Fred Francis and Woodland Palace

Francis Park and its “Woodland Palace” became a city park, even though located three miles east of Kewanee, when Fred Francis died in 1926 and left his property to the City of Kewanee.

Fred grew up on a farm east of Kewanee and graduated from the University of Illinois in 1878. A mechanical genius, he retired from the Elgin Watch Co. after only 11 years, then bought 40 acres on which to build a home for his wife Jenny and himself.

He called the home his “Woodland Palace” and equipped it with innovations far ahead of its time, including a type of baseboard heating and air conditioning accomplished with wind power, a solarium for his wife who had tuberculosis in which the air changed every 60 seconds, an automatic door, and much more.

Fred was an unusual, but familiar, sight around Kewanee. He rode to town on his bicycle to get supplies, almost always was barefoot and never cut his hair or beard.

The park is open to the public for camping and tours of the home. Both are maintained and staffed by the City of Kewanee.

Woodland Palace is a State Historic Site and on the National Register of Historic Places.