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Campton Township, preservationists celebrate new partnership to restore historic Whitney Schoolhouse

Tucked on the grounds of the Daniel Whitney residence and farmstead in Kane County is an 1852 one-room schoolhouse.

July 20 marked the start of something new for the historic site. Campton Township and Skyline Council of Landmarks Illinois formed a partnership to advance efforts to preserve the Whitney Schoolhouse and other historic structures on the land.

In recognition of the historic project, members of the community joined Campton Township officials and Skyline Council representatives for a celebration.

The event gave people a close look at the second-oldest, one-room schoolhouse in northeastern Illinois and other historic sites on the Daniel Whitney residence and farmstead.

Campton Township acquired the 6.1-acre farmstead that is home to a Pre-Civil War schoolhouse previously owned for more than 50 years by Art and Karen Gustafson. The Whitney family owned the property until 1934.

The Skyline Council has been working to restore the schoolhouse the last four years. It had been in talks for a May 2019 relocation to the township’s Grey Willows Farm, but those plans never materialized.

A week before the move, township officials and Skyline Council representatives were on site, looking at the schoolhouse. About that time, removing the historic structure from its home of 170 years was called into question, officials said.

“I was told that preservationists prefer to keep structures on their original location at all costs,” Campton Township supervisor John Kupar said. “We had several meetings with Art and Karen Gustafson over the last month-and-a-half to discuss this concern and possible outcomes.”

Kupar said the rest is history.

“This purchase was made possible by a generous donation by Art and Karen,” he said. “This acquisition will allow us to preserve all the structures on this site for future generations to enjoy.”

Erica Ruggiero, chairwoman of the service subcommittee for Skyline Council of Landmarks Illinois and the project manager for the Whitney Schoolhouse, said that knowing the schoolhouse will remain at its current site and is going to be preserved is gratifying.

“It’s been amazing to see so much of the community come out and be supportive,” she said. “They were supportive when we were going to move it, but I think now they’re even more excited that it’s staying put and the entire property is going to be preserved.”

Ruggiero said the goal is to restore the schoolhouse to its 1852 appearance.

“It’s architecture and construction method, which is all hand-hewn lumber, is really significant,” she said. “There are not a lot of schoolhouses that remain. They’re typically on private property.”

To date, the Skyline Council and Campton Township have raised more than $130,000 in pro-bono services, donated supplies and grants to complete the investigative work, cleanup, structural repairs, a new foundation and other restoration work for the schoolhouse, according to a press release.

The schoolhouse is expected to have a new foundation this summer, officials said.

“Our next fundraiser is for Phase III, which is exterior restoration,” Ruggiero said.

The estimate for remaining project cost is a little more than $65,000, officials said.


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