Letter to the Editor
May is historic preservation month, the perfect time to encourage you to contact the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (which is a part of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources) to ask them to provide funds for our historic landmarks, specifically the Colony Church and other colony buildings in Bishop Hill. I contacted them myself a couple of days ago at: www2.illinois.gov.
My wife and I took out-of-state guests to Bishop Hill last week, and we were all disappointed in the condition of the exterior of the Colony Church and other state-supported buildings, including the iconic fence at the Bishop Hill park. The buildings and fence had deteriorated significantly since our last visit. The exterior of the church is in need of painting, which hasn’t been painted since 2009. I’m willing to help paint the church, but I can’t do it alone.
When we went inside of the church sanctuary, we found that a section of plaster had fallen, presumably from a leaking roof, and a plastic tarp was covering the church pews to prevent further damage. In the foyer of the sanctuary, birds were living under the floorboards due to missing siding on the outside of the church.
The Colony Church was built in 1848, and it was the first permanent building in the colony. Families emigrated from Sweden, lived in the lower floors of the church, and worshipped in the sanctuary above. This is an important landmark.
The house behind the church, once used as a colony dormitory, has fallen into further disrepair, the shutters on the museum on the south end of town are falling apart, and a blue tarp is covering a section of the roof on the colony barn behind the hotel. These are all signs of neglect.
Historic sites and historic preservation create tourism dollars for the local economy, not to mention the value of preserving our past for future generations to enjoy. Please let the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (as well as your elected representatives) know that you value this important site, and you want them to work to find a solution to provide funding for repairs as soon as possible.