Survivor's move to Ottawa took place after marriage to Boy Scouts founder's daughter
Past residents of the blue two-story Victorian house for sale in Ottawa near the Illinois River played their part in history. One man survived a famous disaster while a mother and daughter perished in another.
The survivor was Dickinson Bishop, a first class passenger aboard the RMS Titanic when in sunk in 1912 during its maiden voyage. Bishop was on a honeymoon trip when he and his bride, Helen, became some of first passengers put aboard lifeboats after the ship struck an iceberg. They watched from about a half-mile away as the “unsinkable” ship went down and more than 1,500 of those aboard lost their lives.
Bishop divorced in 1916. A World War I veteran, his move to Ottawa took place after his 1924 marriage to Sydney Boyce, the daughter of W.D. Boyce of Ottawa, who is best remembered as the founder of Boy Scouts of America.
Before the Bishops moved to a home on Ottawa's north bluff, they first lived in the large house at the southeast corner of Ottawa Avenue and Clay Street.
The house at 228 Clay St. likely was built shortly after the Civil War, said Mollie Perrot, chairwoman of the Ottawa Historic Preservation Commission, and Dave Mumper, an Ottawa historian.
Designed in the Gothic Revival architectural style, it originally was a smaller dwelling that was expanded over the years. The house initially overlooked a long unobstructed length of Illinois River shoreline. Today, other houses have been built nearby, but there still are magnificent views of the river from various rooms in the house and the property.
The first long-time owner — who likely had the house constructed — was Riverus H. Trask (1841-1909) a Civil War veteran from New York state. In Ottawa, Trask operated a successful jewelry and optometry shop on La Salle Street.
On Dec. 30, 1903, Trask’s wife Helen, 50, took the youngest of their three daughters, Odessa, 14, by train from Ottawa to downtown Chicago to see a matinee performance of the popular show “Mr. Bluebeard” at the new Iroquois Theater. With them was a neighbor, Alicia Moloney, 11. Her father, Maurice Moloney, was a lawyer who had served as the Illinois attorney general and later as Ottawa’s mayor.
During the performance a fire broke out in the packed theater resulting in more than 600 deaths. The Trasks and Moloney were among the casualities. In the custom of the day, the funerals for Helen and Odessa were held in the Clay Street house.
Inside, the house has a meandering floor plan and distinctive features. They include a marble fireplace, a grand staircase and open and enclosed porches. There also is an apartment for a relative or renter which gives the house five bedrooms and five full baths.
The house is listed for sale for $214,500 through Realtor George Shanley of Coldwell Banker Realty in Ottawa. The listing offers 70 views of the house and property. The Multiple Listing Service identification number is 10746608.