July 25, 2007

Students continue to compile church's history

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Weeks of intensive work by Southern Illinois University Carbondale students at the historic Kornthal Church and parsonage are coming to an end. As community members prepare to continue the work, the students are hosting a pair of events.

The students, participants in SIUC's Preservation Summer class, invite the public to a special presentation at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, at the church, located four miles south of Jonesboro on Illinois 127.

Preservation Summer is an historic field study program offered through the SIUC architecture school and history department and the meeting will highlight this summer's project.

University students photographed or scanned more than 200 historic letters, photographs and other memorabilia brought by members of the community. It's an impressive representation of the community's past, said Robert H. Swenson, associate professor and architect from the School of Architecture. Swenson and Michael C. Batinksi, chair of the history department, are co-teaching the Preservation Summer class.

Swenson said the collection of keepsakes, copies and oral historical interviews of residents conducted by students will continue to grow. Community members may come to the church Friday, July 27, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. so students can record their stories and scan or photograph their items.

Students will display some of the more significant items scanned and photographed at the community meeting Aug. 3, Swenson said. In addition, students will exhibit the architectural drawings they're creating of the buildings. Swenson will submit completed drawings to the National Park Service in hopes the Library of Congress Historic American Building Survey collection will add them to its collection.

Austrian immigrants built the Kornthal Church in the 1850-60 era as they settled the fertile Illinois valley they dubbed kornthal (valley of grain). The church and two-story 1890 Queen Anne- style parsonage earned spots in 1980 on the National Register of Historic Places. The Kornthal Memorial is restoring and preserving the church and parsonage and the Summer Preservation project has played a major role in the effort, assisting with hands-on restoration including roof, porch, windows and other repairs. The class wraps up eight weeks at Kornthal with the community meeting.

The Heritage Conservation Network, an international not-for-profit building conservation organization, concludes a two-week restoration workshop at the site this week. Preservation Summer participants worked under conservator/technical director Bill Black Jr. of Ray Black and Sons Construction, participating in the workshop as part of their class.

Those attending the community meeting can see for themselves the detailed history, field measurements, drawings and other records collected, as well as the improvements made to the structures in recent weeks. For more information about the Kornthal Church project, contact community members Duane or Linda Hileman at 618/833-8745 or Swenson at 618/453-4772.