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Metamora Courthouse is closed but far from forgotten, state says

Tim Shelley
Recently, Metamora community members have taken to social media to express concerns about the condition of the historic courthouse in the village square.

Metamora residents have recently taken to social media to express concerns about the condition of the community's historic courthouse.

The Metamora Courthouse State Historic Site was built in 1845 to serve as the Woodford County seat. It served in that role until Woodford County government relocated to Eureka in 1896.

The courthouse is one of just two still standing in its original location which dates back to the period when Abraham Lincoln was traveling the 8th Judicial Circuit as a lawyer.

The state superintendent of the site, Matthew Mittelstaedt, said the site is currently closed to the public, but he wanted to reassure the public that it's far from forgotten.

"Even though we're closed, somebody is always here during at some portion of the week, taking care of the outside the grounds, and we're continuing to work on the interior as well," he said. "So yes, somebody is here on a regular basis. Though it's not open to the public, it's not been abandoned by the state of Illinois. We are good, conscientious stewards of our historic properties."

Photos posted to social media show damaged window frames along the building's exterior. Mittelstaedt acknowledged some exterior work is needed, including replacing some of that window framing, and said those repairs are in the works.

He said the state is actively working to hire a new site interpreter to explain the significance of the site to visitors. In the meantime, he said they're delving deep into collections to extensively rework the exhibits.

"The exhibits had focused, in the past...there wasn't really a particular theme for them. It was artifacts and things that had been donated by original settlers from the community. And it was just sort of a hodgepodge of things, just filling cases," Mittelstaedt said. "And so what we're working on is actually giving them some context, so that you can understand what it was that people were giving, and why it was important, in these particular items that they kept and donated."

Mittelstaedt said staff are discovering items that previously weren't known, including a sheriff's ledger book documenting cases from 1850 to 1852, which includes cases Lincoln himself worked on.

Mittelstaedt said he doesn't have a projected reopening date for the courthouse site at this time.

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