Key HVAC Maintenance Tips for Fall and Winter

During those cold winter nights, your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system becomes the most valuable commodity in your home. But if it’s running poorly, that means less comfort and higher energy bills for homeowners. Heating your home and producing hot water are generally the largest energy expenses for any homeowner, so you can ensure your home heating bill remains as reasonable as possible by supporting your HVAC system and keeping it running properly.

Change the Air Filter and Clean the Vents

Changing the air filter every month is one of the most important things you can do to support your HVAC system. It’s also one of the easiest. The filter should be checked every month and replaced if it is dirty. Filters should be replaced at the very least every three months – no matter what. Keep up with this simple project by choosing a regular day to check the filter, such as the first or last day of the month.

Have It Inspected

Yearly service of your HVAC system ensures it runs properly. Homeowners should have the system inspected in the fall to best prepare it for the demands of winter. The Department of Energy website offers a list of helpful instructions to help homeowners find the right contractor for their needs.

If Your HVAC System is Ancient, Replace It

Replacing the home’s HVAC system is an expensive proposition, but if your system is old and inefficient, the added comfort and financial benefits of a new system can be very real. If your system is more than 10 years old, you should ask a service technician’s opinion on the longevity of your system. Replacing it with an Energy Star model could reduce your home’s annual energy bill by as much as 30 percent, per

Sufficiently Insulate the Attic

One of the easiest ways to help your HVAC system operate at peak performance is to lighten its load. Insulating the home’s attic keeps warm air in the home and prevents it from escaping outside. This allows your HVAC system to do less and still maintain the home’s proper temperature. Per, a simple visual test will determine whether the home’s attic is sufficiently insulated. According to their recommendation, insulation in the attic should be high enough to obstruct the view of the floor joists. If this is the case, additional insulation will offer little to no benefit.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Installing a programmable thermostat provides the technology to allow you to set the temperature in your home for every hour of the day, and it will keep to that schedule, day after day, week after week. Plus, depending upon the device, you can even adjust the temperature from your smartphone, meaning you can tweak the settings of your home thermostat wherever and whenever you might be.


President’s Message

What Goes Around, Comes Around.

I was recently reflecting back on a “Thru the Windshield” Marge Klise wrote in 2015 and noted a number of items that have particular relevance today.

In her musings, her first statement, “We have lost many of our beautiful large trees in the last few years,” is appropriate as MBRA continues to promote our tree replacement program which was instituted in 2016.  If you are in need of replacing a tree, you can still take advantage of the program.  Details can be found here.

Marge went on to state, “Have you noticed the presence of new young families? Children out playing? We need your fresh ideas….and your strong bodies.”

Yes, yes and yes! We continue to attract young people, who find the entire Moss Bradley area to be a wonderful place to raise a family and live a rich, full life.  Her final statement in that phrase is key…”we need your fresh ideas.”

As the neighborhood continues to evolve we need to have the input of our newest neighbors and encourage you to actively participate by becoming a member, if you are not one already, having a voice at our membership meetings, and being an active participant with events and activities.

One of her final observations was about the lot at Union Hill and Moss and having it progress into an inviting entrance to our neighborhood.

If you attend the special membership meeting on Sunday, August 20th, you will hear of plans by a residential contractor to develop the property at Union Hill and Moss with historically appropriate townhomes.  More details are certain to follow in the coming weeks and we will work to communicate with all of you as the plans go before the Historic Preservation Commission and the city of Peoria  We will share email information and make it an agenda item at our September Membership meeting on Wednesday, September 6th.

Marge was a wise, insightful person, who obviously was clairvoyant.

What Goes Around, Comes Around.


What I Did On My Summer Vacation

by Mary Ann Armbruster

A friend offered a suggestion almost a year ago – England in August.  “Quilts and Treasures of England.”  What? I can hardly thread a needle to sew on a button…but wait,I don’t have to be a quilter and I don’t need to sew…I can just go and instead of the grand finale at the Birmingham Quilt Show, I can go see Pre-Raphaelites and The Staffordshire Hoard at the Birmingham Museum of Art!  I can hang out with my good (quilter) friend, Melissa and visit Stratford Upon Avon, Cambridge, Bletchly Park.   OK, sign me up.

We’re met at Birmingham airport by the Treasures group leader, Martha, and 21 other “mature” women, along with Collie, Martha’s husband, and Darren, the Coach driver – two very daring and patient men.

The group is excited to be in England, land steeped in history, art, music, architecture.  So, first things first (after the restrooms): Cadbury’s Chocolate World.  Well, ok, mildly excited about hundreds of variations on chocolate bars, including hats, teapots, animals, and any other thing you can think of, made of chocolate.

On to Stratford Upon Avon, and the beginning of ten days featuring a grand tour of English homes through the ages, plus two cathedrals, the University of Cambridge, and Bletchley Park, interspersed with rolling hills, charming villages, lots of sheep and cows, wining and dining  in tea rooms and pubs and including a canal boat dinner cruise and a lavish meeting of The Pudding Club.

The homes ranged from the relatively humble Shakespeare’s birthplace and the cottage of his wife, Anne Hathaway, to Blenheim Palace, home of the Duke of Marlborough and birthplace of Winston Churchill.  In between some cozier ones were the charming Hemington Grey Manor, home of children’s author, and quilter, Lucy Boston.  Her daughter-in-law still lives there and gives tours and manages the garden.  Another impressive cottage was Sulgrave Manor, ancestral home of George Washington built by our first President’s “5 times” Great grandfather who became wealthy in the wool business and put his home in the midst of fields of sheep.

Oxburgh Hall is a 16th century moated manor out in the middle of nowhere, filled with paintings and books, and includes  a “priests hole” a very secluded hiding place for the persecuted Catholic clergy during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Two celebrations of the Pre-Raphealites and the Arts and Crafts movement are the Wightwich Manor and the William Morris childhood home at Waltenstowe which now offers an impressive exhibit of the work of Morris and his company.  Wightwich is the Tudor style  home of Theodore Mander, a partner in a successful family business making varnish and paint, who built it in the late 19th century for his second wife, Flora, and is full of furnishings, art and decorative elements from the Arts and Crafts movement.

Our three hour walking tour of Cambridge University was undeterred by a few morning showers.  We toured the beautiful Queens’ College dining hall, resplendent with William Morris tiles and stained glass windows and tables set for a wedding reception with bouquets of white roses.  We ambled about Trinity College, famous for Henry VIII and Stephen Hawking,  the Walnut Court, the mathematical bridge, watched students and tourists punting on the Cam, and in the town visited the oldest church, St. Benet’s with its 1000 year old tower, and the Eagle Pub where the discoverers of DNA, Crick and Watson took nourishment daily, and where RAF and American flyers during WWII covered the ceiling with drawings and signatures, now historically “listed”, preserved by the British.

Our tour included another World War II site, Bletchley Park, the setting of the movie The Imitation Game about Alan Turing and hundreds of  code breakers who worked in secret to decipher German war codes.  The quiet village and countryside surroundings belie the intense work that was done in the huts of the Park.  Alan Turing’s office and the Bombe machine are impressive reminders of the work done there.

Equally inspiring and impressive is the 20th century Coventry cathedral built among the ruins of the bombed out shell of the old cathedral destroyed by a German bombing raid in WWII.  Our second cathedral tour was the ancient Ely Cathedral with the Octagon, a miracle of medieval engineering replacing a tower which fell in 1322.  It’s on the site of the monastery founded here in 673 AD by St. Etheldreda and a blend of old architecture and modern sculpture.  The Lady Chapel remains unrepaired after the damage done during the reign of Henry VIII when statues were removed, and figures in the alcoves beheaded.

Our tour ended in Birmingham where the huge

exhibition hall housed the Festival of Quilts.  Even a

non-quilter could admire the beautiful work done in a huge variety of styles, colors and sizes.  After a visit to the quilts which are so much more than just bed covers, I joined friends from the tour and took advantage of the very modern railroad transportation to go into the city of Birmingham and take a “Big Brum Open Top Buz” sightseeing tour, and of course, a visit to the Museum of Art and it’s amazing collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and the exhibit of the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver ever discovered, found in 2009 in a field near the village of Hammerwich.


Fortunately, our trip,  involving 12 hours of flights from Birmingham to Amsterdam to Detroit and back home to Peoria, went smoothly, with good weather and plenty of in-flight distractions including snacks and movies. To quote our tour leader, Martha, “We will carry home with us memories of shared experiences, new knowledge and warm friendships, all stitched together like a quilt of many colors and textures.”



from Joann Bannon

As usual, however, the numbers don’t tell the complete story! What we’re simply unable to count is the amount of effort and enthusiasm put into this project by the following members of the 2016-17 GREENS TEAM!

Please join me in thanking:

Tom Dougherty, Rick Melby and Michelle Funk, Rod and Karin Lorenz, Brian Buralli, Joe and Ed Merkle, Aaron Amstutz, Colleen Johnson,Sid Ruckreigel,  Matt Kindred & Remy Winget and their son Ryan, Andrew Rand, Jan Krouse, and Bradley volunteers from PKA Fraternity and the “Service on Saturday” project!

Remember that a portion of the revenue from the annual Moss Avenue Sale is used to purchase and dispose of the holiday greens, so an additional thank you goes to the many neighbors who generously allow vendors to use their yards during the sale.


The October Review

By Bonnie Mason

picture1I love Hallowe’en! October is my favorite month –  I have a self-proclaimed Holiday during October. Many years ago I designated October 4th to be my own personal holiday and have celebrated that day ever since! My family and close friends even give me gifts… I loved Hallowe’en before it became such a retail extravaganza and for years baked twenty five or thirty loaves of pumpkin bread to deliver on Hallowe’en night to people I absolutely enjoyed in life, but rarely got to see.

One of my favorite events at Barnes & Noble is “Howloween” held on the Saturday before Hallowe’en every year. PAWS to Read therapy dogs fill the Children’s Department: the dogs all come in costumes, their owners come in costumes, and kids come in costumes! It is so much fun and at the end of the event they all parade through the store!

I have three great books for you so perfect for this Season and all written by local authors. Sylvia Shults has written Fractured Spirits, Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, a collection of experiences at the mental health hospital from ghost hunting groups, former nurses, sensitives, and ordinary people along with a history of the hospital and Dr. George Zeller’s innovative treatment of the patients. Ms. Shults “brings a passion for paranormal investigation to her adventures at this haunted hotspot”, tauted as a “ghost story a hundred years in the making”. Sylvia’s next book,  Rhoda Derry, a fascinating history of one of the patients at the Peoria State Hospital will be released on October 15th.

Next,  Stephanie McCarthy ‘s book Peoria’s Haunted Memories is a must this season!  A compilation of ghost stories and legends, a collection of haunted sites in and around Peoria to drive by or visit during the Halloween season… “Peoria’s Haunted Memories serves as a unique guide for the intrepid supernatural sleuth seeking confirmation that the dead do not always rest in peace”. Visit these sites housing the supernatural at dusk and add a welcome eeriness to October!

Lastly, Joe Chianakas is writing a series that falls under the genre of horror beginning with The Rabbit in Red, Joe’s first book, and Burn the Rabbit, book two released on the 15th of this month! Rabbit in Red involves 19 horror-loving teens who enter a movie studio competition that promises rewards including a career making the movies they love, but things aren’t always as they seem and soon life starts to imitate art.  Lots of horror film references for the horror film devotee!

All of these books are available in paper back for prices from $15.99 to $24.98 and will add just the right touch to this delightful fall season when the days rapidly grow shorter and there is a definite chill in the air! So put on a sweater or comfy jacket, grab a quilt and curl up on that wicker porch furniture with all of these books for the last of the outdoor reading weather.

Support our local authors (a great diversion from the ever pervasive Presidential campaign) and enjoy – Happy Halloween everyone!

Presidents Message

This past June marked the 36th anniversary of the Moss Avenue Sale & Festival (MASF).  The neighborhood was filled with thousands of visitors who shopped from countless   vendors, snacked on fare from local favorites and listened to a wide variety of music that emanated from front yards and porches.

The sale has adapted to its audience and grown in size & revenue over the years in great part to the MASF committee under the leadership of Jan Krouse.  She tirelessly leads her committee and works directly with vendors to ensure a smooth running operation.  Thank you Jan!

This year’s sale was another success, with net earnings of approximately $9,500.

So what becomes of the revenue earned through the sale?

Originally intended to support the hanging of seasonal greens during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday, the program has evolved to support other neighborhood initiatives specific to maintaining and promoting a quality of life.  As a board, we believe it is vital for us as an organization to reinvest in our neighborhood to help maintain and preserve its historic nature.  As we prepare the annual budget in March, we solicit input from membership as to what programs they would like to see us undertake.  Once those programs are defined, we budget for them accordingly and do not make any real investment until after the revenue from the MASF has been realized.  Only then are investments made.

Projects in recent years have included placing decorative stop sign posts throughout the neighborhood, support for the Western Avenue Greenway, and a sizable investment in the Moss Bradley Revolving Fund.  We think you will agree that these initiatives and others in the future enhance the quality of life in our neighborhood and in Peoria generally.

Proceeds from the sale also support the regular activities of our Association, such as the annual display of holiday greens on neighborhood light poles, the neighborhood potluck and annual meeting, and the July 4th Celebration.

This year’s proceeds will allow us to support the infant care program at Westminster Church which allows young mothers to complete their education, the preservation efforts at the Hale Memorial Church on High Street at Main, and a new MBRA tree program that reimburses neighborhood residents for planting trees along the streets within the MBRA boundaries.  Details for this program can be found here.

On behalf of the Moss Bradley Residential Association I wish to thank all of you for your continued support of our neighborhood through your cooperation with the annual Moss Avenue Sale and Festival – especially those of you who provide your front yard for the vendors.  The availability of yards to accommodate dealers is the most important factor in the Sale’s recent success.  Without more space the Sale and the benefits it brings will be unable to grow.  The Sale is likewise dependent on dozens of volunteers who help plan the event, monitor street barricades to restrict traffic during the Sale, erect No Parking signs, and contribute in many other ways.  Many of your neighbors contribute their time and energy to the Sale.

Thank you to everyone for making this one of Peoria’s premiere Summer events and showcases our neighborhood to thousands of people.



Jazz Vespers at Westminster Church


With the coming of the fall season, Westminster Church, 1420 W. Moss Avenue, looks forward to the return of the weekly Jazz Vesper service.  Although we kept the service alive during July and August with a service on the patio once each month, we look forward the weekly schedule and the comfort of the Sanctuary for the fall season.

We meet at four in the afternoon each Sunday beginning on September 11, 2016.  The service is Vespers … the ancient worship hour of the late afternoon where prayers were said, and scripture contemplated in the beauty of a glorious worship space.  So we continue this wonderful tradition dating from the middle ages, only updated with some wonderful jazz.  Hymns, original compositions and jazz standards all come into play as part of our worship together.  David Hoffman and his outstanding quartet ‘raise the roof’ in praise and thanksgiving.

The format remains basically the same as last season with a forty minute window for the service.  We will sing hymns and spiritual songs … read from the Word … hear a short homily and hear a lot of wonderful music!  This season we will be following a narrative lectionary which highlights all the great stories of the Bible.  We will build our worship around those stories and their impact on our lives today.  Although we are Presbyterian by affiliation, everyone is welcome at this service, and it is particularly designed so as to be inclusive without being shallow.  Those who already have a deep faith will be moved, and those who seek to enrich their spiritual life, but don’t know quite what to do … we are here to accompany and encourage you on your journey.

It has been remarkable to watch this service evolve into an integral part of the worship life at Westminster. Sunday afternoons seem a bit empty without this upbeat ending of the day. So be with us as we begin for the fall season on Sunday, September 11 at four.  Virtually everyone receiving this Moss-Bradley Newsletter is in easy walking distance of Westminster.  Take a nice Sunday afternoon walk and drop in on our service.  You will be glad you did … particularly if you like jazz at all!

Featured Home of the Month: 437 High St. – Sumner R. Clarke Residence (Part 2)

high street.jpg

by Tim Hartneck

Big Game Hunter Weds Rich Widow

San Francisco Call  Nov 20, 1910


LONDON, Nov. 19 — Mrs. Sumner Clarke of Peoria, Ill. And Colonel J.J. Harrison, the explorer and discoverer of pygmies in Congo, were married at St. George’s in Hanover Square today. The bride was given away by William N. MacMlllan.

The above notice appeared in newspapers all across America.  The Chicago Tribune and the Wichita Daily Eagle even devoted an entire page to the event.

Last month I wrote about Sumner Clarke being widowed when his died in 1877.  In 1888, he married Mary Stetson, a native of Farmington, Ill., but then living in Iowa.  At the time of the marriage, Clarke was 41 and Mary was two weeks shy of her 22nd birthday.  During her marriage to Clarke, she was one of the leaders in the city’s social affairs.  Mary enjoyed traveling and as time went by, she spent considerable time in France and England, where she made many friends.

According to newspaper accounts, when Sumner Clarke died in 1907 he left Mary $1,000,000.  That is about $25,000,000 in today’s dollars.  Mary spent even more time traveling, touring Europe, India and Africa.  In 1909, while wintering at the ranch of her friends, the MacMillian’s, in Africa, she met Col. J. J. Harrison of Brandesburton Hall, York, a retired English army officer, explorer and big game hunter.  Harrison was also a guest at the ranch.  A relationship developed and they were engaged in September of 1910 and married on November 19, 1910.

Mary left Peoria and started a new life in the English countryside.  Following Co. Harrison’s death in the 1920’s, Mary returned to the United States in 1930, settling in Pasadena, California, where she died in 1932.

Was this a story of true love and romance, or of another American fortune subsidizing a depleted English bank account?  Who knows…


Featured Home of the Month: 437 High St. – Sumner R. Clarke Residence

By Tim Hartneck

high street.jpg

Sumner Clarke commissioned architect William Quayle to design this Bracketed Italianate styled house for his family in 1877.  Sadly, Clarke’s wife died at the age of 24 in November 1877, before the house was completed.  The following year, Clarke moved into the house with his two children, Robert, age 4 and Anna, age 2.  In 1900, Clarke hired Chicago architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee to prepare plans for the renovation and remodeling of his home.  The changes to the house included the addition of the copper clad bays and the broad limestone porch, as well as extensive interior work.  The renovations cost $8,000.  This was at a time when the same amount of money could have built two two-story, three bedroom houses.

Sumner Clarke died in 1907 at age 59.  He is generally identified with the family business, Clarke Bros. & CO. (the largest distillery in the world), makers of Clarke’s Pure Rye. He was involved in many different businesses throughout his career, including:

  • Partner in the Manhattan Distillery here in Peoria
  • Owned over 15,000 acres of agricultural land in Illinois and Arkansas
  • President and principle investor in the School House Construction Company with offices in Peoria and New York
  • Owned a gold mine in Arizona
  • Principle owner of Peoria’s Peoples Gas & Electric Company
  • President of the Dime Savings Bank.



5 Worst Mistakes of Historic Homeowners, Part 4: Plaster

from The Craftsmen Blog Lath_plaster-wall

The walls of many pre-war houses are most likely wood lath, like in the picture below, covered with 3 coats of plaster. The work took a long time and was very labor intensive. Not to mention it required a skilled plasterer to make sure the plaster was properly applied and the wall was smooth and level.

Then when the GIs returned home from WWII, the baby (and housing) boom hit America, and there was a huge demand for quick, affordable housing. A new product was just beginning to get some traction in the wall covering business called gypsum board or sheet rock. It was a wall that could be screwed or nailed to the studs by a relatively unskilled laborer at close to twice the speed and half the cost of the traditional 3-coat system. And since this wall wasn’t applied wet like plaster it could be painted right away and thus got the nickname “drywall.”

A traditional 3-coat plaster is typically 7/8″ thick and when you add in the 1/4″ wood lath that supports the plaster wall you have a wall that is more than 1″ thick! Compared to today’s most common drywall thickness of only 1/2″, that is a difference worth noting.

Today the cost of a full 3-coat plaster wall is still expensive and timely to install, but when you live in an old house with one already installed you should try to reap the benefits of someone else’s labor all those years ago.

All too often we see historic houses gutted to the studs to install new drywall to replace the “outdated” plaster. Sometimes the plaster has been neglected past the point of no return, but most times it can be repaired. Usually it’s torn out in the name of insulating the wall cavities. But as with anything in the building trades, there is more than one way to skin a cat! In order to save folks the mess and expense of tearing out their walls we recommend removing a few clapboards on the exterior in order to insulate the house to modern standards. Remember, historic homes typically have no plywood sheathing under the siding so insulating with this method is just as effective plus it’s faster, cleaner, and much cheaper!

Here’s just a few of the benefits of having a real plaster wall to consider before you think about removing yours:
1. Thicker walls mean better sound dampening.
2. Thicker walls mean double the R-value of ordinary drywall.
3. Wood lath serves to strengthen the wall by adding additional racking resistance.
4. Plaster increases the historical authenticity and therefore resale value of a historic home.
5. It’s already there! It’s always “greener” and cheaper to retain existing elements.

Hopefully, this has given you some things to think about when it comes to your plaster walls. If you’d like to read more about repairing and maintaining your historic home’s walls check out our website.

Message from Councilman Chuck Grayeb


Much work needs to be done outside before the snow flies. University Street work continues, and 2016 will bring a new Sheridan Road from Richmond to McClure.  New business is opening on West Main, including Ribbon Records and a new Chicago style eatery at the old Mr. G’s ! Business people have exciting new projects coming to West Main,  and I will share details as these projects coalesce. You will love them!

More West Main murals are also in the offing.

Beth Jensen and I are working hard to get more solar powered speed reminder signs and secure the completion of an additional speed table, east of University on Moss Avenue.

Strong proactive code enforcement, with a more commonsense approach,  has already commenced, minus the neon stickers which will no longer be affixed to glass or siding. I want to thank Councilor Jensen for helping all of us in so many areas of City policy and operation .
Your City Council is hard at work on erasing  a several million dollar budget deficit  and implementing a green model resolution to the federal lawsuit involving the EPA and the City.

In the education arena, Peoria High has undergone 20 million dollars of improvements as it strives to meet 21 st century educational challenges.

At this writing, The Council is interviewing candidates for the vacated Weaver Council seat.

I  hope you all have a great Fall and Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for and hope Caterpillar will recover in due course.

Hoping to see you soon!

Central Illinois Jazz Society

CIJSlogoThe following are the scheduled programs for the Central Illinois Jazz Society during the next three months.

Sunday, November 15:Illinois Central Jazz Train at 6:00 p.m. and at 7:15 p.m., in the Starting Gate Banquet Room, at the Landmark Recreation Center, 3225 N. Dries Lane, Peoria. Members $5.00; non-members

Sunday, January 24: Central Illinois Jazz Society House Band at 6:00 p.m. and Kevin Hart and the Vibe Tribe at 7:15 p.m., in the Starting Gate Banquet Room, at the Landmark Recreation Center, 3225 N. Dries Lane, Peoria. Members $5.00; non-members $7.00; students are free.

The Central Illinois Jazz Society is a non-profit organization that is open to anyone who enjoys jazz. You do not have to be a musician to be a member or to attend our programs. The purpose of the organization is to further the appreciation of jazz among residents of Central Illinois. We provide opportunities for jazz musicians to perform and for jazz fans to enjoy their favorite music. For more information, call 692-5330 or visit