Opening Speech At The Public Meeting About The Future Of The Courthouse

Hello, my name is Delaine Donaldson. I am here today to ask the County Board to save the Courthouse and use it as a heritage and cultural center. Copy the model demonstrated by the McClean County courthouse site. I literally could talk for hours about why preservation is the wisest move for you to make. I have done my homework. The reasons for the preservation come from a variety of sources historical sociological, psychological, and economic. Since my background and training is in the social sciences, let me briefly address each of those sources.

The historical arguments have at least two sides: There is an old maxim which teaches us that those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. Certainly there is a history regarding the destruction of court house’s within this country, and it is a history of regret. I trust that members of the board have availed themselves of the numerous articles on the Internet which describe decision-making in other communities regarding this subjectIf you have, you know that this is a subject which can divide a community for years.

If a building is destroyed it cannot be replaced! But when we think about history we tend to think about the events and personalities related to the courthouse building. Knowledge of history builds pride in a county. Certainly there have been many great personalities and interesting events which have taken place on the courthouse steps, inside the building and on the courthouse lawn. I have researched them in depth. There is a value in that knowledge for our children. It is not nostalgia and it is not sentimentalism although those feelings certainly are conjured up by the building.

In fact those feelings reflect a sociological phenomenon known as “collective memory,“ the underlying reason why there have been thousands of pictures taken on the courthouse square showing county people on the steps of courthouse, by the cannon, or by the bandstand. Those feelings grow from a psychological phenomenon known as “a sense of place .“ Studies indicate that the way we keep our young people in our communities is by providing that “sense of place.”

Now I realize that all of the of the above deal with non-economic matters, and that people who are materialistically focused do not understand that way of thinking, so let me change direction: The main focus of the debate regarding the building seems to be economic in nature. So let me pursue that. Again I say, I have done much reading on this topic and have found that the economic development experts stress the significance of historic preservation for the economic development of a county and region.

Numerous state and university studies have documented such over the past several years. Taken together, those studies indicate that rehabilitation of historic buildings creates new jobs, that rehabilitation creates greater household income than building a highway or constructing new buildings in a community, that historic preservation is the most important component in the revitalization of downtown areas, that historic preservation is the major factor in heritage tourism, that historic buildings serve to incubate new small businesses.

I could go on but the point is that preservation of the Effingham county courthouse is critical to the local economy. Just this past week there was a news story regarding the release of a million dollar grant with the purpose of preserving existing courthouses.

When I learned about this I immediately emailed the organization to find information. I received an e-mail from a staffer which seemed very promising. He also informed me of another grant program. But he also told me that ownership of the property is essential for receiving the money. That is why there has to be a private/public partnership to create the heritage and cultural center. I implore the board to work toward that end.

Thank you!

Hours & Location

100 E. Jefferson Ave.,
Effingham, IL 62401

Daytime Hours:
(January-February)- By appointment only and some special evening hours, TBA
Phone: 217.240.2471 to leave a message

(March through December)
Tuesday and Saturday 10 a.m-2 p.m.

Evening Hours:
6:00-7:00 p.m. on night of lecture series, November-March
Other times by appointment: Call (217)240-2471 to leave a message

ECCCMA Meeting Schedule

Board Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. at the court-house first floor courtroom. For information contact Delaine Donaldson, President at:

General Membership Meetings are held once a month of the second Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at the court-house first floor courtroom.

Our MISSION is to preserve our Historic Register structure, to collect artifacts from county history, and to use them to educate our local and external communities, while immersed in the broader context of American history.

Our VISION is that the 1872 Effingham County Courthouse remains as an architectural gem that instills a sense of community pride and provides a venue to
educate and showcase the history, art, and transportation of Effingham County.

Get Involved

On November 11, 2012, the Museum opened its doors to the public. Currently there are exhibits on the first floor and the second floor. On the second floor there is exhibit space as well as room for lectures and other types of public gatherings.