Polo Historical Society
The preservation of the tiny Ogle County town of Polo is due to the efforts of two entities: the Polo Historical Society and the preservation partnership of Jim O’Connor and Christina Lee-Grogan. Local historical societies have traditionally been one of the anchors of the historic preservation movement in Illinois. The Polo Historical Society (PHS) has personally saved and restored a half dozen structures in its three decades of existence, helping to preserve Ogle County history and Polo’s architectural character.
The range of preservation projects tackled by this small organization is also impressive. Shortly after being incorporated in 1981, PHS helped save a modest frame house built by the town’s founder in 1853 (and where Abraham Lincoln stayed in 1856). Another preservation success, the Buffalo Grove Lime Kiln, is one of the most distinctive tourist attractions in western Illinois, attracting school groups and others to the ghost town of Buffalo Grove.
A second partner is the team of Jim O’Connor and Christina Lee Grogan, who have restored at least three other historically significant buildings in Polo. Their first project was the painstaking restoration of an 1857 brick church, closed in 2006. Initially offered to the PHS, the church was sold instead to O’Connor, who restored it as a rental facility for weddings and other events. Together, these two groups have created models for historic preservation that should be an inspiration for communities many times their size.