A hospital in Abraham Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Ill., plans to expand, and preservationists want to make sure those plans don't include the loss of a Lincoln-era house.
Built in the 1850s, the brick Italianate structure known as the Maisenbacher House was empty when the Springfield Clinic purchased it for $190,000 last September, planning to tear it down for a parking lot.
"All the trees have been cut down around it. It's been boarded up, some shutters have been removed, so it's looking pretty beleaguered," says Dick Hart, a member of a local preservation foundation.
The Springfield Clinic hasn't finalized its plans yet but says it's working on a compromise. "We think the outcome will be favorable for all parties," clinic spokesman Mark Kuhn said in December.
"There are plenty of other areas for parking already owned by the clinic. If the argument has been that it’s good to have the clinic near the downtown, then there is no wisdom in demolishing downtown buildings that can provide amenities to its employees and other downtown workers—all of which help contribute to building a vibrant business district," David Bahlman, president of Landmarks Illinois, wrote in an October 2007 letter to the State Journal-Register Letters.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Midwest Office suggests that the clinic use historic tax credits to restore the house. Christina Morris, program officer, said in a November letter to the city and clinic that her office "strongly urges the Springfield Clinic to continue to work toward a solution that would result in the preservation and reuse of the Maisenbacher House."
Two surveys of the neighborhood's architecture, one in 2003 and one in 2006, found that the Maisenbacher House was potentially eligible for listing on the National Register and as a local landmark.
"We know it's a significant historic resource," says Catherine O'Connor, manager of local government services for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which commissioned the 2006 study.