The historic Lamon House has been undergoing a facelift this month, with plans for more work in the spring. Once enough money is raised, the shutters and decorative brackets will be put on, so the building looks like it did 160 years ago.
“It’s a huge improvement right now,” said Marilyn Blanton, who is in charge of fundraising with the Old Town Preservation Association.
The one-story white frame house has been owned by the Vermilion County Museum Society since 1982, but the preservation group is helping to finance the renovations.
Built in the 1840s or ‘50s, it used to sit on North Street in what is now the north parking lot of the Day’s Hotel. The structure has served as a private residence, a gift shop and a law office. It’s thought to be the oldest frame structure in town.
“It’s wonderful to have old buildings,” said Sue Richter, director of the museum, “but you have to maintain them. We always try to put funds aside for maintenance.”
The preservation group approached the museum earlier in the year, offering to help. “It’s really great that Old Town got involved,” she added.
The roof on the south side was repaired in 2001, and more repair work was done to the west side in 2004 and the foundation in 2010.
The latest round of work involves replacing rotted wood, repairing the soffits and relining the interior gutters.
Blanton said the association noticed the wood was rotting around the roof, and they decided to get that done right away. “It looks so much better,” she said.
The work is being done by Bryan Sampson with Sampson Window Repair, who lives in a 1910 home and has had a lot of experience working on old houses.
“Bryan has given us excellent prices. He loves old houses,” Blanton said.
Sampson agreed he likes the challenge of fixing up old buildings. Some things were built better in the past, he said, but added, “They didn’t have a lot of rules they followed back then. Most of the time, you run into things you don’t expect.”
Earlier this week, Sampson and his helper, Tom Marsh, built linings for the gutters and trimmed them to fit. They also capped the ledges with aluminum and worked on the soffits.
He also plans to repair and repaint the original shutters. The decorative brackets are in good shape.
However, that work has been delayed until the cost of the project, about $1,400, can be raised, Blanton said. Once that part is done, the house will look like it did originally, she said.
Down the road, the storm windows will need to be reglazed and the house re-stained on the west and south sides, and scraped and repainted on the other sides. The painting project, which could cost as much as $8,000, Blanton said, could be done in the spring.
Also, Richter said, a sign will be erected out front; one side will tell the story of the Lamon House and the other side will tell about the historic Lincoln Park. The sign will be dedicated to longtime volunteers Alan and Becky Woodrum, as well as the other volunteers.
The Lamon House occupies a beautiful spot in the park, Richter said, and there’s a new sidewalk along Logan Avenue. The trees and bushes have already been trimmed by Berry’s, and more landscaping will be done to replicate that time era.
“With the Lincoln connection,” Blanton said, “we need to maintain that house.”
The museum society also maintains Mann’s Chapel in Rossville and the Fithian Home, and the buildings are on five- to 10-year maintenance plans. Special events raise funds for different places.
“This is a good time to let people know what the museum society is doing,” Richter said. If anyone wants to make a donation, he should send it to the museum, and note which building it should be used on.
The Lamon House is open for tours from 1:30-4:30 p.m. each Sunday from May through October. On the first Sunday of the month and on special occasions, the tour guides are dressed in period attire.
The original occupants of the home were Melissa and Joseph Lamon. She was the daughter of Danville’s namesake, Dan Beckwith, and Joseph was a cousin of Lincoln friend and law partner Ward Hill Lamon. The small, cottage style home remained in the Lamon family for about 90 years.
In 1982, the building was slated for demolition, but the late Dorothy Sturm-Duensing headed the campaign for its preservation and relocation. It opened on Sept. 9, 1984, with the inside decorated to show what the residence would have looked like in the mid-1870s.
It’s unknown whether Abraham Lincoln ever visited the home, but he was a friend to Melissa and Joseph Lamon, and might have stopped by.
To help To make a donation to help preserve historic buildings, send it to the Vermilion County Museum Society, 116 N. Gilbert St., Danville, IL 61832; phone, 442-2922; website is www.vermilioncountymuseum.org. Designate which building you'd like the money to go to.