The President’s Message

December 2014Greetings friends & neighbors!

The holidays are here and with that comes a fast approach to the end of another year. We’ve seen a good deal go on within our neighborhood…a lot of activity.

The year started quietly but picked up quickly as Spring arrived.

The application by Westminster church for a Certificate of Appropriateness for the installation of a digital sign began a long journey in April. Well intentioned discussions and very honest and open dialogue with the team from Westminster has shown us how “neighbors” should address disagreements.  However, we remain in disagreement over the application. This situation will play itself out over the coming months as the issue is slated for final resolution at either the meeting in December or January. We, as an organization, will stand in opposition of the application.

May brought us our annual membership Pot Luck Dinner and meeting which had record attendance.  We also saw the Peoria Marathon literally run through our neighborhood. We received a number of accolades from the event organizer regarding our hospitality and support.

Holiday Party 2014Early June saw the 34th Annual Moss Avenue Antique Sale & Festival bloom into a great success. With record participation and attendance, the event will help MBRA with its annual Hanging of the Greens as well as help seed further re-investment into our neighborhood.  

Past re-investment activities have included antique stop sign posts and purchasing shares in the Moss Bradley Revolving Fund.  Tentative plans for this year’s proceeds are to continue to invest in antique stop sign posts further into the neighborhoods and with a few more successful sales continue that process until the entire Moss Bradley neighborhood has these stop sign posts.

July brought us two items of note: The Annual Fourth of July concert and interest in the old Washington School location. A beautiful summer day greeted nearly 150 neighbors as we savored Spotted Cow ice cream, children rode ponies and we all listened to the Peoria Pops.

This was quickly followed by a membership meeting to discuss two RFP’s that had been presented to the City of Peoria for the purchase of Washington School -most notably from Montessori School. A presentation was held followed by a vibrant question and answer session. Membership voted on approval of the RFP which was presented to the City of Peoria and then approved by the city council. The purchase of Washington School by Montessori is still in process as the team from Montessori works through a number of challenges that have arisen. It continues to be their hope to complete the purchase and begin school in the fall of 2015.

Much has happened this year and we all have a lot to be thankful for. I invite all of you to attend our Annual Holiday party which takes place on Friday, December 5th at the home of Jim Adams.  Details for this event can be found within the newsletter. And don’t forget to take part in the Peoria Historical Society’s  “Splendor of Christmas Past”, a tour of five historical homes in two historic districts of Peoria.  The tours take place on Saturday, December 6th and Sunday December 7th. You can find more information within this newsletter or by visiting the PHS website at

From the Board of Directors for the Moss Bradley Residential Association, we wish all of you a Happy Holidays and prosperous New Year!

Brian Buralli


Splendor of Christmas Past – Holiday Home Tour

Splendor of Christmas 2014

Franciscan Recreation Complex: Motor Mites

FRC logoMotor Mites Hours Expand in November

On Monday, November 3, the Peoria Park District’s Franciscan Recreation Complex (FRC) expanded its Motor Mites open gym for ages 1-5 to five days a week, Monday through Friday, 9:15 a.m.-11:15 a.m., plus Friday afternoons from 1-3 p.m.

Motor Mites is an open gym where ages 1-5 play with scooters, balls, hula hoops, tumbling equipment and more. It’s a great way for parents and children to socialize!

Cost is $3/visit or $25/10-visit pass. Parents/guardians must attend. More information can be found at or by calling FRC at 309.677-6705.

Leaders Under Forty – Brian Gruber

Brian GruberAn account executive with Gallagher Coyle, Brian L. Gruber is responsible for new business development to grow the firm’s commercial property and casualty insurance division. A rising star in the industry, he advises clients on employee benefit plans, consults on insurance and risk management, and works to create loss control programs and safety initiatives that help reduce risk and promote a safer work environment.

A Peoria native, Gruber left the area for six years, returning with his wife and two children in 2012. Upon his return, he wasted no time re-engaging with a range of community organizations. A board member of the Alzheimer’s Association of Central Illinois, he has volunteered numerous times on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Committee and co-chaired the 2005 Walk, which raised more than $100,000 for the organization. In 2013 and 2014, he served on the Kentucky Derby Party Committee and currently sits on the Development Committee, Audit Committee and Compensation Committee.

Gruber was a founding member of EPIC (Emerging Philanthropists in Central Illinois), a fund within the Community Foundation of Central Illinois, and serves on the Animal Welfare Grant Review Committee. A strong supporter of Easter Seals, he volunteered for the 2003-2005 VIP campaigns and served on the 2014 Passage to India Sponsorship Committee. He serves on the Membership and Marketing Committee at the Creve Coeur Club and currently chairs the Activities Committee. As a Rotarian with Peoria Rotary-North, he has served on the Membership Committee and volunteered for Tee It Up For the Troops and numerous other community service functions.

As a member of the Rock River Valley Tooling and Machining Association, Gruber helped organize events to promote the manufacturing sector, and from 2004 to 2006, he mentored a “little brother” for the Heart of Illinois Big Brothers and Big Sisters. He is also a 2013 Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce Community Leadership School Graduate and volunteer for the Moss-Bradley Residential Association.

Get To Know Your Neighbor – Leonard & Annette Schmillen

Leonard & Annette SchmillenStreet:
St. James St.

We have three sons – Jeremiah, Luke & Jack. Jeremiah is married to Carrie and they have our three grandchildren Isabella, Madeleine and Eli.

Where were you born:
We were both born in Peoria

Who was the most influential person to you:
Our parents

What type of music are you listening to now:
We love our Pandora Radio which includes a wide variety of types of music. Some favorites are Eva Cassidy, George Winston, Vitamin String.

 What was your first job:
Leonard was a bottle boy at Haddads grocery where he stacked returned soda bottles for $15.00 a week! Annette worked in the dining room of St. Joseph’s home serving meals to the residents.

What accomplishment are you most proud of:
Our wonderful family and happy life.

What is special about where you live:
Our grand, beautiful old Victorian house which has been in Annette’s family since it was built around 1900. When we moved in eight years ago we continued the unbroken line of Bushells living here. It is a gift and a privilege to call it home.

Converse Manor formerly Easton Manor

ConverseOriginally called Hillcrest Manor and Easton Manor, the home was built in 1881 by Edward S. Easton and his wife Sarah, two of Peoria’s most prominent citizens, as their primary residence. Edward, like his father and grandfather before him, made his fortune in the grain business.

The home was designed by a Swedish architect, and built in the Victorian style with Second Empire elements, most notably the mansard roofline, which extends from the top level of the house to down around the upper-story windows. The home incorporates European architectural elements the Eastons admired during their extensive travels abroad, including floor tiles from England, ceiling fresco paintings (which were unfortunately painted over long ago), and delicate adornments using ebony, marble and etched glass. The original ballroom chandelier now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The home was owned by many individuals including Col. John Comstock, a prominent Peoria Realtor, who purchased the mansion after Edward Easton’s death around 1901. After the Comstocks left in the 1960s, the home was abandoned for years and ultimately slated for demolition. Three times the Peoria City Council gave the owner’s permission to tear it down and construct a high-rise apartment building in its place. Three times the project fell through due to protests by preservationists who ultimately had it placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The building was then abandoned and fell into a state of disrepair. It was briefly owned by Dan and Vivian Capps, historic preservationists who began the restoration process. They searched local antique shops, finding some of the original brass work and door hinges in antique shops and returning those to the home.

In 1997, Jane Converse purchased the home for her growing business — preferring to save a beautiful historic landmark rather than build something new. It was a labor of love. Continuing the work started by the Capps, she embarked on a major renovation project and hired Les Kenyon to be the restoration architect, Cullinan Properties to provide construction management services, and Kevin Schoemaker of Hine Construction to be the master carpenter.

Message from Councilman Chuck Grayeb

I am happy to report that work continues all over District Two. The time is rapidly approaching for the Street Fall Cleanup as we batten down the hatches for Winter. Yard waste collection ends on Saturday, November 29. I believe that some of the cuts which we are required to make to keep our biennial city budget balanced will have minimal impact on service delivery to the People of Peoria.

I ask that you not leave your car doors unlocked as there has been a rash of car entries all over the City. I am busy nominating qualified District Two residents to as many commissions as I possibly can. I believe we have the most informed and engaged citizenry in the City. If you wish to serve on a commission, let me know.

The December Book Review

Submitted by Bonnie Mason

I am delighted to be writing this article again – I got sidetracked, as it were, for a year or so until my thoughtful neighbor suggested I write again and I agreed… Thank you!

I do love a good book that exist somewhat under the radar, Best Sellers you can find in the New York Times… One of my favorite reviews was the water color chickens book with an intro by Prince Charles – who knew he was a chicken aficionado!

Fashion BookChristmas gift ideas abound! My grandmother, who built 1505 W. Columbia Terrace in the Uplands, taught me to do all sorts of rather elegant handwork. My mother taught me to sew when I was seven, so my appreciation of Fashion: A History from the 18th Century to the 20th Century, compiled by Taschen, may be greater than most. The collection of garments pictured is honestly breathtaking when the work involved is in creating them is taken into consideration – clothing as genuine works of art. This is a collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute, the text is a rich history of fashion over the past three centuries – don’t miss this book! Hardcover, $19.98, a gorgeous volume. 

The Big Idea BookNational Geographic has published a book entitled The Big Idea: How Breakthroughs of the Past Shape the Future. A fascinating analysis of 24 Big Ideas of today and tomorrow and the trail of big ideas through history (from the present to 3,500 BC) that led to them. “Looking backward at giant leaps forward” a reverse chronology is listed on eight pages at the back of the book showing how big ideas interact, build on each other, bounce off each other, and influence each other through history. “A one of a kind volume that will thrill science and technology junkies of every age and give whole new meaning to the phrase “back to the future”. Paperback, the book sells for $12.98!

Gus & Me BookOf course, my final suggestion and my absolute favorite find of the year is Gus & Me. Written by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, this is a charming, charming picture book full of love. It is the story of Keith’s relationship with his grandfather, Gus, who introduced him to music. So beautifully and simply illustrated by the Richards’ daughter, Theodora, (named after Gus) it is a must read. If you don’t feel like reading it there is a CD in the back – Keith will read it to you. I am in complete awe of the fact that Keith Richards is a devoted family man living in Connecticut, father of five children with five grandchildren, still married to Patti after all these years – Hardcover, published by Hanchette Book Group, Inc. the book sells for $18.00. A perfect choice for everyone! 

I am really happy to be writing for you again. Thank you! Be good to each other, read, give books and enjoy the holidays! Merry Christmas!

Thru the Windshield: How do we look to those passing by?

Submitted by Marjorie Klise

According to the discussion at City council (Tuesday, Oct 28) things are moving in the East Bluff. What a plan!

All the handicapped will live in one block. And the subsidized units will be in another. Perhaps they will paint all the houses on another block green and have the Irish live there. Would a scarlet shade in another block do for the single mothers trying to raise their families? Maybe a row of  Quonset huts for returning veterans is a good idea. (Is this new urban planning? We used to call that segregation.)

In ‘unplanned neighborhoods’ we all live together. All mixed up. Two story duplexes have people updater who can be of service to their disabled neighbors on the first floor. And the Irish guy will meet and take a young boy who is living without a father to a ball game. Streets develop with similar sized structures because it looks right. And many have similar features. Can you imagine a house without a front porch! There is proportion and compatibility to the eye.

We blend, we compliment and we create community. Of course there are those few oddities to prove the rule, but no one group of buildings stands out. This diversity within harmony makes for beautiful music. And a nice place to live.

The Latest from St. Mark School

St. Mark - Hispanic HeritageHispanic Heritage Festival at St. Mark’s!

Come join us for a celebration of Mexican culture and fun at our Hispanic Heritage Festival on Sunday, December 14, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Mark’s School. Food, music, and other activities will commemorate Hispanic traditions, including the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which occurs a couple of days before the Festival. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of the Americas. St. Mark’s School families and students are hosting this festival, and we invite you to attend!

Proud Grandparents Visit St. Mark’s School!St. Mark - Grandparents Day

On October 22, St. Mark’s students hosted Grandparent/Special Person Day at the school. One hundred fifty grandparents and others joined

their students for a delicious lunch. They also heard remarks from our pastor Msgr. Brian Brownsey and our principal Dr. Noreen

Dillon. The student choir performed and many of the students received early
Christmas gifts of St. Mark’s Spirit Gear. Grandparents, alums and other
friends of St. Mark’s School will soon be receiving a new newsletter.
Please email Amanda George at if you’d like to be on the mailing list.