From the fence in left field all the way to home plate, covering most of the infield and outfield, here stood the largest brick structure west of Chicago. Construction began in 1848 and as the community grew so did the building, nearly doubling in size by 1851. The ground floor was the communal dining hall that could host most of the 1000 residents for three meals a day. As soon as they finished cleaning up from breakfast, they started working on lunch, and when lunch finished they began dinner. The upper three and a half floors held 96 apartments for community members. A few rooms were kept open for guests, like a hotel within the larger structure until the Bjorkland Hotel opened in 1852. Remember, because folks ate in common and the laundry and bathhouse was across the park, the apartments were small without a kitchen or bathing facilities.
When the commune dissolved folks were given their apartments, like owning a condo within a larger structure. For want of space, some residents dug out parts of the basement for storage. This led to the building’s collapse in a fire in 1928. Though Big Brick is gone, you will find brick salvaged from the ruin recycled in the construction of other structures around town including the out houses on the edge of the ball field and a quaint cottage on the western edge of town.
Official Walking Tour Bishop Hill Illinois Guidebook to Buildings, 2010.
Wheat Flour Messiah, Eric Jansson of Bishop Hill by Paul Elmen Southern Illinois University Press 1997
History of Bishop Hill, A Story of Swedish Pioneers Collected and Compiled by Theo J. Anderson, self-published.