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Celebrate the state’s French heritage at an early Illinois mansion July 16

The oldest brick building in Illinois will open its doors Saturday to give the public a rare glimpse of this unique mansion and to celebrate the state’s French heritage ahead of Bastille Day.

The Jarrot Mansion State Historic Site is usually only open by request, but the public will be able to tour it from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 16. The nearby Cahokia Courthouse State Historic Site will also be open.

The home was built in 1810 by Nicholas Jarrot, a refugee from the French Revolution. Jarrot became a leading landowner and businessman in the formerly French region of Illinois as the area approached statehood.

Celebrating his success, Jarrot built an imposing Federal-style mansion, far different from the French-influenced timber buildings that were common at the time. The interior is so intact that Jarrot would find his home familiar today, more than 200 years later.

Bastille Day, formally on July 14, commemorates the day that revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, an armory and political prison in Paris.

Saturday’s open house will also remember the legacy of the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution and a man greatly responsible for France supporting the United States during the Revolution.

Lafayette returned to America in 1824-25 and was welcomed Cahokia in April of 1825. Received as a hero in one community after another, Lafayette certainly generated a special pride among French-Americans still living in Cahokia at the time. A few days later, he was honored with a special dinner hosted by Gov. Edward Coles and Pierre Menard, the state’s first lieutenant governor, in the nearby capital of Kaskaskia.

The Jarrot Mansion and Cahokia Courthouse are administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The mansion is located near the intersection of Illinois Route 3 and Illinois Route 157 in Cahokia.