Culver Monument Co. began doing construction work in 1886 doing curbing for the City of Springfield, and doing marble tile floors. James Culver developed a relationship with two architects (George Helmle and George Bullard) and did the stone work for their jobs. This included the Marine Bank building done in 1887 and the Freeman Warehouse building. In May of 1887 James turned over principal control of the monument works to John while he focused on the architectural, stone and stone contracting business. His shop was located at 216 N. 5th St. in Springfield, Illinois.
In 1887 James Culver got his first job as a contractor and was hired to build the Second Methodist Church (now known as Kumler Church) located at 5th and Carpenter Streets. After the new church was built, he offered to buy the old building which he moved to a lot he owned on N. 5th St. and used it as his office. He added an apartment and that is where he and his wife Kathryn and their son Ross lived. They called their home “The Parsonage”.
Left - Kumler Church
Above - Marine Bank
The US Army hired James Culver in August of 1887 to do stonework on 15 buildings at Fort Riley, Kansas. This included two stables, four double dwellings, two barracks three stories high, an administration building, and several outbuildings. George D. Hullinger & Son of Springfield was the general contractor. Two Springfield companies were also hired - Henson Robinson was hired to do the tin roofs and J .C. Lamb was hired to do the iron work. Culver and Robinson signed as sureties for the bond the general contractor needed. At the conclusion of the job, the contractor was not able to pay their bills and Culver and Robinson were liable. Both suffered financially from this. Culver had never incorporated the company, but decided to do so after this. So, on March 15, 1889, the company was incorporated as Culver Marble & Stone Company. 150 shares of stock were issued, each valued at $150. John H. Culver owned 60 shares, James owned 84, their father held 2 and there were four single share stockholders. The purpose of the company was still for the construction of all stone buildings; the manufacture and sale of architectural stone work; marble and granite monuments, vaults, statuary and all classes of cemetery work, concrete, encaustic and marble tile; and every class of marble, granite and stone work. Shortly after this (in July of 1889) John decided to open a monument company in Decatur. He and his wife moved there in August with $148 to their name.
James Culver built two churches in 1888 and 1889 - the German Methodist Church, and the Christ Episcopal Church located at 6th and Jackson Streets.
He was hired by Mrs. John D. Gillet in 1890 to build a memorial chapel for the cattle baron in Elkhart.
By the early 1890's business had picked up after the financial setback and James Culver purchased an interest in a Barre, Vermont stone quarry, and built a new work yard on Madison Street, just north of the railroad tracks between 8th and 9th Streets. There was a crane at the plant that covered an area 52’ by 250’ and could lift a railroad car load of stone 22’ in the air. It had the largest sawing mill in downstate Illinois, with three gangs of saws that could cut through a 15’ stone.
The focus on construction was cemented in January of 1894 when the company became the Culver Stone Company and James sold his interest in the monument portion of the business.
Over the next few years James had to focus on his military career as he was a Colonel of the 5th Regiment of the National Guard. He built the Elijah Lovejoy monument in Alton in 1896. He also completed battlefield monuments at Shiloh, Chickamauga and Vicksburg. Repair work was done on the Governor’s Mansion in 1897 and the wood porch was replaced with a stone one in addition to other work.
After the Spanish War, which Col. Culver served in, he changed the name to the company to Culver Construction Co. He was hired to rebuild the Lincoln Monument, and he began to get involved with electric plants. He had built a house for the Lincoln Monument custodian in 1896, and had become an acting trustee of the Lincoln Monument Association.
Culver took the job of removing Lincoln’s remains very seriously. He prepared a vault that no one could steal the body from (it had been previously attempted). He worked closely with Robert T. Lincoln on the project. The Guard of Honor of the Lincoln Monument Association decided when Lincoln’s remains were reinterred that they should view the body. James Culver, John Culver and James’ son Ross were present when the casket was opened.
John Culver is pictured above in the doorway
In the first picture above he is standing in front of the crane
In the early 1900’s Culver completed several other construction projects. He built the armory, which was “castle like” and could hold 9,000 people. He also build a building at Camp Lincoln which is now the Military Museum. In 1902 he built the Carnegie library in Springfield. He became involved with the park district and supplied well covers and watering troughs for horses. He built the rest house at Iles Park and the Lincoln Park Inn. Governor Yates' house (located in Washington Park) was also built by Culver.
Col. Culver retired from the National Guard in 1907 and turned to country life. He bought property just West of Washington Park and built a bungalow in 1907. He had barns, livestock and an orchard. James wanted his son Ross to carry on the family business but Ross wasn’t interested in doing so. Ross was the Superintendent for the construction of Tanner’s monument at Oak Ridge Cemetery.
James Culver collapsed on his way to work on March 13, 1911. He was taken to the apartment at The Parsonage where he died on March 17th with his wife Kathryn and brother John at his side, along with Governor Yates, General James H. Barkley and Joe Fernandez. The Culver Construction building was occupied by Illinois Plumbing and Heating Supply for 28 years before it was sold to St. John’s Hospital. The “Culver Castle” was razed in 1982 to make space for a parking lot.
Culver Construction Co. Projects
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Kumler Church Springfield, IL
Governor Tanner's Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery
Governor Tanner's Monument at Oak Ridge Cemetery Springfield, IL
Springfield High School Built 1897
Springfield High School Springfield, IL
IL State Military Museum
Illinois Military Museum Springfield, IL
IL State Arsenal Photo 1903
Illinois Arsenal Springfield, IL
IL Monument at Vicksburg from Vicksburg
Illinois Monument at Vicksburg Vicksburg, MS
Carnegie Library Springfield IL
Carnegie Libary Springfield, IL