Mr. Langton was one of those people who was obsessed with the morning.
He would get up early just to watch the sunrise, while his wife preferred the
evening and sipping cocktails in the blue, red and gray of the sunset. And
New Year’s Eve morning was no exception as Gary was up just before dawn
while Jean remained deep in sleep.
Gary and Jean shared a master bedroom that itself was made up of two
large rooms. Each room had its own door to the hallway (one opening onto
the home’s front staircase, the other opening on the back staircase). The
front room where the couple slept included a (naturally) large bed and an
oversized window revealing the front lawn and Moss Avenue just beyond.
One entire wall of the room was given up to three sunken closets which,
when opened, revealed Jean’s collection of makeup and perfumes (the left
closet) and jewelry (the right closet) along with a mirror and a pull-out table
which served as her staging area (the center closet).
With all the rings and bracelets and necklaces and brooches and pendants
and pins and earrings and hair clips she owned one might expect to see
Jean almost shimmering beneath it all. But she kept herself simply yet
elegantly adorned. Most of her collection had been amassed on her travels
and came way of gifts from her doting husband. And while she loved and
treasured each piece it was more because of the memories they evoked
than the way they looked on her. The same was true for her makeup and
perfume which she used sparingly. Her children and grandchildren derived
more actual enjoyment from them than she did – which was another reason
she treasured them.
The couple’s second room, which was accessed via a sliding door, had its
own equally oversized window which provided a commanding view of their
finely clipped backyard, the city of Peoria and the sunrise which rose above
them both each morning. The room also contained sunken closets (taking up
two of the walls) which housed the couple’s seasonal clothes. The rest of
their clothing was kept up in the attic in large leather-covered wardrobe
trunks which featured a repeating pattern of small flowers and the
monogram “LV” in gold. The trunks were also covered in stickers bearing
witness to the couple’s distant travels – Paris, Italy, Brazil and the Orient.
The second room included a large standing mirror along with a coffee table
against the window. Quite often this is where Mr. Langton would start his day,
taking his coffee and reading his newspapers. There were lots of publications
to choose from – the Peoria Daily Transcript, the Peoria Evening Times, the
Peoria Morning News, the Peoria Morning Post and the Peoria Weekly Journal
to name a few – and Gary read as many of them as he could.
Since the weather was unusually fine this New Year’s Eve morning, he
opened the massive windows to let in the light morning breeze while the sun
began to make itself known. It was quiet in the home that morning, and that
was how the family would take in the New Year: quietly. While they were
known for large celebrations throughout the holiday season (starting with
their All Hallows’ Eve costume party), the Langton’s kept to themselves on
the New Year’s holiday.
Their children (and grandchildren) had left two days after Christmas and the
house was empty for the most part, although Daisy was staying with them for
the night. Gary and Jean (and a few of the servants) planned on having a
late dinner (together) before heading to Midnight Mass.
Gary riffled through the various papers which covered the coffee table and
unfurled onto the floor. He finally found an edition he hadn’t read and
quickly turned to the editorial page, where he was greeted by the headline
“Welcoming 1897: Another Year of Progress.” Gary read the brief editorial:
“As we look back at the year just passed and ponder where this city (nay,
the country and the world) has been, we can’t help but be thankful that
through God’s providence we are living in a new Age of Enlightenment.”
“The telephone and telegraph has brought the world together. The
phonograph allows us to enjoy music almost anywhere we go. The
advancements of Dr. Lister and aseptic surgery means safer medical
procedures in sterile environments. There are new advances coming nearly
“Now, looking ahead to 1897 and what it may hold for this city, we can’t
help but be optimistic especially when you consider the development of our
downtown, where a new city hall is currently being built, along with the
growing success of the distilleries down on the riverfront – and their growing
contribution to our federal government in the way of taxes. No other city
consumes more corn, no other city produces more distilled spirits and no
other city contributes more to this country’s coffer. And that will lead to even
further development, growth and enlightenment for this city and our country,
now 120 years old.
“While we marvel at how far we have come, we can’t help but wonder
what the next great achievement will be. Could it be the motorized wagons
being developed by the Duryea family right here in Peoria? Only time will tell.