PONTIAC -- A Pontiac historical landmark threatened with demolition just four years ago is now at the halfway point of a full-scale renovation.
"There may be a lot of work still to go, but the progress they have made this year has been substantial," said Pontiac City Administrator Bob Karls. "It's looking better every day."
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The Livingston County Historical Society bought the Strevell House on West Livingston Street, the last known structure in Livingston County to have hosted Abraham Lincoln before he was elected president. After a speech at the First Presbyterian Church in 1860, Lincoln went to the home of Pontiac attorney Jason Strevell, and the two men discussed the upcoming presidential campaign, the state of the Union and other important social and political issues of the day.
"Our goal is to restore it to the way it was when Lincoln was last here," said Mike Ingles, a member of the Strevell House Steering Committee. "But it's a slow process and it takes a lot of volunteer help."
The committee has worked to gather resources through cash gifts, donations of goods and services and the sale of commemorative paving bricks. Much of that money has been used to restore the exterior of the home, which is nearing completion. To assist with the restoration of the roof, Bob Landrus Roofing and Construction of Pontiac donated materials, and Landrus even donated his own time.
"Bob is very community-minded, and his generosity saved us a lot of money," Ingles said.
Ingles estimates work on the project is about 50 percent complete, and the focus will turn soon to the inside of the house.
Windows in the main part of the house were restored, and the trim that helps to define the house as being in the Carpenter Gothic Style was replaced or repaired.
Multiple layers of existing paint were removed to get the exterior surface down to bare wood. The exterior was painted colonial red with white trim, which is believed to be the color of the house when Lincoln visited.
The ultimate goal is to provide a home for the Livingston County Historical Society to store artifacts.
"Our next order of business is to put together a plan for the inside," Ingles said. "We haven't decided which room to do first, but we will probably start in the rooms where Lincoln was most likely to be in."
Tom Ewing, chairman of the restoration committee, said that even though much of the work now will move inside, the fundraising efforts will continue.
So far, more than 100 commemorative bricks have been purchased by philanthropic trusts, businesses and individuals. Each $100 brick is engraved with a name or a message chosen by the donor, and installation of the bricks will begin this fall.
"Bricks that are ordered before the installation begins will provide the greatest benefit because it costs considerably more for engraving after the bricks have been installed," he said.
The bricks will form a memorial walkway and will run from the city sidewalk to the front door of the house. Anyone wishing to purchase a brick should contact the city's tourism office at (815) 844-5847.
"We have been pretty successful with the sale of bricks, but we have a lot more work to do," said Pontiac Tourism Director Ellie Alexander. "We have made so much progress, and we want to keep the momentum going forward."