Along Old Route 40 in Greenup, Illinois, part of the National Historic Road that acted as a highway for covered wagons and pioneers, is a large, stately brick home.  Ever since I can remember, the home has been abandoned which I’ve always thought was sad.  This year we learned that the house and property had been sold and they were going to tear the house down.  The bricks would be salvaged, as would the famed, curved front staircase.  Since my cousin and I have a slight obsession with exploring abandoned places we  made a point to check out the old Ward house.  We never entered the structure as it was incredibly unsafe.

Here are my photos:





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After our exploration, we went to the Cumberland County Historical Society in Greenup. It turns out that the home was built in 1875 by bricks made by Mr. Ward himself, on his own land with his own clay.  Five generations of the Ward family lived in the house until it was abandoned in the late 1970s.

JM Ward owned a department store and you can read his ledger here.  Other ancestral info about the Ward family can be found here.

This home would have been quite grand in its day.  There were double sash, weighted windows, plastered walls and ceilings, wallpaper, thick brick walls, that gorgeous staircase and even a widow’s walk on the roof.

6 thoughts on “Exploring the Ward House”

  1. I have enjoyed these pictures so much ! My grandchildren, Alexis Marie and Preston Max are 2 of John Harrison Ward’s great-grandchildren through Velma Ward Browning. I have been in the home many times during Harrison’s later years.
    Since Harrison was widowed for about 40 years,after the death of his wife, it appeared that Harrison just existed on the old farm home place after his wife’s early death with cancer. It appears to be one of the loveliest homes in Cumberland county before time and neglect took its toll.
    I hope the beautiful staircase is still living in another home for another family to enjoy ! Who owns the house lot and the 14 acres that were kept with it after the farm auction ? Whatever happened to Lester Wards dream of creating a
    ” John Harrison Ward Memorial farm ?” Now that grand old house lives only in memory..:

  2. Hello Meaghan. I enjoyed the photos you took of the home in which my mother, her father and her grandfather lived. It’s not uncommon for people I don’t even know in Cumberland County, Illinois, to mention their having slid down the bannister in that home. My 93-year-old mother, Alberta (Ward) Brown, is the lone survivor of the 10 children born to my grandparents, Harrison and Fern (Green). She’ll be happy to lean that you enjoyed the old home place.

    1. Hi Ruth — Thanks for your note! The house must have been amazing in its day. I’ve always wondered about it, driving by on 40. I am also a Green (my grandfather was Robert William Green). We are probably distant relations!

      1. Here’s another clarification… You state, “JM Ward owned a department store and you can read his ledger here.” and you link to a website that hosts a copy of my great grandfather’s ledger, which I transcribed several years ago. The clarification is that my great grandfather, John Marshall Ward, was not the owner of the JW Ward department store. My mother states often that when JW Ward and her father, John Harrison Ward, stood next to each other, they looked like brothers. However, no matter what I dig up in research, I can not positively link the two Ward families. “My” Ward family came to Cumberland Co through Ross Co, OH. JW Ward who owned the department store came from the Wards who came to Jasper Co (and then Cumberland Co) through South Carolina. Still, I appreciate your interest in this wonderfully warm and somewhat historic family in terms of Cumberland Co, Illinois. [[[ RE: Your GREEN family— Interesting… any chance that Robert Wm Green has any ties to the Greens in Cumberland Co? ]]]]

      2. Oh, wow! Thanks for the info. We were using our “best guess” based on the info we could find. Geneology is so interesting (and sometimes frustrating)!

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