JOLIET – The Joliet Area Historical Museum and the Joliet Historic Preservation Commission held a tour of four historic limestone structures Saturday for about 100 residents.
This was the first time a tour was held in at least 20 years, said Sharon Merwin, one of the commissioners of the preservation commission. Because May is Historic Preservation Month, she and her partners wanted a community activity.
“People appreciate the history,” Merwin said. “They see building types that no longer are being built. The buildings are re-used. There’s definitely a purpose for them. It’s not just, ‘Oh, let’s repurpose them,’ and then they’re going to sit there.”
The four sites included the Frederick Sehring Mansion, the All Saints Greek Orthodox Church, Joliet Central High School and the Auditorium Building, which now has businesses and condominiums. The residents were able to hear about the history of each structure and what renovations and remodeling is happening.
Some on the tour, such as Joliet resident Pat Fisher, were appreciative of the investments being made into the historical sites for both aesthetic and practical purposes.
“We’re interested in what they’re doing with the buildings now,” Fisher said. “I’m very happy to see that the city is putting this much into it.”
Some of the highlights of the tour included learning about the Frederick Sehring Mansion being renovated to serve as the future home of Bridgeport Winery next year. The All Saints Greek Orthodox Church’s Rev. Stephen Bithos told the story of the parish’s efforts to get steel for the building in 1943 during World War II.
Steel was used almost exclusively for the war effort, but the church managed to obtain some steel that originally was intended for Wrigley Field in Chicago. Many of the residents either attended or had children attend Joliet Central and were amazed to see what the building is like now. Joliet Central gives tours over the summer to the public.
Greg Peerbolte, executive director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum and co-organizer of the tour, said he was genuinely surprised but also encouraged to see the interest from residents.
“It’ll be great to have 20 or 30 people,” Peerbolte said. “That’d be a huge win for us. Like 115 calls later, here we are. It’s incredible. It shows you that people take the history of Joliet very seriously.”