GRAND OPENING! A Home for the Lincoln Highway Association, by Duane Paulsen, excerpt from The Lincoln Highway Forum, Winter 1999, Vol. 6., No. 2.
On Saturday, March 6, 1999, the national Lincoln Highway Association headquarters became a reality. Farming Heritage, Inc. the owners of the Lincoln Building in Franklin Grove, Illinois, held a transition ceremony, at which time the Lincoln Highway Association took over the 1860 limestone building.
The ceremony began at 4:30 pm on a cold but sunny afternoon. A snowstorm that hit the area the previous day kept few away from the festivities. More than 60 people attended the ceremony, including Lincoln Highway members, donors to the building, and Farming Heritage members.
At 5 p.m., an original Lincoln Highway marker was unveiled in front of the building. Dick Pumfrey, a local Abe Lincoln impersonator, walked down the street and brought the key to the front door, which he presented to Royal Lincoln, a relative of H. I. Lincoln, who in turn passed it on to Roger Taylor, president of Farming Heritage, Inc. Jack Kelley of Farming Heritage cut the ribbon that was across the front door, and then everyone entered the building for a sit-down banquet. White tablecloths, candles, and decorations gave the building a festive appearance. Farming Heritage member Max Baumgardner was the master of ceremony and introduced officers of the Lincoln Highway Association, special guests, and Farming Heritage members. Bob Ausberger, Lincoln Highway Vice President and Iowa director, accepted the building on behalf of the LHA. After the dinner there were toasts offered to the success of the Lincoln Highway Association in its new building and the continued association of LHA with Farming Heritage and Franklin Grove.
Lincoln Highway Association officers in attendance were Vice President Bob Ausburger, Secretary Sue Jacobsen, and treasurer Jim Powell. Illinois director Ruth Frantz and director-at-large Mike Weigler were also present, as was former president Barb Winandy.
The restored H.I. Lincoln Building never looked better. Like the mythical phoenix rising from its own ashes, this 19th century jewel has taken on a new life after coming very close to being demolished by the wrecker’s ball a few years ago. When the members of Farming Heritage, Inc. took over the building almost four years ago, it was an eyesore and could easily become another parking lot. The outer walls gave hint as to what was was when Henry Isaac Lincoln built his store using local limestone. Telephone poles had been sunk into the ground along the sides, and steel cables running through the building and fastened to the poles stabilized the outer walls. Most of the windows had been broken out, making it the largest bird house in Franklin Grove. The roof leaked like a sieve. Inside, the second floor and ceiling had collapsed onto the fiorst floor resulting in three-to-five feet of soggy mess that had to be removed before restoration could begin. Every piece of the original interior that could be salvaged was carefully removed and restored. A new roof was put on. On the inside walls, care was taken to note where the original shelves were located, and they were rebuilt. The outline of stenciling at the top of the outer walls was carefully traced and redone. A large window that was put in on the south side at a later date was removed, and limestone that matched the original was used to fill in the opening. The mortar between the stones on the exterior had deteriorated, and many hours were spent in tuckpointing. The back (east) wall bowed out considerably and was forced back into place using telephone poles, with pressure applied every week for many months. The Farming Heritage members and restoration expert Ron Nelson put in thousands of hours, usually two days a week, bringing the building back to its former glory.
Even though the LHA now occupies the first floor, the Lincoln Building is still a work in progress. Much tuckpointing still need to be done, especially on the east wall. And to the north where another building was whose rafters hooked onto the limestone wall. The second floor has not been restored. This large room, without any obstructions, was called Lincoln Hall and was used for community events, plays, concerts, etc. When the Lincoln Highway was being promoted in this area, a booster meeting was held in Lincoln Hall in February 1914. In attendance were LHA vice president A. R. Pardington, traveling consul Mr. Henry Osterman, and state consul J.W. Corkings. The original route of the Lincoln Highway went down Main Street in Franklin Grove and past the Lincoln Building.
Saturday, March 6, 1999, was indeed a great day for both Farming Heritage and the Lincoln Highway Association. A local landmark has been preserved. The LHA now has its headquarters in a building that had a role in the creation of the original Lincoln Highway. The champagne toasts offered at the end of the evening should be just the beginning of the future for the Lincoln Highway Association. Welcome to Franklin Grove. For those of you who plan to travel to the new headquarters, you can’t miss it. It’s next to the red, white, and blue fence that says “Lincoln Highway.”