, Jenni Lind, the noted Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, and, in the summer of 1860, possibly Edward, Prince of Wales (later to become Kind Edward VII)who was in America on a hunting trip. It became a farm in 1862 and over the years belonged to J.Buel; Henry Zimmerman; Maurice Keating; Lucille Keating; and now the State of Illinois. The land is also the site of Kaskaskia-an Illinois Indian village from 1673 to 1700 which is now a National Historic Landmark known as the "Zimmerman Site"

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on November 20, 1987
Reference number
Areas of significance
Commerce; Transportation; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Hotel; Single dwelling
Current function
Single dwelling
Periods of significance
1850-1874; 1825-1849
Significant years
1849; 1862
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 1
Non-contributing buildings: 4


19th Century (38,062)
Built 1849 (247)
Built during 1840s (3,013)
Hotel (2,861)
Illinois (2,710)
LaSalle County, Illinois (61)
Limestone (8,194)
Private owner (54,402)
Stone (26,168)
Utica, Illinois (1)

Update Log 

  • December 6, 2020: New photo from GS
  • December 6, 2020: New photo from GS
  • December 6, 2020: New photo from GS
  • December 6, 2020: New photo from GS
  • December 6, 2020: New photo from GS
  • October 28, 2020: New photo from GS
  • August 26, 2015: Essay added by GS
  • August 14, 2015: New photo from GS
  • July 10, 2015: New photo from GS