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Harrison Bruce Historical Village Stroll
Harrison Bruce Historical Village will take visitors back in time for a taste of Christmas past

CARTERVILLE — Harrison Bruce Historical Village on the campus of John A. Logan College is ready for Christmas and its second annual Harrison Bruce Historical Village Stroll. The stroll will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the village.

Stroll chairperson Carla Coppi said visitors will see some changes this year. Visitors will receive seeds saved from the village gardens, St. Nicholas will greet guests and silent auction items and a new coloring book will be available.

In 2017, master gardeners and master naturalists, along with other volunteers, planted and maintained 10 heritage gardens on the village grounds.

Rick Whitecotton and Terry Foster prepared seeds from those gardens for visitors to take home to plant in the spring, including swamp milkweed, cleome and woody annual cotton. Those plants would have been found growing in Southern Illinois.

“Swamp milkweed is a plant pollinators really like,” Whitecotton said.

“Monarchs pollinate and lay eggs on it,” Foster added, calling it a host plant.

The gardeners mimicked the plants that would have been found in the area in the time frame of the building, including those brought to new homes by settlers, those that worked well for their neighbors and native plants that were pretty or useful.

They planted cotton and tobacco at the Hunter Cabin. Heirloom tomatoes were planted in a produce garden. Cleome or spider flower would have been brought across the prairie with settlers.

“It’s been intensely interesting to put ourselves in the mindset of settlers and how they grew,” Foster said.

Richard Sitler, The Southern 

Docent Rebecca Bostian of Herrin puts up a Christmas calendar in the Purdy School at the Harrison Bruce Historical Village in Carterville Wednesday.

One new visitor to the village will be St. Nicholas, who will be in period dress. Cheryl Trench, lead docent for the village, said this is not Santa in his current red and white coat and pants. 

Carl Cottingham will portray St. Nicholas, wearing a traditional long red coat with fur trim and tweed knickers and vest underneath. His costume was sewn by Jo Ann Ridenour. Coppi said the outfit is wonderful, down to the buttons on the vest, which are tiny clocks.

St. Nicholas will welcome visitors and hand out maps of the village.

A coloring page for children, and refreshments, along with seeds, will be available in the Robert L. Mees Village Center. Visitors also can bid on silent auction items in the center.

“The silent auction is of items related to the village, such as wreaths of cotton and hydrangea we grew,” Coppi said.

Perhaps the most exciting change is in the weather forecast. During the inaugural stroll in 2016, the weather was rainy and cold. This year, the prediction is sunshine and temperatures in the low 60s.

“This year we are going to be blessed with glorious weather,” Coppi said.

Richard Sitler, The Southern 

Paper snowflakes decorate a window of the Purdy School at the Harrison Bruce Historical Village in Carterville. Volunteers put up period decorations Wednesday in preparation for the annual Christmas Stroll Sunday.

A new fundraiser is underway, too. A coloring book will be available for $5 with all proceeds going to the village. The book features pictures of the Harrison Bruce Historical Village drawn by JALC student Nathaniel Darling.

Coppi said the decorations have been enhanced this year.

“I thought it worked for the festivities last year, but this year it’s going to be remarkable,” Coppi said.

Musicians and singers will provide entertainment, including Our Lady of Mount Carmel Children’s Ensemble led by Christy Allen, pianists Henry Nicolaides and Tom Novara, harpist Joyce Hesketh and guitarist Tom Schaubert.

The Harrison Bruce Historical Village includes the Hunter Cabin, built in 1818 in rural Williamson County and reconstructed at the village with 80 percent of the original logs; Purdy School, which served as a one-room schoolhouse in Perry County from 1860 to 1951; Harrison Storefront, a replica of a double dog-trot-style cabin built by the David Ruffin Harrison family in 1858; Harrison House, a replica of the home built by D.R. Harrison in 1868 in northwest Herrin, then known as Herrin Prairie; and Robert L. Mees Village Center.

The stroll will take place rain or shine.

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The St. Nicholas crew is at work on its second location, the Landmark in Chester

CHESTER — Steady progress is being made at Chester’s famed Landmark as it slowly makes its way into the St. Nicholas Brewing Co. family.

“I remember this building from my earliest memories of Chester,” said Tom Welge, president of St. Nicholas, the Du Quoin Brewery that reclaimed the old St. Nicholas Hotel in 2014. He said he is thrilled to bring new life to the business that sits on Chester’s riverfront.

“I was fortunate enough to get involved with the St. Nicholas and then that just became a perfect vehicle — we were looking to expand into another community, another small town, and this building was available,” Welge said of the project.

The Landmark has been part of Chester’s landscape for nearly 200 years. Rosemary Oetting owned The Landmark on Ferry Street with her husband, Jim, for more than 20 years from 1986 to 2007. She said the first part of the building was constructed by Thomas Mather around 1833. Since that time, it has been expanded and was home to a multitude of businesses and housed many. She said it was a buggy shop, a bakery, a small grocery store, a candy shop and finally it became what many know it as — a tavern and restaurant.


The newly-revealed St. Nicholas Landmark logo.

Welge and St. Nicholas’ Du Quoin manager, Abby Ancell, revealed Wednesday the official name and logo for the newest addition to their family of restaurants — the Chester location will be called the St. Nicholas Landmark. Welge admitted this was likely not a shocking reveal, but was happy to put an official name to the project.

On a tour of the facility, Welge and Ancell gave a rough lay of the land as crews worked jackhammering floors and putting in new windows. They both said they are working, as they did in Du Quoin, to retain the historical character of the building — old hardwoods are revealed in places and stained glass is being maintained — all while making improvements for a modern business.

“We are trying to put the next 100 years in it,” Welge said. “There’s shortcuts that you could take, but they’re probably going to be a detriment to you in the long-term.”

“We aren’t going to erase the history of the Landmark. That’s super important to keep those vibes going,” Ancell said.

Ancell said they learned at lot with the first project in Du Quoin, and are putting those lessons to work in Chester.

Ancell and Welge said, like their Du Quoin location, they are wanting to keep things “cozy and comfy.”

“It’s more of a neighborhood place,” Ancell explained of their vision.

With a grand opening still about a year out, the brass tacks of the business are still being worked out, but a few things are certain — Ancell said the Landmark will feel similar to their Du Quoin location, but it will be its own beast.

“We are definitely going to give it its own feel for Chester,” she said of the menu.

There will be about 12 taps, and Ancell said the beer will be brewed in Du Quoin and brought to Chester. While the beer menu will be shared with their Du Quoin location, there is talk of at least one special beer for the Landmark.

Isaac Smith / ISAAC SMITH The Southern 

The Landmark in Chester was purchased by Du Quoin’s St. Nicholas Brewing Company in order to open a brewpub next year.

Ancell and Welge said they have talked about having a “Trans American IPA” that would be special to Chester. Welge said this would be a nod to the TransAmerica Trail, which passes nearby.

One distinction between the Landmark and the Du Quoin location is space — Ancell said in Chester there will be a lot of room for outdoor seating and potentially even hosting special events and perhaps a festival down the road.

Oetting said she and her husband were thrilled when they heard the news that someone had bought the building and were renovating it. She said when the Landmark was shuttered for the last time a few years ago, she and Jim would drive by weekly and look at the place as it deteriorated. It was hard for them to watch.

Jim Oetting said they had many fond memories there. They watched at least seven rotations of customers come and go in their two decades running the place. Oetting saw young men and women meet and sometimes get married before the next wave would come. Rosemary Oetting said in the 1960s, when she and Jim were dating, they would even hang out there.

Rosemary Oetting said people were always friendly and she loved her time running the ship with Jim. She said the St. Nicholas crew have inherited a great legacy, but may have also picked up a few hangers-on.

In their years running The Landmark, Rosemary Oetting said there were more than a few strange incidents that many have attributed to ghosts.

“The ice scooper we would leave on top of the ice machine, the storage bin, and pretty soon it would just, kind of, fly across the room and hit the door of the walk-in cooler,” Oetting said.

Oetting said it seemed like it would happen when there were conflicts in the kitchen — she said it was like the ghosts got mad.

“I tried to replicate it,” she admitted. She said she would hit the ice machine to simulate a train going by — the restaurant sits just yards away from a rail line. She also let the scoop fall off the edge of the machine to see where it would land. Nothing worked.

“It would go across the room before it hit the floor,” she said of the paranormal event, adding that this is how she knew it wasn’t something normal, at least not that she could figure out.

She also said at night the staff would turn the radio off on the second floor before leaving, only for the opening crew to come in and find it turned back on.

People have allegedly even seen apparitions.

“Years ago supposedly some people were in the parking lot and they saw this figure of a woman in the window upstairs. That’s the famed, you know, Landmark Woman,” Oetting said. However, after all her research, she said never could find out who could be haunting the place.

Around Halloween this year, Welge and company paid homage to these legends by putting “ghosts” in the top windows of the building.

Spectres or no, Welge said he and Ancell are thrilled to bring their vision to more of Southern Illinois.

“We cherish and love the St. Nicholas. It’s really important to the people of Du Quoin and Southern Illinois — a lot of memories there and I think we are going to see the same kind of feelings, you know, over on this side of Southern Illinois as well,” he said of the Landmark project.

“We are excited to bring St. Nicholas to Chester,” Welge said.

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Once a skeptic, Sen. Durbin says he's 'impressed' by HUD Secretary Carson's early performance

WASHINGTON – Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a one-time GOP presidential contender and retired pediatric neurosurgeon, has provoked the ire of a number of housing advocates and Democratic politicians in his first year in the position. But Carson is drawing support from an unexpected skeptic in Illinois, at least based on early performance. 

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the upper chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, said Thursday that he’s been “impressed with Secretary Carson” since his confirmation in March to head the multibillion-dollar agency with tentacles that reach into nearly every community of America and provides support to millions of low-income families. 

Durbin opposed Carson’s nomination this spring, but said he’s warmed to him in the nine months he's been on the job. The two have had private conversations in Washington in recent months concerning housing-related issues in Illinois, Durbin said.

“I’ve talked to Secretary Carson. I’ve been impressed with Secretary Carson,” Durbin said from Washington in a phone interview with The Southern Illinoisan. “I didn’t know what I was going to run in to, but he’s come by my office twice, he’s met with me personally, he’s been attentive and responsive.

"Even though I was very skeptical about whether he could do this job, I’ve been impressed with the way he’s approached it.”

Asked if his positive assessment would cause him to change his vote if he could hypothetically go back in time for a do-over, Durbin said he would “be more inclined to vote for him today than I was the first time.”

“It didn’t make much sense the first time because he made some public statements that management wasn’t his strength, and here he was managing a big federal agency,” Durbin said. “But I have to tell you, he’s been responsive with me and he’s been honest with me and I know he’s visited Cairo and I know he’s visited East St. Louis. That’s a good thing to say for his first year in office.”

Richard Sitler, The Southern 

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson comes to the podium to applause after being introduced during a public event at the East St. Louis Municipal Building in which HUD returned control of the East St. Louis Housing Authority to the city of East St. Louis on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. 

In early August, Carson visited Cairo, where federal housing officials are relocating about 400 people from two failing public housing complexes. In late September, he visited East St. Louis to return the city’s housing authority back to local control more than three decades after HUD took it over citing corruption and deplorable living conditions for residents.

As Republicans in Washington push for increased defense spending, Durbin said Democrats are seeking, in return, additional dollars for domestic programs that support, for instance, affordable housing and community development. 

Durbin made the comments about Carson while speaking to the newspaper about his time growing up in East St. Louis and his hopes for the city’s return to a better day. The interview was for a story scheduled to publish in December about what it would take to position East St. Louis for a comeback. 

“The problem we have, at least for the moment -- I hope it changes in a matter of weeks -- is that there’s pretty limited funding available for HUD and its programs,” said Durbin, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, specifically discussing issues concerning public housing. “We are fighting to change that. The Republicans in Washington want to dramatically increase defense spending and we’ve said we believe we need increases, but we also want increases in non-defense spending, that’s the Democrats' position.

“And some of those resources will go to the benefit of HUD and give them a chance in communities like East St. Louis to do a bigger and better job,” he said.

President Donald Trump’s administration, in May, proposed reducing HUD’s $48.7 billion budget by more than $6 billion, or about 13 percent. At the time, an agency spokesperson was quoted in various publications as saying that all early budget blueprints represent a starting point – not a final deal.

The agency was attempting to allay fears of ruinous cuts to cash-started programs that support housing for people with low-incomes as capital needs for government-supported housing rapidly balloon across the country and safety issues in many of these aging and failing complexes are coming into the spotlight with greater frequency. 

Durbin was not specific as to what amount Democrats were seeking for HUD’s FY 2018 budget. Talks are underway in Washington toward a longer-term budget deal, while lawmakers are also considering the possibility of a two-week stopgap funding measure to avoid a government shutdown on Dec. 8 when the government’s spending authority expires.