Bishop Hill Heritage Association Hosts
Special Event on Jan. 4 to Celebrate
Restoration of 1857 Blacksmith Shop
BISHOP HILL, ILL. — This historic little community is celebrating the restoration of the 1857 Blacksmith Shop, and they plan to thank the people and agencies who made it possible. The public is invited to a special program from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, in VagnHall Galleri on the second floor of the building.
Total project cost was $300,722. Half of the funding was a Tourism Attraction Program Grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO). The matching balance came from donations to the Bishop Hill Heritage Association (BHHA).
The program will include:
- Special guest Warren Ribley, director of Illinois DCEO.
- A presentation about the Blacksmith Shop restoration project by Mike Wendel, BHHA executive director.
- Local foods by Black Hawk College – East Campus.
- An update on the Bishop Hill Wind Farm Project by Invenergy.
The restoration project, by Triangle Construction & Lumber of Cambridge, Ill., included:
- Repairing and rebuilding the second floor.
- A new interior staircase built of native white oak and black walnut.
- Insulation of attic and floor.
- New electrical service, furnaces, air conditioning and radiant heat.
- Restoration and replacement of windows.
- Installation of storm windows.
- Tuck pointing of entire building.
- A new exterior staircase,
- Painting and plastering.
The Blacksmith Shop, now known as the Prairie Arts Center, houses the Colony Pottery and a shop featuring handicrafts by local artisans on the first floor, and the VagnHall Galleri space for special events and art exhibits on the second floor.
Bishop Hill, population 128, is tucked away in the countryside between the Quad Cities and Galesburg, Ill. It was the vision of Erik Jansson, a Swedish dissident preacher who sailed from Sweden in 1846 with a band of hardy Swedes in search of a new life. Thousands followed, to work the land and raise their families in a utopian-style commune. They built a sawmill, made bricks and erected buildings, including a church, store, hotel, bakery, dairy, brewery, forge, school, cobbler shop, communal dwellings and administrative offices. They crafted furniture, wove cloth, forged iron, produced butter and cheese and survived a devastating cholera epidemic.
BHHA was founded in 1962, when the original Colony Bakery & Brewery fell into disrepair and the Village decided to raze it rather than restore it. Residents realized Bishop Hill’s buildings were deteriorating and needed preserving before it was too late. BHHA acquired five buildings and began the process of preservation and restoration.
The next project on the docket for BHHA is the restoration of the 1854 Steeple Building with $625,120 from private donations and three grants: 1) Save America’s Treasures, administered by the National Park Service; 2) King Gustaf VI Adolfs Fund for Swedish Culture; 3) Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation. Work begins this January by Trillium Dell Timberworks of Knoxville, Ill.
The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) also plays a key role in supporting Bishop Hill. It owns, staffs and maintains four sites: the 1848 Colony Church, 1852 Bjorklund Hotel, Village Park & Gazebo and a contemporary gallery with a collection of primitive paintings by folk artist and former resident Olof Krans.
Today, Bishop Hill is a delightful destination for low-key, relaxing weekends and day-trips. You can explore the fascinating history, sample Swedish culture, tour historic buildings, watch artisans at work, savor country cooking and browse unique shops and galleries. There’s a cozy historic inn, and the village park is the perfect place to pause and enjoy the village’s ambiance. To plan a visit, go to www.bishophill.com or www.visithenrycounty.com.
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Mike Wendel, Bishop Hill Heritage Association
firstname.lastname@example.org - 309-927-3899
Cathy Foes, Henry County Tourism Bureau
email@example.com - 877-436-7926
Jim & Kathleen Webster, Media Consultants
firstname.lastname@example.org - 815-777-2422
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