BOURBONNAIS — The restoration of the original log cabin schoolhouse in Bourbonnais now seems certain.
At the annual Fleur-de-Lis Celebration Dinner of the Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society held Friday at the Kankakee Country Club, Bourbonnais Mayor Paul Schore announced that Aqua Illinois will make a $100,000 grant toward the rebuilding of the pioneer school. Bourbonnais is currently in the process of selling its wastewater system to Aqua.
In addition, the French Heritage Society of Chicago will make a $5,000 grant toward the project. That grant was announced during Friday's dinner by Lisa Kahn of the society's Chicago chapter. It will also kick off grants from the other 11 French Heritage societies in the United States and in Paris.
That funding adds to $62,000 already raised toward the project by the historical society.
Schore told the audience Friday that he hopes to see the foundation for the building completed before winter, construction in the spring, and a dedication during the 2022 Bourbonnais Friendship Festival.
The historic schoolhouse will be located on Stratford Drive East, adjacent to the LeTourneau Home. The plan is to have both structures open for tours given by historical society volunteers.
The original logs used in the schoolhouse are now being stored at the Village of Bourbonnais Public Works Department. Dr. Jim Paul, president of the Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society, said the logs will constitute approximately 60 percent of the new structure. Paul said all remaining work will keep in a historic tone, with the roof, windows and even the chinking between the logs done in a manner similar to the years of 1837-1848 when the schoolhouse was in operation.
After 1848, the building served a variety of other uses and additions. Recently it had been a family home. No matter its usage, the historic nature of the building was always known, Paul said.
He said the historical society will now focus on getting appropriate items for the interior, including books from the schoolhouse era. Portraits of the current presidents then would include Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler and James Polk. The American flag over those years grew from 25 to 30 stars as Michigan, Florida, Texas, Iowa and Wisconsin were added.
Paul said donations to buy historical items are still welcome and needed. You can donate online at bourbonnaishistory.org or by mailing a check payable to BGHS to P.O. Box 311, Bourbonnais, IL 60914.
Some 74 people attended the celebration dinner Friday at the Kankakee Country Club. The fourth annual Fleur-de-Lis Award of Excellence was given to Carl Moran, a Voyageur re-enactor and a past president of the society.
Honored guests included Berangere Travard, the French Consule Generale Adjointe, and Genevieve Pocius, Business Development Officer for the government of Quebec in the Midwest. Charles Balesi and Waltraud Schuller organized the dinner and Balesi served as master of ceremonies. Paul entertained with a first-person account of the life of Kankakee County pioneer Noel LeVasseur.