Peoria Landmark #364
623 Fairholm Ave. Joseph Petarde, 1876 – 1942
Expanding on Sue Grawey’s comment, here is the best bio I could find, from PeoriaCountyInfo.org, as written by Janine Crandell and original published in the Jubilee Advocate in 2005.
Backward Glance: Peoria’s Brazen Sculpter
On an unassuming street in the Averyville neighborhood is a house over one hundred years old with remarkable statues and intricate artwork. What makes this house on Fairholm Street even more remarkable is the history behind it.
Joseph Petardi, born in Rome, Italy, in 1866, came from a family of stone carvers. When he was only five years old, Joseph carved his first stone sculpture, a little stone imp. At the age of thirteen, Joseph left home for fear of retribution when he accidentally damaged a marble sculpture. He was eventually caught and returned home. Then, when Joseph was seventeen, he left home again and went to Paris, France. While in Paris, Joseph carved saint figures for various churches, according to a 1926 newspaper interview.
Joseph didn’t live in Paris long; he soon left for New York City and found a job with a bridge building company. One of his assigned jobs with this company was to cut stone for the bridge pilings of the Upper Free Bridge (just north of the present-day McCluggage Bridge) in Peoria. During the time Joseph worked on this project, he stayed at the residence of Alexander and Margaret Partridge, who had given the land for this new bridge. Alexander Partridge, the first ferry boat owner in the area, had a daughter, Hannah, who later married Joseph Petardi.
Later in life, Joseph Petardi changed his last name to Petarde, perhaps in an effort to match other Petardes living in the area.
Hannah and Joseph Petarde had eight children, six of whom reached adulthood. Of all their children, only one son, Clyde, followed in his father’s footsteps. Joseph always stressed education for his children with special attention to the study of music. Joseph taught himself to play the accordion and the mandolin. During the Depression, as their main source of income, Clyde and his family performed as the “Petarde Family Orchestra” at different establishments in central Illinois.
The home mentioned earlier in this article was actually Joseph and Hannah’s second home, the first being at 637 Fairholm. It took Joseph and Clyde years to complete the carvings, which can be seen at 623 Fairholm. They completed their work in sections, culminating with the installation of three full-length figures at the corners of the porch. One depicted Atlas holding up his loincloth and the other two were semi-nude female figures. A 1922 newspaper article recounted the furor and shock this event caused in Joseph’s neighborhood. Mrs. Elsie Crandell, who lived next door to the Petardes, mentioned Mrs. Petarde refused to use the front door as a protest to the scantily clad figures.
Many of the records proving Petarde’s accomplishments no longer exist but we do know he carved stone for the G. A. R. Hall, the old Post Office and courthouse, the Dime Savings and Trust Company and several private homes. Many cities that have Petarde’s stone carvings include Chicago, Springfield, Bloomington, Champaign, Galesburg, Normal and cities in other states.
When Hannah’s parents died, Joseph carved life-size tombstone statues for them in a cemetery south of Spring Bay. Joseph also carved two beautiful tombstones located in the Springdale cemetery. One is the elaborate LaRocca monument and the other is Eugene Crandell’s monument, which was recently vandalized and then restored by Springdale. Joseph had a workshop in his backyard and while working on his projects at home, people would stop by and watch him carve.
Even though Joseph carved exquisite tombstones for others, he and his wife have a simple understated stone and are buried in the Springdale Cemetery.
* Joseph Petarde was also featured in the 2010 Prairie Folklore Theatre’s Springdale Cemetery Tour. (2:20 – 3:15)