‘Abe’s Million’ to fund Mount Pulaski Courthouse restoration

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[February 11, 2015]  MOUNT PULASKI - On Saturday, Tom Martin, chair of the Mount Pulaski Courthouse Foundation, addressed a somewhat captive audience at the Mount Pulaski Courthouse Abraham Lincoln Birthday celebration. Martin said he wanted to take advantage of the crowd to talk about the needs of the courthouse and the foundation’s "Abe's Million" fundraising effort.

“Abe’s Million” will be a yearlong effort by the foundation, with the goal of raising $1 million.

Martin began by explaining that the courthouse foundation was formed in 2011 with the intent of continually raising money for the upkeep of the courthouse.

He noted that the courthouse is a state historic site, but with the dire financial conditions of the state of Illinois, funding for state historic sites have not been enough to keep the courthouse maintained.

In 2011, the foundation was formed by local people who see the courthouse in the town square every day, and are proud that it is there. They want the courthouse to continue to be a vital part of the town, as well as an important part of our county and state history.

"We consider this a National Treasure, it’s not just Mount Pulaski’s," he said. "But when it’s in our town square, and we see it every day, we see the problems that are going on. We’ve taken upon ourselves, that it is our mission to be the ones on point to take care of the courthouse and make sure the rest of the nation and the world knows what is going on here.”

When the foundation was formed, there was a “to do” list that included repairing some window sills and doing some painting and other miscellaneous repairs.

However, in December of 2013, the vision of the foundation changed. It was as the courthouse was preparing for Christmas that one volunteer noticed a crack in the ceiling in the upstairs courtroom. Martin said investigating the crack it was discovered that the roof support system of the building was failing. He said that the roof was last replaced back in the 1940’s.

“So," he said, "all of the sudden, instead of just fixing windows and fixing doors, our problem, our mission became large.”

As a result the foundation took on the mission of raising $1 million dollars for the courthouse. He noted that the money was going to be raised through gifts and fundraisers and also grants. The goal is for the foundation to raise $750,000 with another $250,000 in matched grants.

Martin said he knew $1 million was a big number for a small community. That is why, the foundation is reaching out, not just locally but around the world, drawing attention to the need.

Martin pointed out that in the courtroom the ceiling was in need of repair, and the paint was peeling from the walls. He said there was a moisture problem inside the building but at the moment adding new paint would not solve the problem.

He explained that years back, the exterior of the courthouse was painted. The paint looks nice, but the problem is the paint used sealed the porous nature of the brick, so there is no wicking of moisture. He said that until that problem is solved, the moisture damage inside the building will continue.

So, not only is there a need for a new roof, there is a need solve the paint problem on the exterior. When those tasks are completed, the interior of the building can then be restored.

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He said that the Foundation is aware that doing a complete renovation all at once would be costly but would also save money in the long run by not piecemealing the work.

He shared that the foundation has printed material available about the fundraising efforts. He told the group, “What we need for you to do is, if you can donate money, fantastic, and if you can spread the word, fantastic.”

Martin also reported that the Foundation has more money than one might expect. To date, the coffers total approximately $340,000. He noted that the foundation received a large endowment, $250,000 from the estate of Waldo and Rosalie Bertoni in December of 2013.

The Foundation also benefited from the fundraising efforts of the Mount Pulaski Grade School Third Grade Class of 2013. The class stunned the community and earned the respect and admiration of many when in 2013 the kids decided to raise money to give to the foundation. The result was in April of that year; the class presented the Foundation with a check for just over $11,000.

With the creation of the Abe’s Million project, the foundation has hosted their first fundraiser of the year already. On January 24th, the Foundation hosted a dinner and musical entertainment event at the Old Brickyard Grill and Pub in Mount Pulaski. Along with a great meal, guests were treated to music from the Millikin University Faculty Jazz Band, and a silent auction was held. At the end of the evening, the foundation reported it had raised more than $4,000 for Abe’s Million.


Martin concluded that there will be other fundraising events throughout this year. He then said that in 2016, the foundation would take whatever it has raised and start working on the restoration of the Courthouse.

The Courthouse Foundation has its own website; http://www.mountpulaskihistoriccourthouse.org/ 

There one can read about the history of the courthouse, learn of future events being planned, and make donations through an online donation page.

[Nila Smith]

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