Historic Preservation Illinois

Illinois Hires 89 Prison Guards One Week After Closing Historic Sites

by Michael R. Allen

UPDATE: The governor himself is now in jail!

If the administration of Illinois’ Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich is aiming to be the most confusing one in state history, it is doing well. Just one week after closing 12 historic sites and laying off 100 employees of those sites, the state has hired 89 prison guards for a prison transfer that may not take place. While the prison guard hiring had long been planned, the operation of the 12 state historic sites had been in the state budget as far back as 1913, when Illinois acquired Fort de Chartres. If Blagojevich seriously wanted to tighten the state’s fiscal belt, he could have deferred the guard hiring to save money until the Pontiac Prison transfer lawsuit is resolved.

In January, expect the state legislature to again find funding for the shuttered historic sites. Also expect the governor to continue to cling to the ludicrous assertion that the closures have helped balance the state budget. Meanwhile, 100 workers whose work skills are hard to place in Illinois face uncertain futures. The twelve sites face doubtful prospects of reopening. Many communities will lose tourism dollars, and many tourism-boosted businesses will face failure. Meanwhile, other states that fully invest in their historic sites will capture a healthy number of visitors and their spending dollars.

If Blagojevich thinks the future he’s setting into motion makes sense for Illinois, he has a lot of explaining to do.

The sites that closed on November 30 are the following:

  • Apple River Fort, Elizabeth
  • Black Hawk Site, Rock Island (Hauberg Indian Museum to be half-closed)
  • Bishop Hill Museum, Bishop Hill (Colony Church and Bjorklund Hotel)
  • Cahokia Courthouse, Cahokia
  • Dana Thomas House, Springfield
  • Fort de Chartres, Prairie du Rocher
  • Fort Kaskaskia, Ellis Grove
  • Jubilee College, near Brimfield
  • Lincoln Log Cabin, near Charleston
  • Pierre Menard Home, Ellis Grove
  • Old Statehouse, Vandalia
  • Carl Sandburg Home, Galesburg