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803 S State St, Lockport, IL 60441    |    815-838-5080
Will County Historical Museum and Research Center It's your heritage.

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249 West 2nd Street, Lockport, IL 60441

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Heritage Village Finds New Home in Lockport

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.

New site

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.”

Historic Buildings Find New Home in Lockport’s Heritage Village

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.

Preparation work

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.

Train lore

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.”

Plans Crystallizing for New Location of Lockport’s Heritage Village

LOCKPORT — The Heritage Village, a collection of historical buildings telling the story of Will County’s early decades, now has a new home.

Sandy Vasko, president of the Will County Historical Society, spoke Saturday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new site, southeast of Second Street and the Illinois & Michigan Canal. The ceremony came after the buildings were moved, by truck, from storage at the Chevron property to the new site across the canal.

Vasko discussed plans to expand the site beyond the original set of buildings, which were a familiar attraction for many years in downtown Lockport.

“Right here, where the patio is, will be the visitors center, and that will also be our loomhouse,” Vasko said. “We have three original looms that we’d like to set up.”

A blacksmith’s shop and barbershop also are in future plans, she said.

Vasko also discussed the history and future of the relocated buildings:

• One-room schoolhouse: The Wells Corner schoolhouse, built in 1857, was located at 163rd Street and Cedar Road in Homer Township. It was used as a school through the 1950s.

“We’d like school tours coming in,” Vasko said. “We’d like people coming in to have a whole-day experience about what it was like in a one-room schoolhouse. Quite different — no iPads, no phones.”

• Mokena jail: “Actually, it’s a calaboose,” Vasko said. “The local facility was a calaboose. The county facility was a jail. The state facility was a penitentiary.”

“We don’t know exactly when it was built. It was just two cells, and they were locked in there overnight. And that’s where they slept,” she said.

• Farmhouse: “We know that farmhouse was occupied in 1865. It is from the Crest Hill area,” Vasko said.

“The programming will be about the German heritage of our county,” she said, adding that Germans settled along the eastern border.

• Symerton railroad depot: The old Wabash depot, built in 1881, was located in Florence Township.

“We’re going to be talking about railroads, and how railroads helped build our community — in the east, here, all over,” Vasko said. “And eventually, we will be having a railroad track in front of it, and hopefully a railroad car on the track.”

• Other structures: The village also includes a smokehouse, built by the historical society, and a log cabin, which must be put back together, log by log, at the new site.

For more information on the site, call 815-838-5080 or visit www.willcohistory.org.