BISHOP HILL, IL – Governor Rod Blagojevich announced today that the state will provide $1 million dollars in capital funds from 2002 and 2003 fiscal years to rehabilitate the 1848 Old Colony Church at Bishop Hill State Historic Site. The funds will finish the renovation of one of the state’s most significant heritage tourism attractions in a largely intact historic community.
“The Old Colony Church was the first major structure built by the Swedish immigrants who settled here in the mid-1800s,” said Governor Blagojevich. “Thousands of visitors tour this building every year. These state funds will help preserve the Colony Church for current and future generations.”
The work will involve a comprehensive and phased restoration of the Old Colony Church building. This will include repairing and tuckpointing the exterior brick foundation and entrances, structural stabilization, replastering walls, repairing windows and exterior doors, repairing the exterior stairs, boardwalk and perimeter fence, interior and exterior painting, repairing or replacing exterior wood siding, trim and fascia, and restoration of the pews and altar rail.
The Bishop Hill colony was founded in 1846 by a group of Swedes who immigrated to Illinois after fleeing religious persecution in their native land. Along with their spiritual leader, Erik Jansson, they built a “Utopia on the Prairie” in Henry County, Illinois, with the Old Colony Church being the first permanent building. The church featured a sanctuary on the top floor with apartments on the lower floors. The town of Bishop Hill is largely unchanged from the mid-1800s, and many of the current residents are descendants of the original settlers. This popular tourist destination is located twelve miles southwest of Kewanee off of U.S. Route 34.
The rehabilitation work will be competitively bid and the project overseen by the Capital Development Board, which manages all state construction projects. A construction timetable has not yet been set. The Old Colony Church is part of Bishop Hill State Historic Site, which is administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (www.Illinois-History.gov
). Other agency-operated properties in Bishop Hill include the Bjorklund Hotel, the Bishop Hill Museum and Heritage Park.