JACKSONVILLE AREA MUSEUM AT OLD JACKSONVILLE POST OFFICE
Any visitor's first stop in the Jacksonville area should be the Jacksonville Area Museum! In the early days of Illinois, Jacksonville was one of the leading cultural and political hubs of the state, a distinction that is still an important part of the city's fabric even to this day. The museum tells this compelling story with professional displays, videos, and artifacts of the Jacksonville and surrounding area.
Exhibits include: Connections to Abraham Lincoln, the expansion of industry, importance of local retail, the influence of institutions, the impact of famous individuals, a history of medicine, the influence on modern dentistry, and so much more! The museum is also the home of the MacMurray College collection, and provides a home to their extensive history and artwork. With traveling and rotating exhibits, there is something new each time one pays a visit to this fascinating look into the early history of Illinois.
The museum in located in the old Jacksonville Post Office, a beautiful federal building that has been repurposed into one of Jacksonville's finest cultural institutions.
Photo of Post office in 2017
Backstory and Context
The Old Jacksonville Post Office was built and was opened in 1905. It remained the way it was for quite a few years before they finally made some new additions to the building. In 1921, a meeting was held across the street from the old post office that reorganized and relaunched the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. The first addition added onto the old post office was in 1935, and that project took eight months for them to build. In April of 1935, the exterior and interior remodeling began. The exterior was finished on December 26th of that year, and the inside was still being worked on. The interior work they did was to add an area with peepholes so people could walk up there and look through and see if the people in the post office were actually working. All of the new renovations, interior and exterior, were finished in December of 1935, and the post office looked newer and better than ever.
Today, there are new plans for the old Jacksonville Post Office, and these plans might bring this old building back to life once again. Many organizations and people around the community and also in the county have made donations to help the old post office be rebuilt and remodeled so that it can fit it’s purpose in the coming years. The Heritage Cultural Center Board was the first to take steps forward in getting the old post office as a permanent home for the new museum. The Morgan County Historical Society owns the post office now, and their plan is to have the Heritage Cultural Center Museum up and running by the end of the year 2017.
The historical society received the post office as a gift, and the members asked the museum board if they would like to use it for that reason. They have spent around $1 million in renovations from state funds and people who have given them donations. It will also cost them an extra $300,000 to get the ground floor ready for the Heritage Cultural Center Museum, and this will get everything set for them. They are very happy about this project because it will be yet another choice for tourists to visit as they come through Jacksonville, and they can learn about the history of Jacksonville. The museum used to be housed in the Main Building at the Illinois School for the Deaf, but that later had problems with the state because they needed that building back due to renovations of other classrooms. In reality, they didn’t want this project to take as long as it did. They originally thought that the project would only take them three to five years to finish. It stalled for awhile, and they thought that the money would eventually never come through to continue renovations on the old post office. It takes so long because the building is huge, and it takes quite a bit of money to get it back in running condition. They have collected about $2 million from public donations and fundraising, and they plan to use this money to help remodel the post office to get it into its final form. Although the post office is a big building, it is actually a very small place to have a museum. With a lot of artifacts, there isn’t a lot of room in the building. According to the Morgan County Historical Society, the building will also have an archives downstairs, and those will be climate controlled to help preserve everything they have as long as they can, so they can keep switching out artifacts to put on display. The renovations on the inside have begun, with steel walls being put up for the new bathrooms, and the main area where the artifacts will go is being gutted and cleaned up. The archives have not yet come along, as they are still waiting for more money to come up so they can put the climate control and other things in to help sustain a good environment for the artifacts that aren’t on display. The building is old, so the basement will already be Naturally cool due to the brick walls and concrete flooring, so trying to maintain the climate should be fairly easy with the help of the system.
The old post office is located in downtown Jacksonville, right off of the town square. It is on the corner of East State Street and North East Street. It’s a very large, brick building and is quite distinct from the others. It’s also tucked behind a building in front of it, but is very easy to locate and is a great building to take pictures of.
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