This poster was presented at A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.
By Lori Henderson
The broad strokes of the impact of the collaboration of the National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps are widely recognized. The study of the effect on local communities is, however, sporadic, and information about the continued preservation of those sites is, perhaps, even harder to come by. In Coles County, Illinois, the collaboration between the CCC and the NPS resulted in the creation of three signature sites south of Charleston, Illinois, which continue to define the community today. The Civilian Conservation Corps, the National Park Service, the state of Illinois, and the local community came together in a perfect storm of collaboration to create Fox Ridge State Park, the Moore Home Historic Site, and what was then named Lincoln Log Cabin State Park, between 1935 and 1941. Cooperation among federal, state, and local government made a powerful and effective team building Fox Ridge State Park out of donated timberland and leaving a legacy of outdoor recreation and environmental education and conservation still active today. The Lincoln Log Cabin and Moore Home projects ensured the preservation of a significant aspect of Coles County’s cultural heritage. Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site preserves the last farm of Thomas and Sarah Lincoln with a cabin and several outbuildings designed by the NPS and built with WWI CCC enrollees. The Moore Home preserves the site of the last visit Lincoln made to his Coles County kin. The legacy of the CCC and NPS collaboration survives thanks to local leadership and foundations. This paper will focus on the efforts of one of those foundations to sustain the cultural landscape created by the CCC under NPS direction.
Just as the creation of Lincoln Log Cabin relied on local community members to champion the project and perform many volunteer tasks worthy of paid professionals, the sustainability and vitality of the site continues to rely on this community effort. The Lincoln Log Cabin Foundation, a private nonprofit, raises funds but also contributes thousands of hours of volunteer labor to market and promote the site, engage in preservation projects, produce all educational programming, special events, and exhibits, and to sustain the site in the absence of adequate state funding.
The Foundation participates in the traditional sources of fundraising and grant writing, but has strived to create a reliable source of revenue with the all-volunteer operation of a museum gift shop. Sales growth has been steady over the past three years and the Foundation is now engaged in a restoration project of the original CCC-built comfort station, which has stood empty and unused for over a decade, for use as the gift shop. The adaptive reuse of this unused building will ensure preservation of the building, while the gift shop’s revenue will contribute materially to the Foundation’s efforts to sustain the entire site. The Foundation is also working to restore the CCC-built custodian’s house to house graduate assistants and student interns who help execute the site’s educational programs.
Lori Henderson earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in historical administration from Eastern Illinois University. Researching and producing the Civilian Conservation Corps in Coles County served as a capstone project for her graduate degree. Lori is the current Board President of the Lincoln Log Cabin Foundation, the philanthropic group supporting Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site, and a member on the Coles County Historic Preservation Advisory Council. She is a full-time staff member in the Graduate School at Eastern Illinois University where she serves as director of the Integrative Graduate Studies Institute.
Nora Pat Small has worked in the Kansas SHPO office as the architectural historian for the state and as a private preservation consultant in Massachusetts. She is currently a professor of history at Eastern Illinois University, and has taught American Architectural History and Historic Preservation for more than 20 years to graduate students in the Historical Administration Program there.