IDNR Director visits Bishop Hill historic sites

staff writer
Bishop Hill Colony

BISHOP HILL… State Representative Dan Swanson (R-Alpha) brought Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director Colleen Callahan to Bishop Hill and Carl Sandburg State Historic Sites on Wednesday, July 14 to review deferred maintenance on the sites.

“I first invited Director Callahan to Bishop Hill and Carl Sandburg’s birthplace in October 2019,” said Swanson. “When COVID hit soon thereafter, the visit got delayed. In May, I reminded Director Callahan of the invitation and she was gracious to arrange a visit this week.”

Bryan Englebrecht and Scott Roman, the administrators in charge of these sites, accompanied on the tour and provided information on the sites. With a quick tour through the museum to establish the history of the sites and their importance to Illinois, the group learned more about years of deferred maintenance needs at both sites. Projections on repair requirements have been submitted in the past but have yet to be funded.

“I want to thank Director Callahan for taking the time to hear out our local concerns and discuss ways to partner toward resolving these deferred maintenance issues to ensure the site continues long into the future,” said Swanson.

Swanson was able to recently secure $100,000 in funding for the Bishop Hill Heritage Association for a variety of construction projects on historic buildings in the village through a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The grant dollars will be used for projects including new storm windows for the Colony Store, built in 1853; a new roof and additional bracing for the Steeple Building constructed in 1854; and a new roof for the Carpenter Building, constructed in 1851.

The Bishop Hill Heritage Association was organized in 1962 to save the village’s original 19th-century buildings and continues to promote the Swedish culture and history of the village through educational programming.

“Bishop Hill attracts visitors from across the country and beyond. It is an amazing piece of, not only Illinois, but world heritage. This investment recognizes the critical preservation needs of the site, but more critical investments on long-deferred maintenance projects are needed to keep this cultural asset from crumbling,” Swanson said.

Swanson reported that estimates include over $6 million in deferred maintenance projects between the two sites.

A number of events are planned this year to celebrate Bishop Hill’s 175th anniversary, including an ongoing exhibit entitled “Colonists and Their Descendants: In Their Own Words.”