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Constructed in 1857 for Judge John Wycliff Taylor in what was then the suburbs of Springfield, this home has a colorful history that includes being used as a training institute and a home for "fallen women." A yard sign near the street corner displays a historic photograph of the two-story wood-frame house. John Wycliff Taylor was a farmer and judge of the Sangamon County Board of Justices. The building became the Home and Hospital for Fallen Women in 1868. The end date for this function is unknown, but the building became the Ambidexter Industrial and Normal Institute in 1901. The Taylor House/ Ambidexter Institute was vacant in 2018 when the property was surveyed as part of a National Register of Historic Places thematic study of Springfield's African-American community and the Central East neighborhood. There are renovation plans in the works to renovate the house and use it as a community center.

Circa 2018 photo of Taylor/ Ambidexter House looking northeast (Mansberger and Stratton 2018)

Circa 2018 photo of Taylor/ Ambidexter House looking northeast (Mansberger and Stratton 2018)

Taylor/ Ambidexter House (red arrow) on 1917 Sanborn map (Vol II p. 168)

Taylor/ Ambidexter House (red arrow) on 1917 Sanborn map (Vol II p. 168)

Taylor/ Ambidexter House (red arrow) on 1867 bird's eye view map of Springfield (Ruger)

Taylor/ Ambidexter House (red arrow) on 1867 bird's eye view map of Springfield (Ruger)

Six persons who asked to remain anonymous explained in 1871 why they had purchased the property and established the Home and Hospital for Fallen Women in 1868. After opening on May 4, 1868, the home had served as a residence, hospital, and place of spiritual reform for 180 women, most of whom were under 20 years old. Fifty-five children had been "inmates" of the home, 25 of whom were born there. The home had been enlarged twice by 1871 and a second building had been rented; at times, all had been full. Two of the town's physicians and one pharmacy have attended to the hospital side of the institution. Some of the women had gone on to marry or find good occupations and end the "curse upon themselves and the world."

The Ambidexter Institute taught African-American youth of both sexes domestic skills, trades, and arts and sciences. The school was influenced by the educational philosophy of Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute. The school had 193 pupils by 1903, learning 35 trades, and the property was valued at $10,000. A dormitory for girls was added to the property. The school was reorganized in mid-1906, promising to be "run strictly and business like." Reverend Dr. J.H. MaGee became the new president of the institute late in 1906, upon the resignation of the school's founder, Reverend G.H. McDaniel, to enter the lecture field. Professor T. J. Johnson served as principal for the school term beginning January 1907, in which the school offered "the common branches of an English education with possibly a Latin branch and music." The industrial department taught dressmaking, domestic science, laundry for the public, shoe mending/ show making, carpentry, typesetting and printing. There was room in the institute building for students from outside the city to board, according to a newspaper ad for the fall 1907 term. The property was foreclosed upon for a remaining mortgage debt of $2,700 in early 1908. Six "good living rooms" at the Institute were advertised to rent in April 1908; a Mrs. Dogan was "on the premises." There were hopes for the institute to be revived after the property was purchased in January 1909 by Bishop Osborne of the Episcopal Church; Bishop Osborne also opened an Episcopal Mission church in town. However, the building was vacant in 1909, according to the city directory.

The building was shown as a wood frame dwelling on the 1917 Sanborn map of Springfield with a front porch spanning most of the front facade. A smaller, wood frame dwelling stood just steps from the northeast corner of the house, fronting Cass Street, in 1917; perhaps this is the girls' dormitory and source of the six rooms to rent in the 1908 newspaper ad. The house became a multi-family dwelling and the smaller dwelling fronting Cass Street was removed after the 1910s.

Five bays of the side-gable I-House face S. Twelfth Street, with a centrally-placed doorway. The frame house sits on a brick foundation. The dilapidated, vacant building was listed on the 2004 list of the Most-Endangered Historic Sites in Illinois. The over 6,100-square-foot home was facing demolition orders in 2012 without financial intervention towards its preservation. Jerry Jacobsen, a local preservationist, bought the house in 2002 to save it from demolition and had made efforts to stabilize the building through his nonprofit organization, Save Old Springfield. The house ownership was transferred to a for-profit, The School House Group, by 2012, headed by Jacobsen and Tom Bundy, a restoration contractor. In 2012, the house and adjacent lots were acquired by The Springfield Project, a non-profit with plans to renovate the home to serve as a community center as part of its green space initiative. The group removed the front porch and vinyl siding to reveal the underlying clapboard by 2014.

Anonymous. "Teaches Colored Students Useful Occupations." Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, IL) May 12th 1903. Last ed, 6-6.

Anonymous. "The Reorganization of Ambidexter Institute. The New Board." The Forum (Springfield, IL) July 21st 1906. 1-1.

Anonymous. "Ambidexter Institute." The Forum (Springfield, IL) December 22nd 1906. 5-5.

Anonymous. "MaGee Heads Ambidexter." The Forum (Springfield, IL) December 22nd 1906. 6-6.

Anonymous. "Ambidexter Institute." The Forum (Springfield, IL) February 8th 1908. 8-8.

Anonymous. "Ambidexter to be Revived." The Forum (Springfield, IL) January 16th 1909. 1-1.

Dettro, Chris. "Taylor House needs a financial angel." State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL) November 24th 2012.

Holst, Erika. "Restoration begins on historic Taylor House." Illinois Times (Springfield, IL) October 16th 2014. , Community & Lifestyle sec.

MaGee, J.H., Dr. "Ambidexter Institute. The Fall Session..." Advertisement. The Forum (Springfield, IL) August 31st 1907. 8-8.

MaGee, J.H., Dr. "For Rent." Advertisement. The Forum (Springfield, IL) April 4th 1908. 4-4.

Mansberger, Floyd. Stratton, Christopher . NRHP Thematic Survey of Springfield's African-American Community and the Central East Neighborhood. Springfield, IL. Fever River Research, 2018.

Power, J. C.. Springfield Board of Trade. History of Springfield, Illinois: Its Attractions as a Home and Advantages for Business, Manufacturing, Etc.. Springfield, IL. Illinois State Journal, 1871.

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