Historic buildings find new home in Lockport’s Heritage Village
By Tony Graf email@example.com August 21, 2012 11:09PM
Project engineer Dan Jay points to tree branches that need to be trimmed as a historic farm house is maneuvered into position at The Heritage Village in Lockport, Illinois, Tuesday, August 21, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 23, 2012 6:19AM
The wheels start turning at the railroad depot. The next stop might be Symerton or Ritchie in rural Will County. Or maybe we’re headed somewhere farther down the old Wabash line.
Where will the Wabash Cannonball take us today?
This week, however, the old Symerton depot took a ride of its own — helped by truck — from a storage space to a new home in Lockport.
The Symerton depot, built in 1881, will be part of the new Heritage Village, run by the Will County Historical Society, at Second Street and the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail, at the north end of downtown Lockport.
Other historic buildings are being moved by truck this week to the Heritage Village site: the Greenho farmhouse, the Wells Corner Schoolhouse, a smokehouse, and the Mokena jail.
The historical society hopes to have at least one of these buildings — maybe the schoolhouse — open for public visits by next spring.
The buildings once were part of the well-known Pioneer Settlement at the North Public Landing in Lockport. In 2008, they were moved to make way for a different attraction at that site: the Lincoln Landing, which opened on Lincoln’s Birthday in February 2009.
For the last three years, the historic buildings have been stored at the Chevron property in Lockport, at a site west of the canal, while a new home was sought.
Last year, the historical society announced plans for the new Heritage Village, and worked to raise funds.
This week, heavy equipment began moving the buildings across a bridge over the I&M Canal — from the west side to the east — and to their new home near the canal trail south of Second.
Buildings on move
Sandy Vasko, president of the historical society, visited the Lockport site on Monday, while the Symerton depot was taking its ride.
“I was just amazed at how absolutely perfect, and complicated, this entire move has to be — to get it perfectly lined up over our foundations,” Vasko said. “I have to say: It looks wonderful, and it looks like everything is going so well.”
Vasko also was pleased that the weather is cooperating. Lockport got some rain Monday afternoon, but the crew already had finished.
The movers will be working every day this week. The next move will be the Wells Corner Schoolhouse, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1857.
Once the buildings are moved this week, the historical society still has a lot of work to do.
The buildings will need repairs, painting and cleanup — given that they have been in storage since late summer 2008.
Vasko looks back on that original move, almost four years ago.
“When the buildings were removed, the entrances had to be taken off. The staircases going up to the front door, things like that. Those are going to have to be rebuilt,” she said. “The dirt and landscaping have to be moved around the buildings. And we have to plant grass and shrubbery.”
Also, a small bridge needs to be built across a creek on the site, Vasko said.
By next spring, the historical society would like to open the first of the buildings. Vasko would like to see the schoolhouse open.
“The Heritage Village is all about education. Of course, the one-room schoolhouse is all about education. So we’d like to get that ready, to get ready for school groups and tours,” she said.
For more details — or to find out how you can support the effort — call the historical society at 815-838-5080, or visit online at www.willcountyhistoricalsociety.org.
So, for all you American music fans out there, did the legendary Wabash Cannonball ever actually roll through Symerton? Or Lockport, for that matter?
Well, there’s bad news and good news.
The bad news is: The legendary Wabash Cannonball is just that, legend.
The good news is that, with some imagination, you can make a legend go just about anywhere you want.
“From the ports of the Atlantic,
To the bayou and Gulf shores,
One canal hooked it all up,
With Lockport at its core.
“Then the trains outdid the barge mules,
And made Chicago brawl.
I’m bound for tiny Symerton,
On the Wabash Cannonball.”