GUEST COMMENTARY: Consider year-end gift to 'Grand Old Lady'

2012-12-27T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Consider year-end gift to 'Grand Old Lady'By Marty Wheeler
December 27, 2012 12:00 am  • 

In order for Crown Point to grow and prosper, the Old Lake County Courthouse on the square must grow and prosper. July 1, 2013, will see the end of the matching grant given to the Court House Foundation by the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation.

The purpose of this grant is to create endowments for the perpetual care and maintenance of the building. The goal is to raise $2 million to be matched by the White Foundation. If we are successful, it will mean we can complete the renovation of the historic building and preserve it into perpetuity.

The annual distributions from the endowments will cover the major expense of running the building.

As I have maintained many times, the Old Lake County Courthouse is the heart and soul of Crown Point and Lake County. We began our journey to save it in 1978 when the county government moved out and threatened to tear the courthouse down. The state became involved and forced the county to deed the property to the Lake Court House Foundation along with the money allocated to tear it down. That fund of $80,000 started a countywide movement to restore and rebuild our courthouse. It was subsequently placed on the National Registry of Historic Buildings. People from all over the county and state, interested in historic preservation, joined forces with Crown Pointers to save the historic structure. Since then, many more thousands of dollars have been expended through private donations and earned income. The foundation is not supported by your real estate tax dollars. It is owned and operated by a not-for-profit foundation and is dependent on public contributions and monies earned by the foundation.

In July of 2010, the benevolent White Foundation offered to match contributions given within a two-year period and extended to 2013. The courthouse board of directors together with the capital fund committee of community leaders have pursued the goal diligently by contacting major contributors throughout the county. As the committee reaches the final phase of the campaign we are asking everyone to open their hearts and wallets to complete the drive. The general citizenry of the entire county is now our focal point as we ask you to consider a year-end, tax-deductible donation.

It is a well-known fact that it is hard to get people to donate to bricks and mortar. It is much easier to justify gifts to those who minister directly to people. However, the courthouse is extremely important to many Lake County citizens. The events that take place here are numerous and contribute to our pleasure and quality of life. It is a wonderful example of Romanesque and Georgian architecture, a building of great historic value constructed in 1878, that must be preserved. What would the Crown Point square be like if the courthouse fell into disrepair with broken windows and grass and weeds growing in the yard? It would be a catastrophe to let that happen. Without community support, it could happen.

As the president of the Court House Foundation, I have devoted most of my time to the conclusion of this capital fund drive and the completion of major renovation to the building. In addition to raising money, I have presided over the spending of large amounts of money on the upkeep and maintenance of the "Grand Old Lady."

We have repaired large areas of the tile roof along with rebuilding the bell tower, repainted the entire exterior, replaced costly windows, repaired very old plumbing and wiring, replaced worn furnaces and provided a security system. These expenses are nearing $1 million.

Citizens of Crown Point and Lake County, it is up to you to stand up to the plate. We cannot reach our goal without your help. We need your contribution. Do you love and enjoy the building as I do, or are you willing for it to fall into disrepair and dissolution?

Won’t you consider a year-end gift to the "Grand Old Lady?"

Martha Wheeler is president of the Lake Court House Foundation. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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