August 13, 2009

Open house set for Aug. 22 at Cairo ‘shotgun’ house

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Students and faculty from Southern Illinois University Carbondale will host an open house and barbecue next week at the Cairo “shotgun” house that has been the focus of a restoration project this summer.

The public is welcome to stop by the Cairo Shotgun House Preservation Project at 2910 Sycamore Ave. between 4 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22, to see what volunteers have accomplished. The exterior restoration is essentially complete and the interior has undergone much repair and transformation as well.

Antoinette “Toni” Lettiere and Jim Schmidt, both senior architecture students this fall at SIUC, worked with community members and a crew from the Heritage Conservation Network on restoring the 1900s era home. They and a group of history students from SIUC were participating in the University’s Preservation Summer.

Lettiere, of Oak Lawn, and Schmidt, of Woodridge, helped tear out old flooring, plumbing, cabinetry, fixtures and more, while making foundation and porch repairs and generally doing anything inside and out to update the home and help the structure look as it did when first built. The chamber of commerce owns the home, one of about 350 Cairo properties already included on or eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The commitment, energy, determination and sweat put forth by Toni and Jim, at their own expense, along with the support of (local resident) Bill Harrell, the city of Cairo, the Chamber of Commerce and other Cairo supporters and community volunteers has been tremendous,” said Robert H. Swenson, architect and associate professor.

“To see this project completed by the end of the summer is overwhelming, not only to me as their faculty, but to those in the Cairo community who have noticed and commented on the consistency of Toni and Jim’s presence every week day for the last nine weeks. Incredible! I believe their work this summer is giving a whole new definition of what SIUC students are all about. Their example is already helping to re-energize the Cairo Vision 20-20 Committee to move forward with other projects they have been considering as they realize what can be accomplished,” Swenson said.