DOWNERS GROVE – The Downers Grove Park District was awarded a $50,000 grant Oct. 18 from the Timken Foundation for restoration of the interior of the 1846 Blodgett House.
On the Downers Grove Museum campus at 831 Maple Ave., this historic structure has architectural significance as one of the oldest homes in the community, and it is acknowledged as a likely stopover point on the Underground Railroad, according to a Park District news release.
The Timken Foundation awards grants to nonprofit agencies that operate in communities in which the Timken Company operates. In 2016, Lovejoy Inc., a Timken brand, opened its world headquarters on Wisconsin Avenue in Downers Grove.
The district also will receive a $135,000 Public Museum Fund Grant recently reinstated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. With the funding from the Timken Foundation, the district will now have the resources necessary to complete interior renovations and the addition of interpretive exhibits, the release stated.
Following extensive fundraising and volunteer work spearheaded by the Heritage Preservation Corp., an exterior restoration of the 1846 House was completed in 2010, including a new roof, siding, windows and doors. In 2013, the district completed interior structural improvements required by local building codes, but the interior of the house remained unfinished, and it currently is not suitable for public access, according to the release.
Many of the home’s architecturally significant features, such as the post and beam construction, mortise and tenon joinery, and hand-hewn floor joists, are visible from within the house. The proposed interior design preserves these features and showcases them in an effort to highlight early pioneer lifestyles, living spaces and craftsmanship, the release stated.
The vision for the Blodgett House restoration is to create a cultural center focusing on the Blodgett family and its involvement in the Underground Railroad. By completing the interior restoration of the home, the Park District hopes to expand the cultural impact the museum will have on the surrounding communities and illuminate Downers Grove’s heritage as a part of the Underground Railroad, according to the release.
The Park District will begin this renovation in early 2019, and it anticipates completion by the end of 2019.