News Topics

It appears that some of Decatur’s city council members are reluctant to go ahead with plans to build a replica cabin of Lincoln’s first home near Decatur. The hope was to have a cabin ready by Lincon’s 200th birthday in 2009. The last I heard, Kim Bauer the director of Decatur’s Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, was pursuing a period cabin (1830 -ish) or at least its logs, to use on the project. I’m not sure how that’s gone but it looks like the 2009 target is iffy at best. Obviously the biggest concern from some on the council, including the mayor, is that the state isn’t willing to provide much for the facility – other than what they already provide. Protecting the site with 24 hour security measures, building a visitor center, and hiring personnel would rest entirely upon the city’s financial shoulders. Now some on the council are wondering if the money collected for the project should be spent elsewhere.

Macon County CourthouseThat’s got me to thinking…maybe it would be better to concentrate on promoting our downtown area, where Lincoln often visited, gave his first political speech, practiced as an attorney, was first nominated for president, and coined the “Railsplitter Candidate” . I’ve thrown this idea out there before – so have others. Councilman Dan Caulkins has suggested relocating the museum complex to somewhere along Eldorado Street. View the video. I agree that it needs to be in a different location than it is now. I’d prefer that it be located in downtown Decatur at Lincoln Square for several reasons:

Advantages

1 . The historical significance of the area – this is where Lincoln gave his first political speech and where a sculpture of Lincoln now stands.

2. The original courthouse was located on the southwest corner of Lincoln Square; a marker is already present. I never even noticed the marker it until a saw an article in the Herald & Review about it.

3. The Lincoln Sqaure Theatre is nearby.

4. Merchant Street and other downtown shops would benefit.

5. The recent West Main improvements would link the museum to other historic homes.

6. Visibility and location. The museum would be at the center of town along U.S. 51.

7. The newly restored Transfer House is a short walk away.

8. Art galleries & restaurants are nearby.

9. The new Lincoln sculptures commissioned by the city would also be short walks away and make for a nice walking tour.

10. Lincoln Square has a unique and interesting history that I think others would enjoy learning. Several fires have changed the look of the square throughout our city’s history. The Transfer House once stood in the center of the square making this the center of town. When I look at the square today it hardly reflects anything it used to be.

Disadvantages:

The museum that I have in mind, I’ll be posting artist sketches soon, would only be able to house the original courthouse and maybe a couple other buildings that currently comprise prairie village at the museum complex. Maybe the other buildings could be relocated somewhere along West Main? I don’t know…

Parking – I also have an idea for a new parking facility that would serve the museum and Lincoln Square Theatre.

Costs – Of course this is the real clinker, how do we pay for it? Anybody know any generous millionaires? The tax money that we’ve collected and are continuing to receive from the hotel and motel tax probably wouldn’t be enough – at least not in the near future. Obviously private donations and state grants (ha ha) would be needed.

So what do you think?

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Tonight the city council will be discussing possible plans for the Lincoln Homestead State Park near Decatur. The hope is to build a replica cabin on the location of Abraham Lincoln’s first Illinois home. A cabin has been there in the past but was often the victim of vandalism; thus security and upkeep of the facility is a high priority of the city. The city was hoping to receive significant help from the state but it looks like the bulk of the project will rest on Decatur’s shoulders. Revenue gathered from the Lincoln Heritage Project Fund would pay for the upgrades. I’ll have a run-down on my take of the meeting tomorrow, in the meantime you can view the council memorandum which details what the state is willing to do – which isn’t much!

UPDATE:

Well, I didn’t get the chance to view the council’s discussion on the fate of the Lincoln Homestead State Park, however I did attend a meeting of the Decatur’s gifted program, in which my daughter is a student (a chip off the ol’ block 😉 ) and got to view the proposed plans for the new gifted center that will reside on much of the unused space on the second floor of the Decatur Public Library. This center will cater to 2nd-6th graders. $1.6 million dollars is needed to fund the project and the school district is hoping to raise some community support and dollars. The project includes special classrooms, an auditorium, a science lab and even a recording studio. If money can be secured, the facility could be ready by August. So if you know of any millionaires who are looking for good tax right offs…:)

I’ll be discussing the park in a future post.

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Lincoln history buffs can enjoy a day-long event to be held in Downtown Decatur on June 7th from 8:00 am – 10 pm. This event will celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s life and experiences in Decatur, as well as showcase period food dishes and horse drawn carriage rides. Sidewalk storytellers and a performance of Love Letters at the Lincoln Square Theatre. Plan to come with family and friends! Let’s hope it becomes a yearly festival!

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Welcome to the Decatur Navigator! This is the first post! I hope that this blog can become a place where people can freely share ideas about improving Decatur. As an adviser for a major software company, (an unpaid position) I’m quite used to suggesting new ideas; many of the ideas are eventually shot down, kicked to the curb, or burned in the brush but all of them are considered – at least that’s what they tell me! Once in a while an idea will actually take hold, grow roots and become something useful. That’s what this site is all about, kicking ideas around until something good comes of it!

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