by Jamey Dunn
After facing uncertain futures and becoming pawns in a game of political revenge, the state’s closed historic sites reopened today.
The 11 historic sites were closed last year, along with several state parks, by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in a move that many said was politically motivated. Gov. Pat Quinn would not say that Blagojevich closed the sites out of retribution for lawmakers, but he did say that his predecessor’s decision was not a “rational” one.
The money to reopen the sights was included in the mini-capital plan that passed early this month. Jan Grimes, director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, said that even in difficult financial times for the state, it’s important to preserve history. “It’s times like this when we face historic challenges that we most want to look back on how others managed change before us, how others endured and even thrived,” she said.
Quinn signed an executive order to merge the Historic Preservation Agency with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in what he described as an effort to streamline government and save money. The agencies will officially combine July 1.
Quinn said the state’s historic sites draw tourism and help to bring money to local economies. “When people go to visit another city or another place, they want to see unique things that are special that make a difference. And the Dana-Thomas House is one of those, and the other historic sites are, too,” he said.
The sites that reopened are:
- Apple River Fort in Elizabeth
- Bishop Hill
- Hauberg Indian Museum at Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island
- Cahokia Courthouse in Cahokia
- Dana-Thomas House in Springfield
- Fort de Chartres in Prairie du Rocher
- Fort Kaskaskia in Ellis Grove
- Pierre Menard Home in Ellis Grove
- Jubilee College in Brimfield
- Lincoln Log Cabin in Lerna
- Carl Sandburg’s birthplace in Galesburg (This site will not actually open its doors until April 25 because it is only open to the general public on Saturdays and Sundays.)
Although the money needed to keep the historic sites open was not specifically included in Quinn’s budget proposal, he said that the sites will remain open through the next fiscal year.