Amish Attraction Could Boost East Central Illinois Tourism
Organizers of a planned Amish-themed attraction in east-central Illinois are hoping the project can boost the region's tourism.
The Illinois Amish Heritage Center will sit on five acres along Illinois Route 133, near Chesterville and Arthur. Project organizers hope the living-history Amish farm and museum will give visitors a better understanding of the life and culture of the Amish, The News-Gazette reported.
"We need a place of solace. We need a place to come and think about the past," said retired Sullivan businessman Richard Harshman.
Harshman, who's a board member of the Illinois Amish Heritage Preservation Foundation, said the nonprofit group is more than halfway to its goal of raising $1.7 million for the project this year.
Three buildings, including two houses from the late 1800s and a workshop, have already been moved to the site and work to restore them will begin this year, he said. Plans call for an additional three buildings to be added to the area.
The heritage center could initially draw 20,000 visitors annually, according to the project's business plan. That amount could double by 2022. The attraction would generate income from admission charges, gift shop and books sales, tours and fundraising.
Arthur Area Tourism Director Christy Miller said it will take some time to raise public awareness of the Amish attraction. Once the center is fully operational, she said it will likely serve as a major tourism draw in the area.
"I think it's a great adventure, and it's going to enhance what this area already has to offer," Miller said.