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Thursday, June 25, 2009 07:40 pm

Plains to purchase Clayville

Donations and state grant provide “vote of confidence”%u2008

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Jim Verkuilen, president of the Pleasant Plains Historical Society, points out the poor condition of the historic Broadwell Tavern at Clayville.
PHOTO BY AMANDA ROBERT

After less than two months of fundraising, the Pleasant Plains Historical Society is ready to purchase and restore Clayville.

Jim Verkuilen, the historical society president and village mayor, and David Bourland, the property’s current owner, have signed an option agreement for the 13-acre historic site, located along Route 125 just east of Pleasant Plains. The historical society agreed to pay Bourland $7,000 up front and the rest of the $200,000 purchase price within 12 months.

At a historical society meeting last Tuesday, Verkuilen reported that the organization has just over $7,000 in its coffers and has already secured $140,000 in pledges. He also announced that Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, earmarked $214,000 in the state capital plan for the society’s purchase of Clayville.

Bomke confirmed the plan and told Illinois Times:

“There is significant historic value to it and it will be a boost to the Pleasant Plains economy. That’s where they felt they had the greatest need for money — to purchase that and to restore it.”

If the society receives state dollars for Clayville’s acquisition, members plan to dedicate their pledged funds toward its restoration.

“That’s a major undertaking,” Verkuilen says. “There’s not one building that we can let people go in. They’re not in good shape.”

Dr. Emmet Pearson bought the property in 1961 and created a rural life center with 1830s blacksmith, leather-making and knitting demonstrations. In January 1973 he donated the site to Sangamon State University; the school sold it to Bourland in 1992. The property has since fallen into disrepair, overrun by weeds, varmints and vagrants [see “Pleasant Plains group wants to rescue Clayville,” May 7].

Before volunteers begin cleanup efforts, the society will sign a lease agreement with Bourland to gain control of Clayville’s water and electricity, as well as purchase liability coverage to protect volunteers. Verkuilen hopes to have both finalized by the end of June.

Annie Rieken, a historic archeologist who signed up to lead the site’s restoration, donated the first round of Roundup and began knocking out vines and weeds along Clayville’s entrance last week.

“We’re going to start at the road,” Rieken says. “You want people to see things happening.

“And once that visual barrier is broken down, vagrants aren’t going to be as inclined to go in there.”

The first scheduled Clayville workdays will focus on the Broadwell Tavern, Rieken says. The tavern, built in 1834 and recognized by Landmarks Illinois as the oldest surviving brick structure in Sangamon County, has minimal roof leakage and structural damage. Volunteers need to clear the roof of debris and outfit the windows with barbed wire and heavy boards to dissuade trespassers; they can then move into the interior to repair broken window panes and catalogue neglected antiques and textiles.

Future plans include installing a split-rail fence, donated from the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Ind., around the property and paving a bicycle path between Clayville and Main Street in Pleasant Plains.

Rieken has worked to restore historic sites for the past 20 years and says she’s impressed by the community’s commitment to Clayville.

“To walk into something like this with $140,000 in pledges, without having to do the brownie thing in front of Wal-mart and car washes, is a total vote of confidence for everyone,” Rieken says.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.

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