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Thursday, July 29, 2010 04:36 am

Historic stagecoach stop to be burned down

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Fire training fuel, 170 years old.

An old white building stands in Buffalo, about 15 miles east of Springfield, as a sign of a different time. Its stately porch and a smokehouse behind it give credence to its place as a relic of history. The house was built around 1840 and it is now scheduled to be burned down.

“It’s really beautiful,” said Anne Haaker, deputy state preservation officer at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. “It’s a good architectural example of a Sangamon County house. It’s truly a piece of history.”

The house on Old Route 36 just east of Buffalo was a “12-mile house” for stagecoach drivers and their horses, traveling between Springfield and Decatur. Drivers could stay the night and rest their horses before finishing the trip the next morning. With the building being used as a 12-mile house as early as 1840, some historians believe that Abraham Lincoln may have stayed there.

However, the house was donated to the Buffalo Fire Protection District and is scheduled to be used for live fire training. They hope to burn the house in September, when the weather is cooler.

“We’d just like to burn it for training,” said Chief Mike Thompson of the Buffalo Fire Protection District. “The owners want it gone. It’s in a state if disrepair. It’s a real eyesore. That’s probably what needs to be done.”

The house was donated to the Buffalo Fire Protection District by its owners for fire training. However, the Fire Protection District needs to get permission to burn the house from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency before they can use it for training. The Historic Preservation agency can deem the house to be historic if it is more than 50 years old, has some type of historical significance, has an archaeological significance or is an example of historical architecture.

Thompson believes that the house does not have much modern value and that it can serve a practical purpose by being used in the drill.

“There’s not much significance at all,” Thompson said. “I guess it was a 12-mile house. It’s just an old house basically. The owners just want it gone.”

Since the owners of the house moved out, the house has fallen into some disrepair and with other houses nearby being in a similar state, the fire department is afraid that the house could be damaged or destroyed by vandals, like other houses in the neighborhood have been.

“We’d just like to burn it down for training as opposed to some kids getting to it,” Thompson said. “That’d be a shame.”

The fire department has already been doing some training at the location, working on drills with smoke and escape routes, despite Haaker saying that her office has not approved the building’s burn.

Some are concerned that the community could lose a great piece of history if the house is destroyed.

“If it was a stagecoach stop, there could be some exciting developments there as a place of heritage history,” Haaker said. “This is a piece of mid-19th century history.”

Haaker is also concerned about the effect losing a piece of history can have on the community of Buffalo.

“It [the house] provides a lot of benefits to the public,” Haaker said. “It provides a sense of place. It provides a sense of history.”

For local historians, the greatest loss that the burning of the house represents is the sense of never being able to reclaim lost parts of history.

“When you lose a tree, you can replant it, and it could grow back threefold,” Haaker said. “When you lose a piece of your heritage, you can never have it back.”

Contact Jackson Adams at jadams@illinoistimes.com.

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