Local historic landmarks struggle to stay open

By Matt Porter | mporter@wcia.com

Published 06/25 2014 10:14PM

Updated 06/26 2014 10:48AM

ILLINOIS - More than two million people each year visit more than 50 historic landmarks in Illinois. But budget cuts could make them harder to see. WCIA-3's Matt Porter tells us why most are struggling to stay open.

At Springfield's Old Capitol Building, history comes alive. This year, budget cuts could force landmarks to reduce hours. It's troubling to visitors like Joyce Chwalisz from Woodstock, Illinois.

"I think that's kind of sad," Chwalisz said. "I think our school kids that come down here for their eighth grade trips are going to miss out on a lot of things."

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency said the new budget reduces their budget by one fifth, or $1 for every $5.

"Basically, we're operating now at the same funding we had when the agency was created in 1986," said IHPA spokesperson Christopher Wills.

Wills said the agency is operating normal hours for now, but unless the governor and legislature can restore some funding, the agency will be making cuts across almost all its historic sites after the summer season.

"Hours at many, maybe all of our sites will be cut back," he said. "Seasonal employees will be let go early."

Wills said they've had their funding reduced by 40 percent in the past few years.

He said the state should think of the millions who visit each year, including those coming from outside the state like Jane Stron who traveled from Colorado.

"It's absolutely a precious part of our history that we need to keep restored and open to the public," Stron said.

The agency hopes funding will be restored before hard choices need to be made.

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