2021 Preservation Heritage Fund Grant Recipients

Announced January 2021

Bronzeville Community Development Partnership (BCDP), Chicago

Grant Amount: $1,000

BCDP, which operates the Urban Innovation Center – an incubator for innovative solutions for community issues and opportunities, will conduct an appraisal of the Griffin Funeral Home site to help determine its feasibility for redevelopment. The former parlor, located at 3232 S. King Drive, was historically African American-owned and has a rich and diverse past, including being built partially on the site of Camp Douglas, a Union training ground and camp for Confederate prisoners during the Civil War.

The original building was constructed in the 1880s and first served as a china painting factory before it was converted into the funeral home. Ernest Griffin led the cause to address the imbalance in cultural memory that black soldiers are often not as well remembered as their white counterparts and commemorate the service of all Civil War soldiers. Griffin’s grandfather, Charles Theodore Griffin, had served in the war with the 29th Regiment of the U.S. Colored Infantry, the first black army unit in Virginia. Griffin also created the Heritage Memorial Wall at the parlor to honor fallen Civil War soldiers on both sides of the conflict. A memorial also featured an exhibit case filled with Civil War artifacts and documents, surrounded by a fountain pool.

BCDP is evaluating using this former parlor site as a potential location for its next project. Its Urban Innovation Center currently works with social entrepreneurs to develop and accelerate start-ups, support social enterprises and implement civic projects that have the ability to scale. The goal is to create new businesses that will generate jobs and additional income stream at the neighborhood level.

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Friends of the Old Millstadt Water Tower, Millstadt

Grant Amount: $5,000

The Old Millstadt Water Tower, built in 1931 and included on Landmarks Illinois’ 2014 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, is the most visible landmark in Millstadt and one of only a few of the “tin man” style towers remaining in the state.

The Friends of the Old Millstadt Water Tower have a legal agreement with the Village of Millstadt that allows the local advocacy group until January 2022 to raise the necessary funds to restore the landmark.  This grant will help the group get closer to its goal. Already the Friends have raised the majority of the funds needed even with many events cancelled in the last year due to Covid-19 restrictions. Director of Landmarks Illinois’ Springfield Office Frank Butterfield has also worked closely with the Friends for several years on restoration of the tower.

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Robbins Historical Society, Robbins

Grant Amount: $2,500

The historical society will use Landmarks Illinois grant funds to aid stabilization efforts at the historic S.B. Fuller Home, former home to businessman and entrepreneur S.B. Fuller, who founded Fuller Products. Born in 1905 to a family of sharecroppers in Louisiana, Fuller began door-to-door sales at the age of nine to help support his family. He moved to Chicago at 17 to pursue a career in sales. At his peak, S.B. Fuller owned eight other corporations, was publisher of two newspapers, led the Chicago NAACP, served as president of the National Negro Business League and was a prominent Republican.

The historic mansion in Robbins, one of the oldest incorporated African American communities in the United States and the oldest Black suburb in the Chicago area, was built in 1958. Fuller died in 1988, leaving the mansion to his family, who then went on to donate the house to the Robbins Historical Society and Museum in 2016. Unfortunately, the Fuller home has been neglected for many years and is currently uninhabitable. The Robbins Historical Society and Museum will use the Landmarks Illinois’ grant to mothball and stabilize the structure with repairs identified in an economic feasibility study that will be completed using funds from a National Trust for Historic Preservation grant.

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Kendall County Historical Society, Yorkville

Grant amount:$2,500

The Kendall County Historical Society will use the grant to help pay for a roof replacement on the Union School building, a one-story, one-room schoolhouse built in 1847. The school is now located at Lyon Family Farm, operated by the Kendall County Historical Society.

In 1974, Frances Lyon donated 40 acres of the Lyon Family Farm to establish a home for the historical society and its artifacts. The original farm buildings at Lyon Farm were restored with funds from a large bequest and members’ support. Other historic buildings and structures in the county were moved to the farm, including: The Oswego-Fox House, Plano Depot, C. B. & Q. Caboose, Union School, Seward Town Hall and the Yorkville City Hall and Fire Station. In 2012, the Herman Hanouw Museum building was built to house the society’s research library, offices and provide event space. In addition to the historic buildings, in cooperation with the Kendall County Forest Preserve, in 1988, 18 acres of farmland was restored to a natural prairie.

The Union School was moved to the Lyon Farm Village in 1976 from its original location on Wheeler Road in Na-Au-Say Township in Kendall County. The building was in use as a school until 1937 and was later used as a basketball court for many years. It is currently situated near Lyon Forest Preserve, and the roof receives little sunlight. The dark, wet conditions have led to extensive moss growth, which has accelerated the deterioration of the wood shake roof.

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