Tuesday, November 18, 2008
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City agrees to lend a hand at Postville

Action could help keep state site open as others close

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[November 18, 2008]  Lincoln City Council members voted Monday night in favor of a proposal that could help keep Postville Courthouse open as numerous other historic sites like it are being closed across the state.

At the last council meeting, Tim Guinan of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency asked the city of Lincoln if they could mow at Postville Courthouse next year.

The community of Postville was the beginning of what would become the city of Lincoln. It was the original county seat, and the first county courthouse was built there. Abraham Lincoln practiced law there as a young lawyer traveling the judicial circuit.

The courthouse features authentic furnishings and memorabilia from the time of Abraham Lincoln. Postville is open year-round for tours, special speakers are often featured, and about six special events for the community are hosted there.

Alderwoman Wanda Lee Rohlfs moved that the city do the mowing at the courthouse, with Alderwoman Jonie Tibbs offering the second.

When the motion was opened for discussion, Alderman Buzz Busby voiced his opposition, stating that not long ago the park district had approached the council with a similar request, which the council denied. He felt that agreeing to help Postville would lead to doing all the mowing for the park district as well.

Shirley Bartlemay, the curator at Postville Courthouse, was called on to address the council. She began by saying that this is not expected to be a long-term need. Referring to the closing of a large number of Illinois state sites due to state budget restraints, she said that it is hoped that by next fall all these issues will be resolved.


Bartlemay said that Postville is fortunate to be one of the very few sites that will remain open, and the reason is that there are no paid employees at the site.

She added that the courthouse is manned by a total of 38 volunteers, most of whom are senior citizens, not capable of doing the mowing.

She reminded the council that in addition to state and local visitors, the Postville Courthouse attracts visitors not only from around the country, but also internationally.

Bartlemay recounted a day when a couple stopped by who were from England. She said that they were driving a really nice car, and that she and others commented on it. The couple said they were driving Route 66 all the way to California. They'd started in Chicago. When asked where they had found such a nice vehicle for their drive, they said that they had shipped it from England to the U.S. for their road trip, and when they got to California, they would then have it shipped back home.

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She also pointed out that the 1800's Craft Fair, held on the courthouse lawn during the Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival, attracts about 2,000 visitors per year. She said that some of the participating crafters have already started calling, wondering if there will be a fair in 2009.

Geoff Ladd, who is director for the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, was present for another presentation. He added to Bartlemay's comments, reminding the council of the economic impact that tourism has in Lincoln. The average tourist coming through Lincoln and Logan County, such as someone who stops at Postville Courthouse, will spend approximately $135 at local businesses while visiting here.

The council members discussed setting a time limit on how long they would be willing to do the mowing, and Alderman Dave Armbrust reminded them that when he was at the previous meeting, Guinan had said that if the city agreed to take on this task and decided it wasn't working out, they could stop at any time.

Rohlfs added that in regard to the park district, the work involved there would be in excess of 14 hours per mowing, while the courthouse would require only about 45 minutes per mow. Tracy Jackson, Lincoln street and alley superintendent, added that he has already had volunteers offer to do the work at Postville.

With discussions closed, the motion by Rohlfs was repeated. A roll call vote was taken, and the motion carried that the city would assume the mowing duties at the Postville Courthouse.


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