4 H Spark Tank club
4 H Spark Tank club

(AP) – SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A 4-H Club wants to restore a Springfield building that was an orphanage for African Americans.

The 4-H Spark Tank club has picked “Preserving the Lasting Memory of the Lincoln Colored Home” as a project, the (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported.

Club member Zaire Harris said the goal is to have it completely renovated.

“I applaud their efforts,” said Lee Hubbard, whose family owns the property. “We’re trying to get some traction here.”

Hubbard’s father, a former Tuskegee Airman, returned to Springfield in 2005 and purchased the property with an idea to convert it to a museum and community center. His father died in 2012 before being able to get funding.

Hubbard said the building is sound structurally. It’s currently vacant and has deteriorated.

Harris and the three other club members are Springfield High School freshmen. He said their goal is to complete the project in three phases by when they are seniors. The desire is to make it a place for meetings, for learning about aeronautics, and “where kids can come to learn and have a protective environment,” he said.

The first phase is to place signage in front of the brick building to identify it as a landmark and denote its National Register of Historic Places listing, with hopes to finish doing that by June. Harris said work to make the exterior more attractive will come after that, followed by interior restoration.

“It still has the same magic about it that it always has,” Hubbard said. “It is so worth saving.”

The Lincoln Colored Home was founded in 1898 by Eva Monroe, an African American social reformer who spent her life committed to helping the Black community of Springfield. A new home was built in 1904. As many as 60 to 70 orphans and indigent elderly were housed at the home at one time. It was an orphanage until 1933.

Club members met at the building with Hubbard and others to accept a $250 check from Farm Credit. The Illinois State 4-H Foundation has awarded the club a $1,000 grant, according to Erica Austin, 4-H educator for metro programming for Sangamon County for University of Illinois Extension.

The club also plans a capital campaign for renovation investment and wants more youth involved, Austin said.

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