Sangamon Preservation Commission considers church's landmark bid
At a recent meeting, the Sangamon County Historic Preservation Commission considered an initial report on Williamsville's Buffalo Hart Presbyterian Church, which is seeking landmark status.
Below are the minutes from this meeting, as provided by the commission.
May 18, 2016 SCHPC Minutes Page 1 of 4
Minutes of Meeting
Sangamon County Historic Preservation Commission
May 18, 2016
Members Present: Chuck Pell, Chairman
Bob Sherman, Vice Chairman
Members Absent: Jeanette Goza
Staff Present: Steve Keenan
Call to Order: A quorum being present, Chairman Pell called the meeting to order at 4:00 PM.
Chairman Pell entertained a motion to allow Commissioner Mike Brooks to attend the HistoricPreservation Commission [HPC] meeting via speakerphone due to employment purposes. Vice
Chairman Sherman made a motion to allow Commissioner Mike Brooks to attend the meetingvia speakerphone due to employment purposes. The motion was seconded by CommissionerSchackmann and the voice vote to approve was unanimous.
Chairman Pell said the purpose of the special meeting was to consider the initial report for the Buffalo Hart Presbyterian Church.
Approval of Minutes: Chairman Pell said the Commission would postpone approving the Mayminutes until the regular June meeting.
Committee Reports: Commissioner Jacobson discussed a summary of the farmhouse entries.
He said there were multiple entries from Cartwright (4) and Gardner (3) Townships; othertownships had one entry each, i.e. Cotton Hill, Rochester, Loami, and Lanesville. Commissioner
Jacobson said seven entries had insufficient documentation for pre-1860 construction dates. Hesaid four houses had evidence to indicate construction prior to 1860. Commissioner Jacobsonsaid the youngest documented house in Cartwright Township has a diary stating the ownerbought lumber presumably for the house in 1857. He said the next oldest house was an 1847addition to a Greek Revival house in Gardner Township documented by family history.
Commissioner Jacobson said the original house was built in 1833; however, only the additionremains. He said the second oldest house was an entry in Cotton Hill Township, built around1835. Commissioner Jacobson said a family history indicates when the family bought the housein 1854 the owner at the time indicated the house was constructed in 1835. CommissionerJacobson said the oldest documented house for which the Committee has evidence is located inCartwright Township. He said it was constructed in 1832 according to court testimony.Commissioner Jacobson said the style of the house is not incompatible with an early date. Hesaid this house appears to be the oldest house for which the Committee has evidence at this point.
Commissioner Jacobson said the Committee might contact a tree ring expert to help confirmsome dates. He said some of the entries that do not have great documentation might have hewnMay 18, 2016 SCHPC Minutes Page 2 of 4logs that could be dated. Commissioner Jacobson said he would try to contact Professor Glen
Freimuth at the Illinois State Museum. He said after discussing the entries with the expert, the
Committee would distribute a press release summarizing the information presented at themeeting. Commissioner Jacobson said the Committee discussed its presentation at the Sangamon
County Fair. He said there would be a display near the Farm Bureau area. CommissionerJacobson said there would be contact with the owners to perhaps be present at the display at theCounty Fair, or to mention their names in association with the houses. Chairman Pell asked ifthere was anything Commissioner Brooks cared to add, to which Commissioner Brooks said no.
Chairman Pell said the Committee did great work and noted the next month will be veryexciting.
Initial Recommendation for New Landmark Application: Chairman Pell said the reason forthe meeting was to consider an initial application for a new landmark for the Buffalo Hart
Presbyterian Church. He said the Commission’s purpose is to approve the initial report and toshow the landmark meets the criteria specified in the Historic Preservation Ordinance. ChairmanPell said he typically prepares the initial reports as the Chair [of the HPC]. He saidCommissioner Williams worked with the pastor of the church and the leader of its governingboard to agree to landmark the property. Chairman Pell said this landmark would be the first thatrepresents a religious order. He said Sangamon County landmarks represent the width andbreadth of the people who have lived here. Chairman Pell said the next meeting would be thepublic hearing. Staff said the public hearing would be scheduled for June 1, 2016 at 4:00 PM.
Chairman Pell said if anyone has comments or wants to make an objection to the landmark, theycould appear at the public hearing. He said the public hearings are usually pretty slim meetings.
Chairman Pell said the church meets the criteria within the ordinance. He asked CommissionerWilliams if he wants to add anything.
Commissioner Williams said Buffalo Hart was founded in 1824. He summarized somedevelopments in the township in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Commissioner Williamssaid the church, constructed in 1900, was a social gathering place to bring residents together todiscuss news and information. He said he feels the church has significance as a rural gathering
place that is representative of the history of central Illinois. Commissioner Williams said thechurch maintains much of its original parts intact. He mentioned a tornado blew out a wall andsome stained glass windows in 1927. Commissioner Williams said much of the church chapelinterior remains the same as it did in 1900 including but not limited to: wainscoting, pulpit, andthe overhead doors. He said the church was constructed because the chapel, constructed in 1832,was the size of a garage and the group needed a larger space.
Chairman Pell said what the HPC is here to do today is to entertain a motion on the initial reportrecommendation for the church to become a County landmark. He said this would activate thepublic hearing where the HPC will vote on a landmark recommendation to the County Board.
Chairman Pell said the vote today is not to send the recommendation on the landmark to theCounty Board, to which staff said correct. Commissioner Sims said the effect of the vote iswhether to have a public hearing on the landmark. Chairman Pell said the HPC is saying thechurch is worthy to be a County landmark and at the public hearing, the HPC will then presentits recommendation as to whether the County Board should make the church a landmark.
Commissioner Sims said the landmark would then proceed to [the Public Health, Solid Waste,and Zoning] Committee and be placed on the regular County Board schedule. Chairman Pell saidhe thought it might be at the County Board’s July meeting at the earliest. Commissioner Simssuggested the HPC have a representative to go to Committee and/or to Caucus. [CommissionerBrooks had lost the call. He reconnected at this point.] Chairman Pell suggested contact with the
May 18, 2016 SCHPC Minutes Page 3 of 4
County Board representative for the area. He said the County Board member may make themotion to approve the landmark.
Commissioner Williams made a motion to accept the initial report for the Buffalo HartPresbyterian Church that the nominated landmark does meet the criteria, i.e. letters A, B, and Hchecked on the application, for designation. Commissioner Schackmann seconded the motion.
Chairman Pell recognized Commissioner Jacobson for discussion.
Commissioner Jacobson said the brief description of significance in the landmark applicationcould have used some of the language from the initial report. He said there is nothing in theapplication description about the church’s architecture. Commissioner Jacobson said this shouldbe incorporated in the statement of significance. Chairman Pell said the body of information[application and report] is all one item. He said the HPC could return the application for lack ofinformation but there is not much point. Commissioner Sims said the application conveys thesense of the landmark. He reminded the Commission that the application needs only meet one ofthe criteria to be worthy for landmarking. Chairman Pell asked Commissioner Jacobson if hewants more information for posterity. He noted the application and the report combined have adescription of the Commission’s wants. Commissioner Williams said the application containsover thirty pages of the Church’s historical significance. Commissioner Jacobson said the mostimportant part of an application is the description of significance. He said it seems that thestatement of significance should indicate the structure has certain architectural elements topreserve. Chairman Pell said the Commissioners received two different documents: anapplication and an initial report. He said the application under item four does not say seeadditional information attached. Commissioner Jacobson said the architecture has somesignificance since it was mentioned in the initial report. He said within the statement ofsignificance that architecture should be included. Commissioner Sims said what is significanthere is not the application, but what goes to County Board. He suggested if there is additionalinformation that should proceed to the County Board to put that in writing. Commissioner Simssaid that could be amended at the next meeting as part of the hearing. Commissioner Jacobsonasked if Commissioner Williams accepted Chairman Pell’s architecture statement, to whichCommissioner Williams said yes. He said it should be included and forwarded. Chairman Pellsuggested adding “see additional materials that were attached to the application including theirhistory and including the initial report.” Commissioner Jacobson said the file for the landmarkwould only include a report. Commissioner Sims said the file can include anything the HPCwants to include in it. Staff said there is a smaller application in the Commissioners’ hands forthe meeting. Commissioner Jacobson said the statement of significance is the first thing anhistoric preservationist examines. He suggested language to the effect that “the building hasarchitectural significance, see [the attached].” Chairman Pell said the application is meant for thelayperson, rather than an architect or an architectural historian. He mentioned people often useconsultants due to the complexity during the National Register application process. Chairman
Pell said the landmark application captures the spirit of what is important for a site historically.Commissioner Sims said this is the prima facia evidence that the HPC has a reason to take the
landmark to a hearing. He said at the hearing there might be more reasons presented why thebuilding is significant as a landmark. Commissioner Sims said someone might come to thehearing and say that none of the information in the application and the initial report is true andthat is why the landmark goes to hearing. He said the information is not like a final document forthe National Register. Commissioner Jacobson said he wanted to make a statement and to have it
included in the statement of significance. Vice Chairman Sherman said the church has avernacular architecture with elements of Palladian [window], Roman [arch], and other
May 18, 2016 SCHPC Minutes Page 4 of 4architecture. He said it is not one style of architecture. Vice Chairman Sherman said it isvernacular because it was built by a builder rather than designed by a particular architect.
Chairman Pell said there is a motion on the table to move this to a public hearing. He said theHPC is all in agreement on this point. Chairman Pell said the Buffalo Hart Presbyterian Church,built in 1900, is worthy of a County landmark. He said the next step is to take it to a publichearing. Chairman Pell said he would be more than happy, without Dean’s objection
[Commissioner Williams indicated his assent], to have that wording added that talks aboutarchitecture within the brief statement of significance. Chairman Pell said this motion was on thetable by Commissioner Williams, to which staff added there was a second by CommissionerSchackmann. Commissioner Jacobson asked for clarification. Chairman Pell said to add to thewritten verbiage about its architectural significance as in the report or as will be determined atthe public hearing.
The voice vote to approve was unanimous.
Vice Chairman Sherman said the significance of the church is community. Chairman Pell saidthe church is a gathering place and that it is significant to the people of Buffalo Hart Township.
Adjourn: Chairman Pell entertained a motion to adjourn the meeting. Commissioner Jacobson
made a motion to adjourn the May 18, 2016 meeting with Commissioner Lathan seconding themotion. The voice vote to approve was unanimous and the meeting adjourned at 4:30 PM.
*Attendance by speakerphone
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