1846 Pioneer Blodgett House opens to the community Dec. 14

  • On Saturday, Dec. 14 during the "Merry & Bright: A Victorian Christmas" event, the 1846 Pioneer Blodgett House will be open to the public for a soft opening.

    On Saturday, Dec. 14 during the "Merry & Bright: A Victorian Christmas" event, the 1846 Pioneer Blodgett House will be open to the public for a soft opening. Courtesy of Danielle Strohmier

 
Submitted by Dawn Hartman
Updated 12/13/2019 9:58 PM

After years of planning and fundraising efforts, the 1846 Pioneer Blodgett House will open its doors to the public for the first time in 10 years on Saturday, Dec. 14.

Located at the Downers Grove Museum Campus, the 1846 House is one of the oldest homes in the community and has great historical significance as an active stopover point on the Underground Railroad. The community can enjoy a sneak peek of the work in progress during a soft opening of the building as part of the museum's annual "Merry & Bright: A Victorian Christmas" event from 3 to 7 p.m. The museum campus is located at 831 Maple Ave.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The renovation of the 1846 Pioneer Blodgett House has been years in the making through a partnership between the Downers Grove Park District and the Downers Grove Heritage Preservation Corporation. Over the course of 12 years, the groups have worked together to garner community support, secure grant funding and acquire corporate donations with the mission to preserve this piece of Downers Grove history.

The vision for the 1846 Blodgett House restoration is to create a cultural center focusing on the Blodgett family and their involvement in the nationally significant Underground Railroad. By completing the interior restoration of the home, the park district will expand the cultural impact that the museum will have on the surrounding communities and illuminate Downers Grove's heritage as a part of the Underground Railroad, thus expanding the museum audience and increasing tourism to Downers Grove. It is the hope that the restored home will serve as an education center for schools throughout the region.

"We believe that the project to save and restore the 1846 Blodgett House reflects the significance of Downers Grove heritage and culture. Community-wide support has made possible the preservation of this pioneer home. We want to thank the many organizations and individuals who are working with us to create better appreciation of Downers Grove's cultural history," said Downers Grove Heritage Preservation Corporation President Charley Smart.

Originally built in 1846, the Greek-revival architectural style home was the second home built in Downers Grove by Israel and Avis Blodgett. The house was moved to its second location at 812 Randall Street around 1890. In early 2007, efforts to save the house began after it was purchased by a developer with the intention of building a new home on the site.

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Knowing the history and importance of the house, the developer was willing to work with the community to move the house to another location. Thus, the Heritage Preservation Corporation was created and the group began the "Blodgett House on the Move" fundraising campaign to save the historic home.

Following extensive fundraising and volunteer work spearheaded by the Heritage Preservation Corporation, the 1846 house was moved to its current location at the Downers Grove Museum Campus in 2008. An exterior restoration of the house was completed in 2010, including a new roof, siding, windows and doors. In 2013, the park district completed interior structural improvements required by local building codes, but the interior of the house remained unfinished and was not suitable for public access.

In 2018, the Downers Grove Park District was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Timken Foundation and received a $135,000 Public Museum Fund Grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. This recent funding revitalized the project and provided the financial resources needed to complete many of the interior renovations required to allow public access to the home.

There is still much work to be done on the 1846 Blodgett House project, however, the soft opening on Dec. 14 will invite visitors to see the progress that has been made. Visitors will be able to view many of the home's architecturally significant features such as the post and beam construction, mortise and tenon joinery, and hand-hewn floor joists. Temporary panels will tell the story of the Blodgett family, explain the architectural features, and share the journey that the home has made throughout the years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The project is still a work in progress and the museum and the Heritage Preservation Corporation are still seeking community support and donations to complete the project. Finishing touches are needed to bring the vision to life including interior painting and lighting, exterior gutters and drainage, cabinetry and seating as well as interpretive panels and displays.

Donations will be gratefully accepted during the "Merry & Bright" event and can also be made through the "Blodgett House on the Move" campaign website at www.1846blodgetthouse.org.

Bill McAdam, executive director of the Downers Grove Park District, is excited that the restoration is another step closer to fruition.

"The Downers Grove Park District thanks the Heritage Preservation Corporation for their tireless efforts and dedication to restoration and preservation of the 1846 Blodgett House," McAdam said. "The support of the community, the generous donations and local funding have been essential in making this project possible. We are thrilled to offer a preview of the house on Dec. 14 and look forward to sharing this treasure with the community to be cherished for years to come."

About the Downers Grove Museum

The mission of the Downers Grove Museum is to provide educational and leisure opportunities for the community by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting materials that explain and document the history of Downers Grove and its relationship to local, state, regional, national and global history.

About Downers Grove Park District

The Downers Grove Park District enriches our community through natural area preservation and exceptional recreation, parks, and facilities that inspire memorable experiences. With almost 600 acres of parks and facilities, there are thousands of opportunities for individuals of all ages and interests to grow, play, imagine and explore. Learn more at dgparks.org.

About the Downers Grove Heritage Preservation Corporation

Established in 2007, the Downers Grove Heritage Preservation Corporation is a non-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization working to save and restore the historic 1846 Pioneer Blodgett House.