Illinois Public Media News
Members of state preservation group are trying to save ten of what they say are the most endangered places in Illinois. Most of the structures on the list are threatened with demolition as development projects expand. Some are falling into disrepair due to a lack of funds or mismanagement.
President of Landmarks Illinois Jim Peters says in the case of some structures, community meetings are being held to decide the building's fate.
"That's kind of an imminent threat, that doesn't mean it'll be demolished tomorrow, but there's a decision that could impact it's future," Peters said at a Wednesday news conference. "I think that's the case with all of these; there's some kind of threat."
The vacant Sheriff's Residence and Jail in Ford County made the list of endangered buildings. County officials purchased the building a few years ago and may be planning a demolition.
Susan Satterlee of the Ford County Preservation Coalition says the building's more than 100 year history deserves protection.
"Up until 1992 it was used as a functional jail and our county sheriff actually lived there," Satterlee said. "At one point, the spouse of the sheriff was responsible for feeding all the inmates."
Satterlee says the combined use of the building in Paxton makes it one of the oldest of its kind in the state. It sits next to the Ford County courthouse. If demolished, the space it is on would likely be used for a new county building.
Also on the list is the Will Rogers Theatre in downtown Charleston, an Art Deco building from 1938. It was still showing movies until last year, when it was closed and sold. Tom Vance does historic preservation consulting, and recently helped with a petition drive to get the theater named to that list. He says the facility could ideally become an entertainment venue for different acts, much like the Virginia Theater in downtown Champaign.
"There may be somebody out there who has the investment capital to come in, buy it, and restore it," said Vance. "There are TIF (Tax Increment Finance) funds available to help with the exterior restoration of it, and put in a venue of performing arts and movies. That would be the ideal thing."
The current owners, American Multi-Cinema, is also looking to sell the theater and adjoining commercial block. Vance says if a buyer doesn't come forward, the other option is for a local non-profit group to form and re-open the theater. But he estimates the restoration would cost three quarters of a million dollars. The Charleston City Council has yet to decide whether to recommend the Will Rogers Theater for local landmark status, protecting it from further demolition.
A signed photo of notorious Missouri outlaw Jesse James sold at auction Tuesday for $51,240.
Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago had estimated the photograph would sell for between $20,000 and $30,000.
The photo shows James with his hair slicked back and looking away from the camera at an angle.
Underneath it's signed J.W. James.
The auction house has said it's the only known signed photo of the outlaw, but not everyone was sold on its authenticity.
Gary Chilcote, the director of the Jesse James Home Museum in St. Joseph, says the outlaw rarely signed anything.
Jesse James was shot and killed in his home in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1882 at the age of 34.
(Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers)
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)
The eldest son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said Monday if his father had not been killed more than four decades ago, the civil rights icon would be fighting alongside workers rallying to protect collective bargaining rights.
Martin Luther King III joined about 1,000 marchers in Atlanta and thousands more across the country to support workers' rights on the anniversary of his father's assassination. King was in Memphis, Tenn., supporting a black municipal sanitation workers strike April 4, 1968, when he was shot to death on a hotel balcony.
King III laid a wreath at his parents' crypt before leading a group of clergy, labor and civil rights activists through downtown to the steps of the Georgia Capitol. Marchers held signs that read, "Stop the war on workers" and "Unions make us strong," and sang "This Little Light of Mine."
King III told the crowd at the statehouse that his father lost his life in the struggle for workers' dignity and democracy for all Americans, comparing the struggle to today's battle over collective bargaining rights in states including Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio.
"If he were with us today, he would be at the forefront of this struggle to retain the rights of workers," King III said to the cheering crowd. "I would've hoped we would be in a different place in this nation 43 years after his death. Something has gone awry in America."
The rallies were part of a coordinated strategy by labor leaders to ride the momentum of pro-union demonstrations and national polls showing most Americans support collective bargaining rights. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP leaders have fought to reduce or strip those benefits.
Walker has argued that collective bargaining is a budget issue. He signed into law a bill the strips nearly all collective bargaining benefits from most public workers, arguing the move will give local governments flexibility in making budget cuts needed to close the state's $3.6 billion deficit.
Labor unions want to frame the debate as a civil rights issue, which could draw sympathy to public workers being blamed for busting state budgets with generous pensions. Arlene Holt Baker, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, was in Atlanta for the "We Are One" campaign, which she said included teach-ins and vigils in dozens of cities nationwide. Holt Baker said the two movements are linked and that economic justice was King's dream.
"We need to thank these governors," she said. "They did for us what we haven't been able to do for ourselves for a long time. They have woken us up. They say it's about balancing budgets, but we know it's about union busting."
At a rally in Cleveland, about 300 union supporters denounced Ohio Gov. John Kasich and workers vowed to block the bill he signed last week that bans public worker strikes, eliminates binding arbitration and restricts bargaining for 350,000 public employees. U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, said Republicans are trying to silence workers at the bargaining table and told the crowd that Republican lawmakers are counting on us quitting.
"We pay respect to the dignity of your work," she said. "We thank you. We can't quit."
In downtown Louisville, Ky., about 200 people gathered at a rally. Musicians, including the Grammy-nominated Nappy Roots, played to their home crowd in a show of support, and a red, white and blue banner read "The Right to Bargain - Kentucky's Public Employees Deserve It - Now."
"The 9-to-5 of blue collar workers, we really are from that era," said Nappy Roots' Skinny DeVille, whose mom still works at the Louisville GE plant.
In Tennessee, groups against bills that would curtail or cut workers' rights stood silently as legislators walked into the House and Senate chambers.
On the University of Illinois campus, several different union groups showed up for a rally Monday in front of the Alma Mater statue. Peter Campbell with the U of I's Graduate Employees Organization praised King for teaching people about the importance of social and economic justice.
"King said if you support unions, you also support racial justice," Campbell said. "If you support racial justice, you support rights of workers. If you support women's rights, you support rights for everybody. So, we're all necessarily in this together."
Other union events are planned in the Champaign-Urbana area this week with a larger union rally planned in Chicago on April 9th.
(AP Photo/David Goldman)
The only known signed photo of Jesse James, the notorious outlaw from Missouri, will go to auction next week in Chicago.
The photo shows James with slicked back hair and gazing away from the camera at an angle. It's signed J.W. James. (His middle name was Woodson).
Mary Williams with Leslie Hindman Auctioneers says she was skeptical until she saw the signature first-hand and noted its similarity to a letter James is said to have signed.
"It's incredibly similar to an item being offered by History for Sale. It's a two-page letter from Jesse James where he signs on the front with his full name, Jesse James, and on the back he signs J.W. James like on our photograph, and the two are extremely similar," Williams said.
The photo is expected to sell at the auction next Tuesday for at least $20,000.
Not everyone is sold on its authenticity.
Gary Chilcote, the director of the Jesse James Home Museum in St. Joseph, says the outlaw rarely signed anything, because there was a reward on his head.
"What do we compare it with? That's the problem in determining the authenticity of a signature," Chilcote said. "You have to have something to compare it with that you know is correct, and it's pinning that down that is the hard part."
Chilcote says a letter James signed under the pseudonym Thomas Howard was sold several years ago.
Jesse James was shot in his home on April 3, 1882 at the age of 34.
(Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers)
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
Archaeologists have hard evidence that humans lived in North America much earlier than previously thought, and an Illinois researcher played a key role in nailing down the dates.
The earliest North Americans were long thought to be the Clovis people. Now archaeologists have dug up stone tools and debris from underneath a Clovis site in central Texas. The findings were discovered by researchers led by Michael R. Waters of Texas A&M University.
It was "like finding the Holy Grail," Waters said in a telephone interview. To find what appears to be a large open-air campsite "is really gratifying. Lucky and gratifying."
The trove of 15,528 artifacts included chipping debris from working stones and 56 tools such as blades, scrapers and choppers. The archaeologists sent samples to Steven Forman's lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he determined when the sediment around the objects was last exposed to sunlight.
The artifacts turn out to be about 15,000 years old - from millennia before the Clovis people. It's not the first evidence of cultures older than Clovis, but Forman says it may be the strongest.
"It appears to be that this might be kind of watershed piece of science in which people say, yes, there is really compelling evidence for pre-Clovis occupation in North America," Forman said. "It's no longer a red herring."
The small tools were "a mobile tool kit," Waters said, and of the type that could have led to the later development of the fluted points that trademark Clovis technology.
While there are other pre-Clovis sites across the country, Waters said the new find included significantly more artifacts than the others.
Anthropologist Tom D. Dillehay of Vanderbilt University, who was not part of the research team, said he is concerned that the separation of layers at the site "appears not to be as clear as the authors would have us believe."
University of Oregon archaeologist Dennis L. Jenkins said he was also initially skeptical of the find, commenting "it would have been a hard sell" from many other researchers.
Jenkins, who three years ago reported discovery of 14,000-year-old evidence of human DNA in a cave in Oregon, said he was concerned that settling or rodents had mixed up the specimens in Texas.
But, he said, Waters' team had done "incredible, meticulous scientific work." "I believe he's made the case," he said.
Jenkins said he would have preferred carbon-dating of the specimens, but that couldn't be done because there was no organic material to be tested in the newly found layer.
Steven L. Forman, of the University of Illinois, Chicago, a co-author of the paper, said the team used luminescence dating which can determine when the material was last exposed to light. They took samples by hammering black, sealed copper pipe into the layers. In a separate paper in the journal, researchers report evidence of early humans in south India more than a million years ago.
Researchers discovered more than 3,500 quartzite tools of the distinct Acheulian design used by the earliest humans in Africa starting more than 1.5 million years ago. They dated the tools to at least 1.07 million years old and some possibly 1.51 million years old.
The discovery at a site called Attirampakkam in the Kortallayar river basin helps anthropologists understand the spread of ancient people from Africa into Asia. Leading the research team was Shanti Pappu of the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education in Tamil Nadu, India.
The find is unprecedented for archaeological studies in India, said archaeologist Michael Petraglia of the University of Oxford, England, who was not part of the research team.
He said it could mean that early humans migrated out of Africa earlier than the oft-cited 1.4 million years ago, carrying the tools to southern Asia.
"The suggestion that this occurred at around 1.5 million years ago is simply staggering," he said.
The new find will likely overturn the history of ancient humans in North America. The results are out in the journal Science.
(Photo courtesy of Michael R. Waters/The Associated Press)
The foundation for many of the world's most powerful computers is housed at the University of Illinois. The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) started 25 years ago using computer systems like the Cray X-MP/24. Back then it was an industry standard, but it doesn't even come close to the processing speeds of today's models. The center set another world standard by releasing Mosaic, a pre-cursor to the web browser. The NCSA marks its 25th anniversary this year, and Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers spoke to the center's director Thom Dunning about the organization's contributions to science and technology.
(Photo courtesy of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications)
Buck O'Neil is regarded today as an ambassador to baseball history, particularly that of the Negro Leagues.
The 16-year veteran with the Kansas City Monarchs went on to become the first black coach in the major leagues, joining the Chicago Cubs organization in the early 60's, but he also was a Negro League manager and big league scout.
A documentary by a Champaign physician sheds new light on the legend's contributions to Chicago's rich baseball history. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talks with Dr. David Fletcher, the man behind plans for a Chicago Baseball Museum, about how Buck O'Neil's contributions to the game are helping that effort.
Abraham Lincoln fans have failed, again, to set a new world record.
State officials had hoped to break the record for the most people reading aloud at the same time. They organized a mass reading of Lincoln's Farewell Address two weeks ago, with people across the country taking part.
But as numbers come in, it's clear the event drew only a fraction of the people needed. Organizers tell The (Springfield) State Journal-Register that the total so far is about 13,000, while the world record is 223,363.
An attempt to break the record last year by reading the Gettysburg Address out loud also failed to set a record, but it came much closer. That event had about 180,000 people.
For nearly 150 years, a largely black private university in Nashville has prided itself on its liberal arts studies and its music. Vocal ensembles at Fisk University have been there about as long as the campus itself, but as Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert reports for NPR, the songs performed there could have sounded very different if it had not been for the efforts of one of the school's first music directors.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Seroff)
A group dedicated to documenting Illinois' legal history will tell the story of some of the first women to enter the profession.
A three-month exhibit on some of the state's first female attorneys opens Monday at the University of Illinois' College of Law.
The exhibit developed by the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission serves two purposes. It tells the stories of women who paved the way for many others in the courtroom. But it's also aimed at helping the public understand similar issues today. And Commission Executive Director William Wheeler hopes those touring the exhibit can add to it.
"We're trying to reach out to people and tell them what we know, but perhaps as important or more important is to find out what people in the community know, certainly the legal community," he said. "There are the family members of Supreme Court justices or judges who served for a long time. They have stores they could share with us. We'd like to hear those."
The stories will include that of Ada Kepley. In 1870, she became the first American woman to graduate from law school, earning her degree at Northwestern, which was then known as Union College of Law. Her favorite causes were women's suffrage and temperance, or the reduced consumption of alcohol. Kepley made her home in Effingham. Florence Kelley became Illinois' first female factory inspector in 1890, while Catherine McCulloch was the first woman to serve as justice of the peace.
The state's Supreme Court historic preservation commission, which was started in 2007, will work with other Illinois law schools over the next two years to host similar exhibits. Opening ceremonies for the women's legal history exhibit are Monday afternoon at 3 at the U of I College of Law. It will remain open through May 12th.
(Photo courtesy of William Wheeler, Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission)
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