Campton Township, preservationists pleased that historic schoolhouse will stay put
In mid-May, the historic 1852 Whitney Schoolhouse was supposed to be relocated about two miles to a new location in Campton Hills.
Now, the one-room schoolhouse at 401011 Burlington Road is staying put -- and local officials and preservation activists couldn't be happier.
Campton Township has partnered with the Skyline Council of Landmarks Illinois, which has been working for four years to restore the schoolhouse, to buy the 6.1-acre site the schoolhouse sits on, as well as a 2,500-square-foot Italian Renaissance home from the 1850s.
The township plans to convert the house into a history/education center and envisions farmers markets, art shows and other activities there in the future. The two groups will host a community celebration from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday to increase awareness, raise money and get input for the new site.
"It's truly going to be a benefit," said Campton Township Supervisor John Kupar. "As a township, we have some ideas but we've very open to other ideas. We might have some thoughts but what's why we want public participation. It just makes for a better product at the end of the day."
Kupar said the land is under contract and the township plans to close on the property in mid-August with owners Karen and Art Gustafson, who owned the land for 50 years.
Kupar declined to say the purchase price until the deal is done, but noted the Gustafsons were making a donation and had priced the land below market value.
Erica Ruggerio, project manager for the Skyline Council, said the Gustafsons recently lowered the land price and she suggested to Kupar that the township look into buying it.
Things moved quickly with the township securing a letter of intent, surveys and the closing date next month. However, restoring the schoolhouse could take up two years because it is volunteer-based and the work is specialized.
"The school has not been on a full foundation for two decades. Once you move a building from its original site, it can lose a portion of that history," Ruggerio said. "I'm thrilled that we get to keep it in place."
The council and township have raised more than $130,000 in pro-bono services, donated supplies and grants to complete investigative work, cleanup, structural repairs, a new foundation and other restoration work for the schoolhouse. Skyline Council is seeking donations to help with the exterior restoration on a GoFundMe page.