The Story of Leclaire

[From the November 2021 ECHA Newsletter]

In the late 19th Century, N.O. Nelson located a suitable site to found his factory town just outside the city limits of Edwardsville. Nelson, a wealthy businessman from Missouri, wanted to build a cooperative

town where employees were not exploited as cheap sources of labor, but treated as integral stakeholders of the company. In 1890, the Village of Leclaire was founded, named by the factory workers in honor of Edmund Leclaire, a pioneer of profit-sharing.

The N.O. Nelson Manufacturing Company provided clean and safe working conditions within the factory, along with fair wages and profit-sharing for its employees. Education was provided to all chil- dren in the Village, free of charge. There were ample recreation op- portunities, including swimming and ice skating at Leclaire Lake. Most importantly, N.O. Nelson understood the importance of supplying affordable housing to his workers.

Nelson sold homes to his employees at below market prices, slightly above the cost of materials and labor. He setup payment plans which were based upon a worker’s salary and family size. Payments were suspended if a family fell on hard times due to injury or illness. These initiatives put the prospect of homeownership within reach for all factory workers, which was a rarity during this time.

The quality of life that was established in Leclaire did not go unno- ticed. Papers from Chicago, New York and Los Angeles wrote of the standard that Nelson set for the Village. Leclaire was a great experi- ment whose history should instill civic pride in all Edwardsvillians.

When we talk about affordable housing in 2021, it is not uncommon that we field this question: ‘Edwardsville is a great city, why do you want to change that?’ Our response is this: caring for others and im-

proving housing equity is within our nature. It is part of our collective DNA. We are a better city today because of N.O. Nelson. Growing our affordable housing stock will only make us a better city for the future.

Housing Study Update

The City has received 10 submissions in response to their request for qualifications. The deadline was at the end of October. In the coming month, the review team will meet to select the best consultant to perform the affordable housing study. This ad hoc committee is comprised of City staff, the chair of the Human Rights Commission and the chair of the Plan Commission.

Overview of the Edwardsville Community Housing Alliance

We’re excited to announce a newly formed nonprofit organization, the Edwardsville Community Housing Alliance, with the mission of increasing the supply of housing in Edwardsville that is accessible and affordable to persons and families earning $10 to $15 in hourly wages.

We believe that people who work here in Edwardsville should be able to partake of the benefits of living here—people who work in the jobs created by new retail, big box stores, and warehouses, those who serve us and our loved ones in restaurants, day cares, nursing facilities, the essential workers who make Edwardsville a comfortable place to live. They should share in the same benefits, like good schools, safe streets, and welcoming atmosphere that our City boosters are rightly proud of.

The Edwardsville Community Housing Alliance will bring people together to create housing opportunities for working persons and families in Edwardsville. Over the next few years we plan to address disparities of household income and wages by ensuring that a supply of decent and affordable housing is accessible to persons and families earning at or near minimum wage levels.

We welcome allies including persons and families earning $10 to $15 hourly wages, local officials, advocates for equity and racial justice, housing developers, and finance institutions with a track record of creating and supporting the kind of housing that will enable local workers and families to enjoy the benefits of our shared community life.

We’d especially like to provide a forum for people impacted by the current housing market, hear their stories, and share their vision of a good community life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Join Us

We’re working to develop public support for projects that increase the supply of affordable housing for people working in Edwardsville, IL.

Join our newsletter and stay up to date on our journey to help foster an inclusive and equitable community.

To People Currently Looking for Affordable Housing in Edwardsville: We are a new organization and do not yet have the capacity to provide any housing—that is what we’re working to accomplish. You can search for existing affordable housing developments, homeless resources, and local public housing authorities on-line at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:

Meanwhile, contact us at: and we will provide a few suggestions on who you might contact to find out about affordable units.