A group of Yorkville residents are on a mission to save the Old Kendall County jail from demolition in a last-ditch effort to keep its history alive.
The city is contemplating tearing down the building after a recent inspection showed its deteriorating state.
Built in 1893, the building was home to not only inmates, but the families of the acting sheriff until the 1970s, said Thomas Milschewski, who is help leading the preservation efforts.
“It’s not just some building, it was someone’s home,” he lamented. “We want to save the building because it deserves to be saved.”
Aside from marching in the city’s Fourth of July parade, waving a giant “Save the Jail” banner, the group has started online petitions and spoken out at City Council meetings.
The group’s goal is to get the word out that the building is in jeopardy, and to impress upon the community the historic nature of the jail.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Milschewski said. “If we keep tearing down old buildings we’ll have nothing but a highway running through town.”
The city estimates full renovation would cost upwards of $1 million. A secondary recommendation, which could save and essentially only secure the older part of the building with a tear down of the newer part, would cost between $130,000 and $180,000
Milschewski and his group said they are willing to fundraise until they get enough money to preserve the jail.
“I’m not giving up without a fight,” he said. “You have to know where you come from in order to know where you’re going.”
The City Council meets again to discuss the building’s future on July 24. Milschewski will be there again, making his voice heard. He’s hoping dozens of others will join him.
“The community needs to come together,” he said.
So, on July, he wants residents to do exactly that. Milschewski will be hosting a community meeting at the Chapel on the Green at 7 p.m.
He’s looking for residents to band together to help change the city’s mind, and he said there’s proof these initiatives work.
“The (former) courthouse was saved 20 years ago this summer. Parkview School was saved 23 years ago. Chapel on the Green was saved just two years ago,” he said. “It’s time to take a stand and save this Queen Anne Victorian Gem and to add it to the list of buildings for this town to be proud of.”
Milschewski is seeking lawyers, contractors, fundraisers, and volunteers to help conjure ways to keep the old jail alive.
“If you’re not at this upcoming meeting, we will lose the building,” he warned. “It is an old building, and it may be dirty and have a horrible roof, but that building is sound and deserves to be saved…People need to realize that the building is important. Once it’s gone it’s gone and it’s not coming back.”
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