Fri October 26, 2018
On Thursday, Oct. 18, the Downers Grove Park District was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Timken Foundation for restoration of the interior of the 1846 Blodgett House. Located at the Downers Grove Museum Campus at 831 Maple Ave. in Downers Grove, this historic structure has architectural significance as one of the oldest homes in the community and is acknowledged as a likely stopover point on the Underground Railroad.
The Timken Foundation awards grants to non-profit agencies that operate in communities in which the Timken Company operates. In 2016, Lovejoy, Inc., a Timken brand, opened their world headquarters on Wisconsin Avenue and became a member of the Downers Grove community.
Mat Happach of Lovejoy, Inc. presented the grant to the Downers Grove Park District Board of Commissioners at the October 18 meeting. “The Timken Foundation is about contributing back to the communities that the Timken Company owns businesses and participates in. In 2017, after a year of operation, Lovejoy, Inc. was approached by the Timken Foundation to give back to the community, and the Downers Grove Park District was selected to receive a portion of these funds.”
In addition to the generous grant from the Timken Foundation, the District will also be receiving a $135,000 Public Museum Fund Grant recently reinstated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Combined with the funding from the Timken Foundation, the District will now have the resources necessary to complete interior renovations and the addition of interpretive exhibits.
Following extensive fundraising and volunteer work spearheaded by the Heritage Preservation Corporation, an exterior restoration of the 1846 House was completed in 2010, including a new roof, siding, windows and doors. In 2013, the District completed interior structural improvements required by local building codes, but the interior of the house remained unfinished and is currently not suitable for public access. Many of the home’s architecturally significant features, such as the post and beam construction, mortise and tenon joinery, and hand-hewn floor joists, are visible from within the house. The proposed interior design preserves these features and showcases them in an effort to highlight early pioneer lifestyles, living spaces and craftsmanship.
The vision for the 1846 Blodgett House restoration is to create a cultural center focusing on the Blodgett family and their involvement in the nationally significant Underground Railroad. By completing the interior restoration of the home, the District hopes to expand the cultural impact that the museum will have on the surrounding communities and illuminate Downers Grove’s heritage as a part of the Underground Railroad, thus expanding the museum audience and increasing tourism to Downers Grove. It is the hope of the Downers Grove Park District that the restored home will serve as an education center for schools throughout the region.
Bob Gelwicks, Board President of the Downers Grove Park District, looks forward to the District completing this project as it will provide visitors with a hands-on experience to discover an important chapter of Downers Grove history. “The 1846 House is a unique project and we appreciate the Timken Foundation and Lovejoy, Inc. for their efforts and assistance in completing this project for the community.”
The District will begin this renovation in early 2019 and anticipates completion by the end of 2019.