June 12, 2009

Media Advisory -- Preservation Summer

Preservation Summer 2009, a collaborative effort between Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s architecture school and history department, is well under way in Cairo.

The hands-on project involves restoring an historic shotgun house and documenting the history of the local architecture and the region’s people, particularly African-Americans. Preservation Summer is working in conjunction with the people and city of Cairo and the Heritage Conservation Network (online at http://www.heritageconservation.net/index.htm.)

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to come to the shotgun house, located at 2910 Sycamore St., while Preservation Summer work is happening. Just look for the “Saving Shotguns -- Aiming for a Better Future” banner. Work begins at the house about 8:30 a.m. each weekday through June 19 and continues until about 4 p.m. daily, with a short off-site lunch break about 11:30 a.m.

The city of Cairo owns the house. Workers have cleaned out the interior and are working to restore it to its original appearance. The city will then use it as a community center and also as a model of shotgun house restoration. The homes got their name for their architectural layout, where one could presumably fire a shotgun through the front door and see the pellets exit the rear door without striking anything in between. Participants are documenting the restoration project as it progresses.

Landmarks Illinois, a statewide preservation advocacy organization, awarded a $5,000 grant to aid with the rehabilitation project. On Tuesday, June 16, representatives from the organization will be at the home. Suzanne Germann, grant manager, and staff members Eiliesh Tuffy and Mina McGuire will present the grant and join the teams in the restoration work.

In addition, Preservation Summer participants are researching and documenting the history of Cairo and its people, particularly the African-American people in the region during the 19th Century. Organizers note that Cairo was the major enlistment location for black men joining the Union army or navy during the Civil War. Cairo served as the Civil War headquarters for General Ulysses S. Grant, was a steamboat traffic hub, the site of considerable civil rights activity and was historically significant in other ways as well. Rachel Malcolm Ensor, history department lecturer at SIUC, is overseeing the historical efforts.

For more information, contact Robert H. Swenson, associate professor and architect from SIUC’s architecture school, at 618/967-3016, or Monica Smith at the Cairo Library, 618/734-1840.