GALESBURG – State Rep. Dan Swanson, R-Alpha, estimates $ 6 million deferred maintenance projects between Galesburg and Bishop Hill state historic sites.
In the past, projections of necessary repairs to the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site and Bishop Hill State Historic Site have been presented to the state, but the projects will remain unfunded, Swanson said.
“These are the gems of the West Illinois Treasure Chest in places visited by people from all over the world. It’s up to us to make sure that visitors find the site beautiful and well-kept, ”said Swanson.
Swanson toured both sites Wednesday with Colleen Callahan, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, to review the delayed maintenance on state-owned property.
Swanson said one reason for the decades of deferred maintenance was the state’s financial problems over the years, but he is working to raise awareness of the situation so the historic sites can continue to operate in the future.
“Once they are so irreparable, they no longer have historical value,” said Swanson. “It has to be sooner rather than later.”
The historic site of Galesburg is the birthplace of the poet Carl Sandburg. According to Swanson, the last state-funded capital project was there in 1994 when it underwent major renovations.
“Limited work has been completed on the site since then,” said Swanson.
The list of projects now includes painting the cottage, painting tucks, a new roof for the visitor center and removing trees.
“There are dead trees and there is a fear that they will fall on the structure,” said Swanson.
The last capital projects funded at the Bishop Hill State Historic Site were in 2004 and 2005, according to Swanson.
Courtney Stone, a Bishop Hill resident, launched an online petition and campaign to raise awareness of the dilapidated state of government buildings in the historic village, founded as a utopian community by Swedish immigrants in the 1840s.
Stone said historic buildings like the Björklund Hotel and Colony Church are in dire need of repair.
“These are people’s buildings,” said Stone.
Swanson recently secured $ 100,000 from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to fund construction projects on buildings that are not owned by the state but are owned by the Bishop Hill Heritage Association.
The Bishop Hill Heritage Association was established in 1962 to save the village’s original 19th century buildings and continue to promote the village’s Swedish culture and history through educational programs.
“Bishop Hill attracts visitors from all over the country and beyond. It’s an amazing piece of not only Illinois, but also world heritage. This investment addresses the critical maintenance needs of the site, but more important investments in long-deferred maintenance projects are needed to keep this asset from deteriorating, ”said Swanson.
In celebration of Bishop Hill’s 175th anniversary, a number of events are planned this year, including an ongoing exhibition entitled “Colonists and Their Descendants: In Their Own Words.”
Swanson encouraged those concerned about the repairs needed to contact the governor’s office.