Happy Historic Holidays
the McDonough County
Four members of the McDonough County Historical Society decorated a tree for the Festival of Trees held as part of the "Dickens on the Square" festival held Dec.4-5 in Macomb IL.
The theme of the xmas tree was "Macomb Schools, 1834-present".
Two More Trees Dedicated
Mary and George Hermann celebrated the installation of donor recognition plaques under the two trees they sponsored at the Rezab Family Prairie Meadow on West Adams Street south of the old Macomb Cemetery at Wigwam Hollow Road.
One of the trees and plaques is in Memory of Judy Hermann, George’s first wife. The second is in Memory of William Lakie, Mary’s first husband. Both trees are White Oak (Quercus alba).
The Rezab Prairie Meadow is an evolving tribute to the plants, grasses and foliage native to this area in the mid-1800s when the Old Macomb Cemetery was active. The McDonough County Historical Society cooperates with the City of Macomb in developing this meditative and contemplative entry to the Old Macomb Cemetery.
Local author John E. Hallwas will be at
New Copperfield's Book Service,
120 North Side Square, Macomb
on Saturday, November 14 to introduce his new book,
from 10:00 A.M. to 12:00 and from 1:00 to 3:00 P.M.
Locate missing grave marker.
The cemetery project committee of the McDonough County Historical Society seeks the help of county residents in an attempt to locate a missing grave marker.
The marker is very large and was last seen in 1968 or ’69. It marked the grave of the Civil War horse Chickamauga, who was buried in 1878 in the center of the racetrack on the old county fairgrounds south of Macomb.
When the fairgrounds was abandoned, the large stone monument was neglected and seemingly lost.
In 1968 and ’69, the land was being prepared for the Armory, MacArthur School, and a new, fourth, Macomb High School building.
A local contractor, John Brown, uncovered the buried monument. He offered to restore the engraving and set up the two large parts for permanent preservation and display.
But before he could move the huge pieces, someone else removed the grave marker.
The Historical Society calls on our county residents to help solve the mystery of where the monument to Chickamauga might be.
The horse was brought to Macomb in 1868, where the stories and legends of his Civil War service were spun. Chickamauga sired several winning trotters and reached celebrity status. When he died in 1878, he was buried at the fairgrounds.
If you have any clues to the location of the grave marker, please give a call to Gil Belles, 837-9441, or email: AG-Belles@wiu.edu
Historical Society Honors Tree Donors
The McDonough County Historical Society began permanent and public recognition of the people who sponsored trees planted in the Rezab Family Prairie Meadow at the corner of W. Adams and Wigwam Hollow Road.
Bronze plaques with the donors’ names have been attached to concrete pavers near the base of the sponsors’ tree. The popular and biological tree names are also attach Bill and Doris Burton were the first couple toed. offer sponsorship of a tree, which was the first one planted in 2013. It is a Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor).
The Rezab Family Prairie Meadow honors the community contributions of Don and Gordana Rezab, both deceased. The pioneer prairie will evolve into a reflective and contemplative area south of the Old Macomb Cemetery.
Margaret Ovitt, landscape architect, Tim Howe, Macomb Forester, and members of the historical society, work together to create a savannah prairiescape representing the native trees, bushes, and grasses growing in this area in the mid nineteenth century. It is a long-term process.
When the project was approved by the city, the historical society solicited sponsors for the 14 trees planned for the design. Thirteen other donors quickly followed the Burtons. Each will be honored with a similar plaque.
A Striking New Book by John Hallwas
A New Book with a Distinctive Look at a Fundamental Social Issue and Macomb’s History
Author, lecturer, and long-time Historical Society member John Hallwas has a new local history book that will be available at the upcoming November meeting. His ninth book related to our town or county, it’s titled On Community: A Crucial Issue, a Small Town, and a Writer’s Experience.
Propelled by a deepening social problem, the decline of community in America, it examines the ramifications of that and then demonstrates the kind of positive impact that local history can have, by contributing to remembrance, appreciation, belonging, commitment, and meaningful inner life. Like several other Hallwas books, it has an original literary form.
Section one, “Culture and Community in a Problematic Era,” deals with such interrelated matters as the loss of sense of belonging, the decline in face-to-face interaction, and the weakening of commitment to others. Hallwas says in an insightful essay called “The Decline of Neighborliness,” that “a rich complex of human associations, thoroughly absorbed, and interacting with our genetic make-up, fosters our individuality . . . . Neighborliness is nothing less than acknowledging our social interdependence, our need for others. A town full of people who do that will have a pervasive sense of community, promoting both sympathetic understanding and actions that express our humanity.”
Hallwas is a great champion of small-town life, and sees the importance of community for both a town like Macomb and the individuals who reside in it. As he says in an essay on “Small-Town Culture in America Today,” “In a certain sense, remaining in a smaller town is becoming an act of rebellion, against a fast-paced, impersonal, city-dominated culture that, however fascinating in some respects, is commonly spiritually shallow and socially fragmented. In my view, smaller towns like Macomb need to be explicit about their flourishing ‘spirit of community,’ and small-town residents, for their own meaningful life experience, need to embody it.”
In a section titled “The Way It Once Was in This Corner of America,” Hallwas delves into the history of Macomb, to show “the significance of local life for earlier residents,” who lived in a culturally problematic but socially connected world. Among my favorite writings in that part of the book are “Early Bias against Blacks: Macomb’s ‘Mockingbird’ Case,” “The Emergence of Female Social Activism in Macomb,” and “Families Coping with Diphtheria Generations Ago.”
In that piece on the horrific impact of diphtheria in nineteenth century America, Hallwas recounts a story originally told by Macomb Journal editor W.H. Hainline. Like Hallwas, Hainline was a champion of community and concern for others. At the close of a simple but powerful account of the struggle of a local couple faced the agonizing death of two of its young children and isolated by grief and quarantine, Hainline says to his readers, “Oh, you who fret and worry over the small ills of life, who pine and fume and rebel if everything does not go your way and to your liking, stop your murmurs long enough to think of the terrible ordeal through which poor Bob Bingham and his brave wife are passing, while feeling that they are deserted by man. And you could hardly blame them for almost doubting the justice of God himself.” Hallwas reiterates Hainline’s call for a spiritual sharing of the Bingham’s sorrow and adding, “If there is a more powerful example of how a newspaper report can foster our humanity and support our sense of community, I have not seen it.”
And Hallwas insists on the value of such vivid accounts, for the problem of fading community in our time—or as he puts it, “the meaning of our own lives can be impacted by our awareness of the complex social story in which we are taking part.” So, he is, in a sense, driven to have an impact on the inner lives of his readers.
The book’s third section, “People of the Local Past Who Should be Remembered,” provides brief life stories from Macomb’s history—again, with an eye to enlarging our sense of relationship to local tradition. Or as Hallwas says in his introduction to that section, “. . . one important realization for us, surely, is that people of the past can be both interesting and significant for us, if we can comprehend them well enough—more deeply than local histories normally allow. They can help us understand and appreciate our place—the human tradition in a given community—as well as ourselves, for they coped with a variety of universal problems, especially the struggle to belong and the effort to have a meaningful life.”
Among the most fascinating figures in that part of the book are several that Hallwas re-discovered, in the forgotten annals of the past, and who have never been written about before. A few of them are James Brattle, who publicly contributed to the establishment of communities by means of his early surveying work and who exemplified devotion in his private life; Hannah Hemlock, the first female newspaper columnist in Macomb, and probably in Illinois, who through her writing pointed up the lack of respect for females in a male dominated culture; early school administrator Daniel Branch, who not only called for upkeep of schools but for teaching that fostered character development and social responsibility; and nationally known circus performer Frank Gardner, whose story reminds us all that we hold within us the capacity to make much of our lives in the face of adversity.
Hallwas, who provided the inspiration for the recently erected Women’s Social Service Memorial in Chandler Park, through his writing and speaking on social activist figures like Rose Jolly, Josie Westfall, and Dr. Elizabeth Miner, continues his crusade for appreciation of women in the past through compelling stories about ordinary figures like Olive Stewart, Ellen Westfall, Mahala Avery, and Mary Short. He also tells the remarkable story of the three Tunnicliff sisters, pictured above, who were perhaps the most socially committed sisters in Illinois history. The youngest one, Ruth, is also a figure honored on the new Women’s Memorial. I doubt that another county in Illinois has so many well-researched, insightful stories about females of the past, thanks to the efforts of John Hallwas.
The same might be said of black figures from the past, who are often notoriously hard to write about due to lack of historical records. But Hallwas provides engaging, thought-provoking accounts of a nationally known black minister and lecturer from Macomb, James B. Fields; a local African-American leader, who headed the first local black rights group, Milo Newsome, and John Hannah, a poor mulatto who struggled against race prejudice by becoming a noted figure in circus freak shows. The author’s superb accounts of those struggling blacks alone are worth the price of the book.
The thirty stories by Hallwas about “People of the Local Past” include some recent figures many of us knew, such as historian Victor Hicken, nature writer and advocate Alice Krauser, archivist Gordana Rezab, pianist and social activist Rosa Julstrom, and elementary teacher Margaret Harn. His personal acquaintance with them allows for sensitive portrayals that allow us all to realize how distinctive and precious the human lives are that come our way in a community like Macomb.
The section called “Other Voices for Community” probes the insights of famous writers who explored or advocated community in a variety of ways, such as the vision of national connection and appreciation championed by Walt Whitman, the plea for self-realization within community by Edgar Lee Masters, the need for broad empathy in our social experience in Carl Sandburg’s poetry, the spiritual importance of small-town culture in Baker Brownell’s Earth Is Enough, the importance of memory and belonging in Richard Llewellyn’s How Green Was My Valley, and even our place in the complex community of nature through writings by Donald Culross Peattie, Aldo Leopold, and Virginia S. Eifert.
These insightful essays about books and authors attest to the unusually broad reading, and remarkable inner growth, of Hallwas himself, so we are likely to conclude, “No wonder he sees so deeply into a multi-dimensional aspect of human life, like community experience.”
But the item in this section that is most original and compelling, surely, is “Our Place, My Quest, and the Novel Raintree County,” which combines commentary and memoir in a remarkable way, to probe the meaning of a famous bestseller about a Midwestern locale that is stunningly similar to McDonough County. Hallwas conveys the personal impact that a book can have on a certain reader, and evokes some important dimensions of his inner life.
If you don’t realize from the Raintree County essay that On Community is partly a spiritual memoir, you absolutely will in the final section of the book, “A Small-Town Writer’s Experience—and Vision.” One article after another takes readers into the life of John Hallwas and helps to explain his intense focus on social relationships in a small-town setting. His own loss of place, for example, is effectively set forth in “My Experience of Change; Our Need for Continuity.” The personal background to his intense focus on remembering the dead and relating to a community is set forth in “Mortality and a Meaningful Life: Reflections at Seventy,” and it closes with a fine brief statement of what is at stake for us all in the twenty-first century:
“By enlarging our sense of connection to others, both the living, who reside in our town and elsewhere, and the dead, who faced similar challenges before us, we can avoid the creeping sense of meaninglessness that so many commentators regard as a major psychological problem. . . . If we maintain historical awareness and foster concern for others, we build community, and in personal terms, we expand the spiritual boundaries of the self.”
The two longest essays in On Community, which close the book, dramatize that outlook, that vision of what’s deeply true about the human experience. In the first, “Midwestern Writer: A Memoir,” Hallwas depicts his relationship to a talented but struggling older man, a writer and local historian, much like himself, who lived in nearby Hancock County decades ago. Combining aspects of biography and memoir, it is a very engaging narrative account of a personal relationship, loaded with insights into the impact of death, the often life-shaping role of memory, the fate of small communities, and the all-too-common conflict between self-realization and social connection. In the final essay, “The Mysterious Bard of Sangamo,” Hallwas depicts the personal impact of a completely forgotten Illinois figure, a talented poet from Britain who struggled for belonging in a frontier village (Springfield) as well as self-realization as an author during the 1830s and 1840s. That blend of history, commentary, and memoir is a testament to the various communities that a human being must strive to appreciate—towns, cultural traditions, social groups, the ever-increasing dead, and the complex natural world. And the sense of connection Hallwas experiences with that man from another era vividly reveals aspects of his own spiritual life.
As this brief overview reveals, On Community is not just another local history book. In fact, I have never run across a historical volume like it, in which the author’s own experience, of looking into other lives, verifies the probing psychological assertion that community orientation and inner growth are deeply interrelated.
Monday, November 9, at 7:00 p.m. at the Spoon River Community College Outreach Center on East Jackson Street, we will be treated to a special meeting at which John Hallwas will speak about his new book. On Community is, in fact, dedicated to Robert Anstine, our current president, which in my view is particularly appropriate in view of his many outstanding contributions to Macomb and to communities in general in Illinois. After his talk, Hallwas will be recognized for his decades of crusading effort on behalf of our community by Mayor Mike Inman.
All McDonough County Historical Society members and ANYONE interested are invited to attend the October meeting of the
McDonough County Genealogical Society meeting.
The McDonough County Genealogical Society meeting will be on
Oct. 19 at 7:00 pm.
The speaker will be William Daniel Wilson,
Speaking on “Old Forts and Block Houses of the Early Illinois".
The location is the Western Illinois Museum, 201 S. Lafayette St.,
Macomb, IL 61455.
William Daniel Wilson of Albers, Illinois, received
the Illinois State
"Lifetime Achievement" award at the 2015 Annual Awards Ceremony,
held April 25 at the Old State Capitol in Springfield.
May 31. 2015 7:00AM
MACOMB — In the spring of 1830, McDonough County settlers had the numbers to separate from Schuyler County and pioneer the area.
Allen Nemec, president of the McDonough County Genealogical Society, gave his organization and the Historical Society a brief history of ensuing period entitled, "Pre-1870 Homes in Original
Town Macomb," during a recent joint meeting.
A filled room at the Spoon River College Community Outreach Center on May 18 allotted Nemec the space for his slideshow, which the The Carpenters’ song "Yesterday Once More" played
In addition, the crowd listened intently to stories of the well-known, antebellum homes scattered around town.
Built circa 1854, the home of the first mayor of Macomb at 329 S. Lafayette St. still stands.
The folk home belonged to John O'Conner Wilson. It is a two-story folk home, which has since been stuccoed and stone-veneered, covering the original wooden frame. In the recent decades of the
"eye-shaped" house, according to Nemec, it's been reconstructed into a four-apartment complex.
Nemec said one could easily identity the home, whilst driving down Lafayette Street, by its single window on the northern side.
After Mayor Wilson's failed farming attempt, he, his wife, Adeline, and their five children moved into the American Elm-lined Block 39 on the south side.
"My husband was a good hatter, and thought he would make an equally good farmer – I thought so too," a 97-year-old Adeline wrote to the local newspaper.
But 18 months had proved them mistaken. During this time, Wilson's endeavor to live off the land often times left his wife home alone.
In her early 20s, Adeline and her husband lived some four miles southwest of Macomb in the "wilderness of woods and prairies" that overcame the area then. She wrote that she lived in
"continuous dread" every time Wilson would left home. She was afraid, living in isolation where only smoke from far-off chimneys and rooster coos were signs of life, that stray bands of
Native Americans would threaten her.
"So we moved to Macomb, which even then didn't have over 50 houses in it, and this has been my home ever since," Adeline wrote.
To give his crowd more of a historical setting, Nemec drew its attention to the lot's property tax value.
"I only wish our taxes on our block remained at this level," he joked.
For the 39 block in Original Town Macomb from 1862 to 1869, John Wilson paid between $800 and $1,500 for the entirety of the southern half of his block, and in 1870 the taxes dropped to
Nemec showed, as his presentation continued, that property taxes of that time were in constant flux.
Just as 329 S. Lafayette St. was marked with a red star, which Nemec indicated as "Today's pre-1870 Homes," so was 341 S. Lafayette St., a home that was built for Elizatbeth Clark, the
Born in Macomb in 1834, Nemec called Lizzie a true early pioneer. In 1852, Mayor Wilson had the home built for his daughter and her husband Otto Frederick Clark. "Her husband is a mystery to
me, " Nemec said, "because 'Otto Frederick' I could not find anywhere in my research where he was born, and all I can find is that he died prior to her in 1900."
Strangely enough, Lizzie was listed as head of household at the age of 25 in 1860. Nemec also showed a census from 1870 showing Lizzie still in the home on the corner of South Lafayette and
"Keep in mind they married in '52, so there is only an eight-year span when he is gone and out of the picture," he added.
Reach Jacqueline Covey via email at jcovey@McDonoughVoice.com, or follow her on Twitter @jacquelinecovey.
May 20. 2015 7:00AM
MACOMB/SPRINGFIELD – A former Macomb mayor and current member of the Amtrak board of directors detailed the constraints that'd be placed on college communities like Macomb to a joint club
meeting this week if proposed passenger rail funding cuts were to come into fruition.
Under new leadership, niche services within the state of Illinois continue to be threatened until Gov. Bruce Rauner stamps his John Hancock on a proposed budget. Amtrak, which features a stop
in Macomb on its Quincy-Chicago route, is currently anticipating its $42 million dollar budget to be slashed nearly in half.
Tom Carper, a well-known Macomb official who also once served as Amtrak board chairman, said what this poses for Macomb, and other rural college communities such as Southern Illinois
University and Eastern Illinois University, is a probable elimination of a second route to and from Chicago. When the state doubled its service in 2006, it'd reportedly opened a threshold of
opportunities for Macomb and the Western Illinois University students.
"We can't run the same service for $26 million," Carper told members of the McDonough County Genealogical and Historical societies on Monday. "There is no guarantee we'd get back on the
Carper said that this is a game of winners and losers, which he has no intention of quitting – at least just yet.
On Tuesday, he and Go West Director Jude Kiah, and WIU Admissions Director Andy Borst, as well as other regional leaders, addressed the Illinois Senate committee for higher education on the
importance of passenger rail service.
The railroad defenders attempted to answer any questions presented, according to Carper, and to ease any budget whiplash Amtrak may face. Cuts to the service, however, are still
"Passenger rail does not make any money," Carper said Monday. "It relies on federal subsidy, not only for the operations but also, for the infrastructures on the northeast quarter."
Carper said on Tuesday the conversation in Springfield went well, and that he believes the committee has more clarification on the repercussions rail faces.
"They were listening more than anything else," he said. "They have tough decisions to make, and I think they are better equipped now."
The dialogue with the state and Amtrak communities will continue until it cannot – until the budget is authorized.
Reach Jacqueline Covey via email at jcovey@McDonoughVoice.com, or follow her on Twitter @jacquelinecovey.
May 17. 2015 7:00AM
From the McDonough County Voice newspaper
Attractive homes and residential upkeep: A meaningful tradition
by John Hallwas
A year ago, I mentioned that our town once had a reputation for attractive residential areas, and there was significant public concern about stylish, well-kept homes. As all long-time Macomb
townspeople know, we have suffered some residential decline in recent decades.
So, I was especially pleased to see the spring issue of the “McDonough County Historical Society Newsletter,” edited by Kathy Nichols. Focused on homes and neighborhood pride during the 1940s, it reprints various newspaper articles and home images from that era. As one item points out, the “Macomb Journal” even had an annual “Better Homes Edition” back then, and generally, there was “intense interest in building, modernizing, and repairing houses.”
Along with articles on various local homes during that era, Nichols also reprints items on matters like “Macomb gardens and lawns,” “good sidewalks,” “elimination of [run-down] buildings,” and even a community-wide “Clean-up Week,” held in mid-April. That event featured not only volunteer efforts but a “Clean-up, Paint-up, Fix-up Parade,” filled with floats created by local organizations. As that newsletter issue demonstrates, community leaders were deeply committed to promoting home beautification efforts.
Under the leadership of former mayor Bob Anstine, the McDonough County Historical Society is now starting to focus on appreciating older buildings and encouraging preservation—in both our downtown, which needs renovation, and our residential areas, too. Anstine has a long record of leadership in local improvement—not to mention experience as a state official in community development. (By the way, annual membership in the Historical Society is just $10 per household, and of course, that includes the quarterly newsletter as well as the chance to learn about our town and county while interacting with committed people.)
The May meeting of the Historical Society is next Monday evening at 7:00, and it will be held at the Spoon River College Community Outreach Center on East Jackson Street. There is also a potluck dinner for all who come early, at 6:00. The meeting will be a joint gathering with the McDonough County Genealogical Society, and the latter’s president, historic home expert Allan Nemec, will speak about “Original Town of Macomb, Pre-1870 Homes”—illustrating his comments with photographs of those houses. Former mayor and AMTRAK official Tom Carper will also speak briefly on the current issue of Macomb’s railroad service. The public is invited to attend, and information about membership in both organizations will be available.
I should mention, too, that another group which continually presses for home awareness and upkeep is the Macomb Beautiful Association, currently headed by Penny Yunker. Their annual effort to recognize attractive homes, and businesses, through the Macomb Beautiful Awards program, is set to begin for 2015 this month. Signs at this year’s selected homes will go up in midsummer, and a fall banquet will be centered on those award winners.
Also, the MBA will have its first annual Macomb Garden Walk this year. That is set for Saturday, June 13, and will feature self-guided tours of ten outstanding lawn-and-garden areas. Advance tickets for that fundraiser are just $10, and various MBA members are selling them, including Penny Yunker and my wife, Garnette. The Yunker home, a modern brick building, set on several acres, at 1901 Riverview Drive, and our home, a 90-year-old Georgian Revival house, located at 404 South Edwards Street, both have yards on the Garden Walk, but there will be lovely lawns to tour in many areas of town. The starting location for that event will be the historic Macomb Railroad Station. For those interested, MBA membership information will be available there, too.
That Garden Walk will be a good opportunity for local people with an interest in home styles, lawn and garden areas, and neighborhood upkeep to interact with others who care about those matters—and about the long community tradition of residential beautification.
Of course, there is much more to our experience with homes than historical and aesthetic aspects. Various books deal with the significance that homes can have for individuals. In one of my favorites, titled “House as a Mirror of Self: Exploring the Deeper Meanings of Home (1995), author Clare Cooper Marcus asserts that the right kind of home “can protect, heal, and restore us, express who we are now, and over time help us become who we are meant to be.” Her insightful view reflects our desire for personal space, individual self-realization, and spiritual wholeness. But homes within a community can also foster social interaction and deep commitments. As health care worker and social activist Schylar Meadows says in another book, called “Home: The Blueprints of Our Lives” (2006), edited by John Edwards,
“Living in this house [for many years] has shaped my sense of community, responsibility, and character. Our home is not just the place we live. . . . I developed understanding, tolerance, and compassion for the human experience from being a neighbor—but more important, from taking stock in being part of a community.”
I believe that most people who cherish older homes, and who work to have attractive homes (whether historic or modern), feel that way. Too often, owners who don’t maintain their homes are also people who don’t care what happens to their neighborhood or their town. In short, our homes often speak volumes about our way of life, and our values.
And that’s why home and neighborhood upkeep efforts, by city leaders, Historical Society members, Macomb Beautiful members, and others, are not just economically beneficial for local homeowners but crucial to satisfying personal experience for all residents and to the long-term success of community in Macomb. It is indeed time to re-emphasize our tradition of home preservation, appreciation, and beautification.
Author and local historian John Hallwas is a columnist for the McDonough County Voice.
The McDonough County Historical Society is now on
Monday, May 18, 2015
The McDonough County Genealogical Society
the McDonough County Historical Society
will hold their first joint meeting.
At 6pm both groups are invited to attend a potluck in Conference Room B
of the Spoon River Community Outreach Center on East Jackson Street.
Please bring table service and a dish to share.
At 7:00 p.m.,
Historical Society member and Genealogical Society president Allen Nemec
will present a program entitled
“Original Town of Macomb Pre-1870 Homes,”
illustrated with a PowerPoint presentation.
An authority on local historic homes and author of Macomb Homes with Names: A Look into Macomb, Illinois’ Historic Homes, Their Past Inhabitants and a View of them Today, Allen will talk about the early residents of each of these homes and their contributions to early Macomb.
In addition, former Mayor Tom Carper will provide timely updates on Macomb’s train service situation in a talk entitled
“Amtrak in Illinois 1971-Present: What About Tomorrow?”
and will welcome questions afterward.
After the program, the two societies will hold individual business meetings.
From the McDonough County Voice
By Jackie Smith
January 16. 2015 1:22PM
Mayor, community development coordinator discuss downtown square project with local historical society
A few members of the McDonough County Historical Society groaned in jest Monday night when they'd concluded what the actual speed limit is for motorists on Courthouse Square in downtown Macomb. "Anybody know?" Macomb Mayor Mike Inman asked the group, which met at the YMCA Senior Center. "Well, by law, since it's not posted any other way, it's 30 miles an hour."
It was just one of several points touched on as Inman, along with Community Development Coordinator Shannon Duncan, recapped a year-long planning and vetting effort to revitalize the square while also simultaneously fulfilling, as the mayor put it, an obligation to update its safety and infrastructure standards.
The city's foreseeable plans for the approximate $3 million project are up in the air for now — or at least, aren't moving forward until later this year when Inman said the city hopes to glean a better idea of its chances to receive a state grant that'd pay for a third of the project's cost.
Pedestrian safety, choice of lighting, choice of pavement, and placement of trees were also subjects of questions historical society members posed on Monday.
To clarify the details, the mayor and Duncan passed out a streetscape rendering dated Nov. 27, 2013 — one based on a concept developed with engineers, city officials and multiple other consulted entities.
"What you see here is not a huge, nor a dramatic change from what's historically been up on the square," Inman said. "We did look at the historical aspects of the square, some of the things that had existed before from when, you know, there were horse and buggy movements around the square to different iterations of parking on the square.
In recent years, Macomb officials have taken a number of strides to garner an assembly of perspectives and examples to consider as a frame of reference for the city's own town square aspirations. These efforts included joint stakeholders meetings with downtown business owners and several committee- and council-level discussions amongst elected officials.
In November 2012, the city council and staff took trips to downtown Rushville, Jacksonville and Quincy, the first two of which Inman said on Monday had shown "monumental work we could maybe plagiarize a little bit."
The city has worked with Hutchinson Engineering as the primary firm on the project and Springfield-based Massie Massie & Associates as landscape architects.
Duncan also said the city has met with both state and national departments of transportation for consultation over the project.
"There was a person there specifically interested in non-vehicular patterns and safety," she said. "These are all plans that are in the process of going through the vetting process."
The grant funding city officials are hoping for is through an Illinois Department of Transportation enhancement program. One of its components, Inman said, is the historical perspective of the project.
Inman said the Illinois Historic Preservation Commission has visited the city's square, walked the project with engineers and offered input, which was added to the final design.
"We believe that we stand a really good chance of (earning the grant) with incorporation of the streets cape and landscaping features … into that plan," Inman said, "and we believe we'll make that a very attractive plan for financing this project."
Kathy Nichols, senior library specialist at Western Illinois University and vice president of the historical society, asked what the timeline for revitalizing downtown would be.
Duncan and Inman said it depends on how finances pan out for the city.
Anticipating final review of their IDOT grant proposal this spring, the mayor said final plans and construction bidding would be finalized late in the 2015 calendar year if all goes according to plan. Construction itself, he said, would then start when the weather breaks in 2016 with at least a year of work downtown.
The project would also be financed with the last portion of a recent bond issue acquired from a voter-approved additional half-cent sales tax. If the IDOT grant doesn't pan out, Inman said the project could be adjusted, and other city projects may have to wait while the bond issue is utilized for the project in full.
The most notable changes to the proposed revitalized square have included extension of the business-adjacent sidewalks up to 16 feet, and aesthetic improvements with plantings and trees specifically identified to appear in various areas around the square and the county courthouse to soften its perimeter.
The median that presently separates the outer square from the inner, county-owned area would also be eliminated, as part of the project. This, Inman said, is because the added sidewalk, which is needed for ADA compliance if a business features outdoor components in the city's right-of-way, would change the dynamic of traffic.
"For me personally as mayor, if we get into a budgetary problem, I think that is likely to be the first thing that would have to be considered as the No. 1 most costly improvement here, that is not absolutely necessary to the satisfactory completion of this project," Inman said. "If we had to cut somewhere, that would be the first place to start."
Reach Jackie Smith via email at jsmith@McDonoughVoice.com, or follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.
JANUARY 2015 MEETING
of the McDonough County Historical Society
Monday, January 12, 2015, at 7:00 p.m., members of the McDonough County Historical Society will meet at the Senior Citizens Room at the YMCA on Calhoun Street.
After a brief business meeting, former Mayor Anstine will
introduce Shannon Duncan, our Community Development Coordinator.
Ms. Duncan will define the term
“Certified Local Government”
and explain what it means for Macomb, in regard to
establishing partnerships with state and federal agencies to support and further local historic preservation activities.
Mayor Michael Inman will follow Ms. Duncan with a talk entitled
“The Plans for the Macomb Downtown Revitalization Project.”
The meeting should be an especially exciting and informative one.
from Tri-States Public Radio: