Written by News Bulletin News Sources
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 00:00
More interior restoration work will be done at Aurora's Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum thanks for a $46,000 Riverboat Grant from Kane County. (News Bulletin photo)
The Aurora Public Art Commission has received a Kane County Riverboat Grant of $46,000 which was awarded to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Memorial Museum, Post 20, to pay for the restoration of existing cabinets and replication of additional historic cabinets in the museum.
The cases will be designed for rotating exhibits of GAR artifacts and for hidden storage of small, delicate artifacts. The GAR Hall was Aurora’s first public library and the cases were originally built to house books. The Public Art Commission expects to start work on the project by the end of this year.
The Kane County Riverboat Grant is particularly meaningful now, during the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and recent commemoration of the battle of Gettysburg. Kane County sent many soldiers to the Civil War, including two major Regiments—the Thirty-sixth and the Eighth. The Thirty-sixth, organized in Montgomery in 1861, was made up of men from that village, the City of Aurora and other surrounding communities. This regiment fought in 10 major battles, including Chickamauga, Atlanta, and Kennesaw Mountain.
The Eighth, organized at Camp Kane in St. Charles in 1861, saw action in nine battles, including Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, where Lieutenant Marcellus E. Jones is said to have fired the first shot.
The Eighth also took part in the hunt for Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and served as honor guard for President Lincoln as he lay in state in the capitol rotunda.
The GAR Museum is one of Aurora’s most beloved landmarks. It was constructed in 1878 with funds raised by the citizens of Aurora, many of whom had fought in the Civil War. Their intention was to create a sacred space and shrine to their fallen comrades.
In addition to serving as the library, it functioned as a veterans’ meeting hall. The GAR organization operated the building until 1939, and then, with membership dwindling, they organized the Sons of Union Veterans, who held meetings in the hall until the late 1990s, when the city was forced to close it due to structural problems.
The long process of restoration and renovation of the building then began.
In 2007 the City began the stabilization and restoration of the exterior of the GAR. The project was funded by the City, as well as with grants from the Kane County Riverboat Fund, the National Trust for Historic Preservation/American Express, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Activity, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Between 2007 and 2012, the City of Aurora completed phases one and two of the exterior restoration and phase one of the interior restoration.
In addition to the work on the cabinetry, there remains one last phase of interior restoration. Once this is completed, the Aurora Public Art Commission, which oversees operation of the GAR, plans to open the building as a museum and center for veterans, for historical and genealogical research, and as an educational venue about Aurora’s role in America’s wars.
—News Bulletin news sources
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 09:13