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Clayville is a former roadside hamlet, inhabited from 1824 into the 1850s, located in Cartwright Township near Pleasant Plains, Illinois, United States.
The settlement was never large but was firmly centered on a once-thriving tavern on the main road between Springfield, the state capital, and the Illinois River port of Beardstown. The Broadwell Tavern continues to stand on its original foundation today as a reminder of the once-active frontier settlement.
Residents of Sangamon County took steps, starting in the late 1900s, to preserve Broadwell Tavern and reconstruct adjacent wooden structures as a combined work of historic preservation and local open-air museum. After an effort to operate the tavern and museum under the auspices of Sangamon State University (a predecessor of the University of Illinois at Springfield) failed in 1992, the tavern was once again abandoned and allowed to deteriorate. Preservation efforts, led by Pleasant Plains neighbors, resumed in 2009. “Clayville Historic Site”, a purpose-organized nonprofit closely affiliated with the Pleasant Plains Historical Society, acquired the abandoned tavern and adjacent land parcels in 2010. Clayville Historic Site, as of 2015, operates an annual spring festival, summer folk music meet, fall festival, several car cruise-ins, and haunted house festival at the ghost townsite, and has refitted the tavern to restore the exterior and partly restore the interior to its operational appearance in the 1840s.
The Broadwell Tavern was built in 1824 by innkeeper and land developer John Broadwell as an investment in the Springfield area. The businessman sensed that the nearby county seat of Springfield would grow and its residents would need to travel in and out. On the American frontier in the 1830s, a tavern typically doubled as a logistics center. The drivers of slow-moving, horse-drawn drays needed a place to spend the night where their horses could be fed and watered. Illinois law required taverns to provide these services as condition of receiving a license to serve alcohol by the drink. Although the hospitality of the Broadwell Tavern was never luxurious, the tavern’s fireplaces kept the brick tavern warm, and glass windows helped encourage the guests to get up early and resume their journeys. The tavern was built in a vernacular Federal style. Clayville Tavern was added to the National Register of Historic Places in May 1973.