BH state site closing date is set; lawmakers hope for restoration

Carol Townsend

The last day for the Bishop Hill State Historic Site to be open is Sept. 28, according to site superintendent Martha Downey on Aug. 28. Four of the five site employees were given their layoff payers earlier that day.

The closing is due to massive cuts in Illinois Historic Preservation Agency funding. Several state sites elsewhere will be affected, including Carl Sandburg Birthplace in Galesburg, Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island, and Jubilee College, Brimfield.

The Bishop Hill state site include four locations: the Bishop Hill Museum, Bjorklund Hotel, Colony Church and village park. Those locationswill be open on a limited basis for special events.

No other Bishop Hill businesses or attractions are state-owned and therefore aren’t part of the closing.

State Reps. Don Moffitt (R-Gilson) and Mike Boland (D-Moline) told a group in the Bishop Hill Steeple Building on Thursday night about House Bill 6693 –a bill they are working on to restore money to re-open several of the sites.

Moffitt and Boland are going to introduce legislation to restore funding for the IHPA, which had $7.7 million slashed from the state budget by Gov. Rod Blagojevich in June.

“Our historic sites and preserved artifacts are our only connection to Illinois’ rich history,” Moffitt said. “Funding cuts reduce our ability to restore notable buildings and significant items partly because the slowdown in visitor traffic decreases admission and donation revenues. Plus, this dollar reduction impacts surrounding communities as well. Local economies, which benefit from tourists’ purchases may begin to struggle and tax revenues will decrease.”

“It is not good economic sense as Bishop Hill draws visitors from all over the United State as well as internationally,” noted Boland.

Boland encouraged everyone to continue to write letters to their state representatives and senators, and to sign petitions. Over 2,000 signatures have been collected so far.

Moffitt noted that Bishop Hill generates sales tax as well as jobs, which also produce state income tax.

If passed, HB 6693 would fully restore IHPA funding. Legislators are not in regular session now, which Moffitt and Boland said is good because they have more time to talk and hopefully get more support from lawmakers.

It could be 2009 before the bill is even introduced, Moffitt and Boland acknowledged.

“We don’t want to give false hope,” Moffitt said, “but if we do nothing, we will get nothing. “