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home : news : north central illinois   April 29, 2016

2/8/2013 8:55:00 AM
Western Bureau County on historic places register

By Craig Sterrett
News Editor and The Associated Press

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency says four buildings in the state have been added to the National Register of Historic Places, including one in western Bureau County.
Named to the list is the Classic Revival-styled Sheffield Village Hall in Bureau County, designed in 1909 by George Franklin Barber & Co.
“We heard that. Isn’t that great?” said Sheffield resident and food pantry operator Mary Lanham, who grew up in a home across Main Street from the village hall and could watch the sun go down behind the building and its square tower each evening.
“It’s a beautiful building. It does need some repair and some updating. It’s a beautiful building sitting in a beautiful location on Main Street,” said Lanham, adding that Mary Ann Cernovich was the driving force behind getting the hall listed on the Register.
“I was on the village board and there had been some discussion about upkeep of the building, maintenance of the building; would we have to tear it down?” Cernovich said.
She said she thought the building was significant and the thought of it vanishing “threw up red flags for me.” She asked to start an ad hoc committee.
Village trustees stopped meeting in the building, moving to the handicapped-accessible new community building a few years ago.
“We started the (application) process about four years ago actually. It was multiple attempts of writing and rewriting and more and more research. We finally called in a professional historical preservationist. He helped us to put a final draft together and be able to submit it correctly,” Cernovich said.
She said the village hall was erected as the railroad, coal mining and the brickyard had the town growing, and for several years before that, meetings were in commissioners’ homes. Through the years the village hall housed two jail cells (still intact), the fire station, an early telephone office and a courtroom. An old vault still is preserved and houses early village meeting minutes as well as the original plans and specifications for the village hall.
Currently, it’s used for storage, and the fire station garage bays are used for village maintenance vehicles. Cernovich said the village would not qualify for grants to preserve the building unless it had this designation.
When the committee started researching, they weren’t aware of the architect.
“Built from the renowned architect (George F. Barber’s) plans by Patrick M. Ford using red brick from the local brickyard, the building still has its original tin shingles covering the main Mansard roof and the hip roof of the square center bell tower,” according to
Cernovich said it turned out the most significant feature of the building is indeed its link to the architect.
“He’s a renowned architect primarily for Victorian Queen Anne-style homes,” Cernovich said. He designed many in DeKalb and then moved to Knoxville, Tenn. “This is one of very, very few municipal buildings he designed. It was really quite unusual for this architect to design anything outside of homes.”
Also named to the National Register was the 1920 Neuville apartment building in Chicago’s Steeterville neighborhood, an early example of luxury apartment buildings. 
The Polish Roman Catholic Union of America Building in Chicago, which still houses the organization and its Polish Museum of America, made the registry, as did the Vesta Accumulator Company Building, constructed in 1913.

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