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SLAVE HOUSE: STATE HAS FIRST SHOT AT BUYING FURNITURE

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EQUALITY - Though the state of Illinois did not purchase period furniture when it acquired the Old Slave House from Gallatin County resident George Sisk, future research about the property may warrant such furniture, an Illinois Historical Preservation Agency spokesman says.

Dave Blanchette, speaking for division manager of historic sites Robert Coomer, said the $500,000 paid by the state for the house and 10 surrounding acres was not enough to pay for Sisk's family furniture as well.

Much of the furniture in the house, also known as the Crenshaw House, belonged to Sisk's grandfather and great-grandfather and dates from the 1850s and 1860s.

Blanchette said the agency seeks funding in the new state budget for staffing and operations. He would not say the amount the agency is asking.

Also, he said, research into the history of the site is critical to staffing and other needs.

"What verifiable research for this place exists will determine what stories we will tell as part of our interpretive plan," Blanchette said. "The state certainly was impressed with the pieces of furniture in the house, but the $500,000 purchase price only covered the house and 10 acres."

Sisk said he would prefer the furniture and other antiques remain in the house, though he plans to sell them later this year. The state has the first shot at the antiques as a lot, he said.

"I want these antiques as a group to stay in the house so bad, I'm willing to sell them to the state on credit, if they don't have the money, and let them pay me back so much each month," Sisk said.

Many stories about the house and one-time owner John Hart Crenshaw exist. Researchers have turned up documents that indicate Crenshaw may have been involved in an "reverse Underground Railroad," in which he would capture freed slaves and sell them back into slavery.

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