Edwardsville Intelligencer
Saturday-Sunday, May 30-31, 1998

Preservation group has big plans for state money

By Christine Eufinger
Of the Intelligencer

Local officials call the state's recent $800,000 gift for renovation and repair of several historic structures a "historic preservation dream come true." The city's Historic Preservation Commission recently received nearly all the funds requested on a wish list they compiled in April at the request of Sen. Evelyn Bowles, D-Edwardsville.
"It was like buying a lottery ticket and it worked," said HPC chairman Karen Mateyka. "I think everyone knew the state had some extra funds. It definitely was a wish list and who would even have thought it would have happened." Calling the state funding "manna from Heaven," Mateyka said the gift will allow local preservation officials to take possession of historic places without letting them slip through the cracks.
Bowles said she was delighted to see the state funds for historic preservation and other projects after years without excess in state funds. "Edwardsville has a historic background and we're anxious to keep that in place, to retain our historic places rather than tear it down and build new," she said. Announcement of the funds was made after the adjournment of the Spring Session of the state General Assembly.
The HPC will use the $800,000 for a series of projects including:
$120,000 for the renovation of the former Leclaire Academy. Officials hoped to restore the former academy to its original condition while also repairing the roof, plastering, heating and cooling system and adding handicapped restrooms. The city has continued discussions with the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce, which may consider moving its office to the academy.
$500,000 to purchase the old Stephenson House on South Buchanan. Now occupied by Southern Illinois University's Sigma Epsilon fraternity, the house is one of the oldest brick structures in Madison County. The house's fireplace and interior wood work is one of the finest examples of wood working in the country for that time period, Mateyka said. HPC members hope to purchase the house and renovate it as a museum or for another use.

Benjamin Stephenson House - 1998

$175,000 to repair some of Edwardsville's brick streets, about half of what HPC requested. "It'll go about half as far as what we wanted," Mateyka said. "We have 12 miles of brick streets that are landmarked in Edwardsville and they are in need of repair." Though repair is expensive, the brick streets tend to last longer than concrete, Mateyka said. HPC will work with the city to determine which streets will be repaired with the state money.
$10,000 to help construct a tower for the former Edwardsville National Bank clock near Edwardsville Frozen Foods. HPC members have collected donations of money and building materials of about $14,000 in recent months, but fell about $6,000 short of their goal. Mateyka said the state money should ensure the tower is built as planned. Any money left over would be placed into a fund for future maintenance of the tower and landscaped area around it. Officials hope to break ground on Monday.
$4,000 to replace the Edward Coles plaque at the site of
the old courthouse. At first free-standing, the plaque was affixed to Lincoln School after it was vandalized.
But The HPC didn't get all the funds it requested The group had asked for extra $500,000 for renovation of two buildings at the former N.O.Nelson/Wagner Complex. Even that amount would have paled in comparison to the funds needed to spruce up and repair the complex. "($500,000) isn't nearly enough to cover what it would take to get it ready. It would have barely touched it, but we would like to restore two or more buildings for public use," Mateyka said.