The Heritage Village, a familiar and popular Will County historical attraction, will get a new location and a new start.
The Village — a group of small buildings formerly known as the Pioneer Settlement — will move in November if fundraising is successful and the weather cooperates.
The new location will be at Second Street and the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail, easily accessible from Route 171, a major downtown thoroughfare.
The Heritage Village is owned by the Will County Historical Society. For years, it was a well-known attraction at Lockport’s North Public Landing.
The buildings — either historic themselves or built with historic themes in mind — were just south of the historic Gaylord Building, east of the canal and north of Ninth Street.
The Heritage Village includes the Wells Corner schoolhouse, the Symerton Depot, the Greenho farmhouse and the Mokena jail, along with other small buildings and farm implements.
In 2008, the buildings were moved north to storage space on the old Texaco property, now owned by Chevron Corp. The move freed up the North Public Landing to become the Lincoln Landing, an interpretive park explaining President Abraham Lincoln’s connection to Lockport and the canal.
The Lincoln Landing, which opened in February 2009, was developed by the Give Something Back Foundation and the historical society.
For the past few years, the Heritage Village sat in storage as leaders sought a new home for the buildings. The process involved plenty of uncertainty.
Lockport Mayor Dev Trivedi worked with the historical society and the Give Something Back Foundation, and found the new site, said Sandy Vasko, president of the historical society.
The new site had been owned by the Lockport Township Park District, but the district gave the property to the city for exclusive use as the historical society’s Heritage Village project, Vasko said.
Chevron donated a parking lot for the site, Vasko said, and will grade the Heritage Village site, she said.
Homer Tree Care has donated its services for tree and brush removal to make way for the Village buildings, Vasko said.
The Give Something Back Foundation committed to pay half the moving expenses, and the historical society is looking to come up with a match, Vasko said. That means the society must raise around $60,000, she said.
During the Will County Heritage Festival, visitors can learn more about the project and contribute.
A donation barrel will be set up. Raffles will be held. A gift shop benefiting the society will sell children’s toys, plus books and publications concerning Will County history.
Also, Vasko hopes to make people aware of the value of historical society membership, including special viewings, events and updates on important projects such as the Heritage Village.
On Thursday, Vasko pointed out several positive aspects of the new site:
It is just six blocks north of the former site, close to three other museums: the historical society’s museum, 803 S. State St.; the Gaylord Building, 200 W. Eighth St.; and the Illinois State Museum-Lockport Gallery, 201 W. 10th St.
The new site off the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail will attract bicycle and pedestrian traffic. A group of bicyclists went by Thursday.
The site is just east of the I&M Canal itself, just like the old Pioneer Settlement. The canal, dug between 1836 and 1848, has great importance in Will County and Lockport history. The proximity will enhance the lessons the buildings have to teach.
“It was on the I&M. It’s going to stay on the I&M,” Vasko said of the Heritage Village.
The site is easily accessible from Route 171, a major thoroughfare. Drivers just turn west at Second Street. Plus, the parking lot is already there.
Finally, the site has potential for growth. In the future, the historical society would like to add buildings to the Heritage Village, Vasko said.
Currently, the site is an undeveloped property off the canal trail. Vasko envisions the return of an educational exhibit that serves all of Will County.
“It seems like it’s all coming together,” Vasko said. “Our biggest goal is to earn the money to make the move.”