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Funds released for Mt. Pulaski courthouse

BY NANCY ROLLINGS SAUL
THE COURIER

MOUNT PULASKI ó Gov. Rod Blagojevich Thursday released $182,000 in state funds to rehabilitate the Mount Pulaski Courthouse State Historic Site.

The courthouse rehabilitation was among many state construction projects that were on hold pending review by the governor. The funds were the unspent balance remaining from a Fiscal Year 2002 appropriation of $240,000.

Mount Pulaski Courthouse is one of two remaining Eighth Judicial Circuit courthouses where Abraham Lincoln practiced law.

The planned work is the latest in a series of efforts over the years to save the building from moisture, which has attacked like a recurring cancer.

The plan calls for removing multiple layers of paint from the exterior walls; replacing and re-pointing bricks; restoring interior plaster walls, windows and doors; and miscellaneous repairs to the metal roof and drainage systems.

Historic Preservation spokesman David Blanchette said some of the work will be different than that done in previous conservation efforts and some will be the same.

Blanchette said Jane Rhetta, project architect, explained that historic buildings Ė including the courthouse Ė that are constructed of the soft, low-fired brick often used for construction in the Midwest in the mid-1800s, require a high degree of attention because the material is more vulnerable.

He said the courthouse also sits on a limestone and soft brick foundation, which is very porous.

"If you seal or waterproof it," Blanchette said, "that causes the material to break down."

The latest project will include improved downspouts and more work on foundation drains designed to help alleviate the moisture, as well as refinishing the exterior with a breathable membrane.

Blanchette said the building will be closed when the work is done and to allow the new plaster to cure.

"But we donít know when that will be," he said. "The project hasnít even been bid yet. The release of funds will start the project rolling."

The work is expected to restore the 3,000-square-foot building to its original condition. Blanchette said historic buildings, especially those that are open to the public, require constant surveillance and upkeep.

Blagojevich said, "Itís much more cost effective to rehabilitate a historic building before problems become too severe. There are only a limited number of original Abraham Lincoln sites remaining, so itís important that we take care of those treasures we have."

Mount Pulaski Courthouse State Historic Site, administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. for free public tours. Tours are provided by community volunteers, who make it possible to keep the building open.

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