Museum needs to stand straight

DeWayne Bartels
The two inside columns at the Metamora Courthouse state Historic Site need a $25,000 face lift. The state does not have the money to do it.

Abe Lincoln may have stood straight, but two of the columns at his museum in the Square here are not.

This is going to be a local problem to solve. The state’s $13 billion budget shortfall leaves the Metamora Courthouse State Historic Site in a bad spot.

The two inside columns at the museum entrance, according to curator Jean Myers, are badly in need of a $25,000 restoration. And the clock is ticking.

“We have to have the work done by the end of October. The cap on top of the columns is open. When it was built they probably figured water would never get in there. It did,” Myers said.

“The columns are built around trees. The bark is still on them. They are solid. The columns, however, are not. It’s just something that has to be done.”

Water getting into the columns, Myers said, is causing them to bow. The money being sought would be used to straighten the columns, prime and paint them.

Myers said this work has been needed for at least six years. He said the state was made aware of the need, but internal repairs were the highest priority.  

The restoration of the columns is not a secret. But, efforts to raise money for the project have been low-key. Myers said, last week, low-key is no longer the way to go.

“I’m trying to raise the money through the Woodford County Historical Society.  We’ve raised about $2,000. We are up against the clock,” Myers said. “It might not last another year. If we have to re-build it would be tremendously expensive.”

The museum became a state historic site in 1921. The building was erected in 1845 at a cost of $4,400. It attracted 14,000 visitors in 2009.   

Last year the state put $130,000 into the building, on an emergency basis, repairing water leaks getting into the building.

Myers said this year when he went to the state for the money to fix the columns he was told the money is not there.

“We’re hoping the state will help in some way,” Myers said.

“A few weeks ago we had a Civil War encampment here. That was the start of our fundraising effort. Next we will have a letter-writing campaign. People have been very generous. I hope when people see the things that make the courthouse the courthouse are in jeopardy they will donate like they did for the Lincoln statue. This is no joke, no exaggeration.”

Myers said the work has to be done to preserve the historical integrity of the structure.

“Lincoln practiced law in this building. There aren’t that many buildings left standing that Lincoln worked in. Places like this are becoming very rare. There is a lot of history in this building,” Myers said.