A $163,000 project to restore a 121-year-old pioneer home on the site of the Black Jack Battlefield is the big winner in the first round of grants through Douglas County’s natural and cultural heritage grant program.
The Heritage Conservation Council, a committee that was formed in the past year to judge the merits of applications for a portion of the $350,000 the county has set aside for historic, cultural and natural preservation, has recommended funding 10 projects worth $297,500. The recommendations were narrowed from a pool of 18 applications seeking nearly $1 million in funding.
The council is recommending to the Douglas County Commission that more than half of the funds go toward rehabilitating the Robert Hall Pearson Farmhouse, which sits up the hill from what historians say is the site of the first battle leading up to the Civil War. The home was built in 1890 by Robert Hall Pearson, who fought with John Brown in 1856 at the Battle of Black Jack.
The Black Jack Battlefield Trust purchased the home in 2003 and has steadily made improvements to the home. However, in its application to the county, the group noted the structure was threaten by termites and a deteriorating foundation.
“We believe that delaying the restoration work any longer will result in the ultimate loss of the house,” the application stated.
Among other things, the money would be spent to determine the amount of termite damage in the home, rid the home of termites, small animals and snakes, repoint the limestone foundation, repair the termite-damaged chimney, install new steps to the basement, replace missing windows, remove a 1970s addition and install a heat source.
The trust asked for $163,000, which is the amount the council is recommending the project receives.
The farmhouse restoration is one of two being recommended for a major grant.
The County Commission is scheduled to consider the recommendations during its meeting at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.
The council also supports spending $29,500 to assist in renovating 720 and 722 Main St. in downtown Eudora. The buildings would house the Eudora Community Museum and Eudora Area Historical Society.
The applicant, the Eudora Area Historical Society, requested $180,000 to do an entire renovation project. However the council is providing just enough to cover the cost of determining the history of the structures and their eligibility to be placed on the state historic registry. The grant also would pay for an architect to look at plans for the buildings.
The council also recommended grants for these smaller projects:
• $3,000 to repair the roof of Clearfield School.
• $20,000 to hire a museum consultant, who would prepare a collection management report and interpretative plan for the Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum.
• $2,700 to create a project that would educate Douglas County residents about the cultural heritage of significant and historic trees.
• $3,000 to place signs on the 10 most historic buildings along Eudora’s Main Street.
• $22,300 to contribute to a 276-acre conservation easement through the Kansas Land Trust program which would protect prime farmland and a wooden river riparian buffer.
• $9,000 to help place B’nai Israel Cemetery, Robinson Oakridge Farm Barn and 707 Main St. in Eudora on the national historic registry.
• $15,000 to explore options to help preserve the Lecompton City Jail without moving the structure.
• $30,000 to preserve the steeple and west side of Vinland Presbyterian Church.