Grants boost DeKalb Area Women’s Center landmark preservation

Micki Chulick of DeKalb County Community Foundation presents a Community Needs check to Anna Marie Coveny, director of DeKalb Area Women’s Center. Diane Rodgers, NIU associate professor of sociology and Lucy Sosa, an NIU sociology graduate student, look on.
Micki Chulick of DeKalb County Community Foundation presents a Community Needs check to Anna Marie Coveny, director of DeKalb Area Women’s Center. Diane Rodgers, NIU associate professor of sociology and Lucy Sosa, an NIU sociology graduate student, look on.

May is National Preservation Month, and with the help of grants and donations, DeKalb Area Women’s Center is ready to begin its own preservation efforts on the former Finnish Hall, now home to this non-profit organization.

The DAWC was incorporated in 1993 to advocate for women and sponsors an art gallery along with a wide range of events held at 1021 State St. in DeKalb.

In March, the organization was awarded $1,000 from Landmarks Illinois’ Heritage Fund Grant.

The Heritage Fund provides financial assistance to preserve significant structures within the state of Illinois. This grant required matching funds and in May, thanks to a Community Needs Grant from the DeKalb County Community Foundation, that match was not only met but the $6,000 award will also make possible the first step of necessary stabilization and repair work for the building.

Meanwhile, the May 6 “Give Local DeKalb County” event co-sponsored through the DeKalb County Community Foundation and DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership raised an additional $3,000. The money came from individual donations and a large contribution from the Finnish-American Society of the Midwest, all of which will also go toward preservation efforts. Local contractors R.W. Keys and Son, experienced in historic restoration, will perform the stabilization and repairs.

“The generosity of these funding organizations and donors has been crucial to get this preservation project started,” said Diane Rodgers, an associate professor of sociology at NIU who was responsible for writing the grants.

Anna Marie Coveny, director of the DeKalb Area Women’s Center, long has championed the need for preservation and the historical value of the building. With the help of Rodgers and several NIU students, the local landmark status sought by Coveny became a reality in February of 2013. The former Finnish Temperance Hall was built in 1917.

Logo of the National Trust for Historic PreservationNIU students have been involved in this project in many ways: researching archives, interviewing, survey work as well as presenting at conferences and other public talks.

Lucy Sosa, a sociology graduate student, has interviewed and conducted surveys with residents in the neighborhood on preservation issues. “Most people are very interested to learn about the history of the area and some expressed that preservation could positively serve the current local community,” Sosa said.

Former NIU graduate students Jill Sanderson and Jessica Peterson also experienced this community interest at a local talk where they shared their interviews and research on local Finnish culture last year. The project currently welcomes a new student member, undergraduate Danielle Calabria, a history major working with professor Stanley Arnold of the NIU Department of History Department. Calabria will conduct her internship with the project, focusing on the preservation process of the Finnish Hall.

Students interested in helping with the project should contact Rodgers at drodgers@niu.edu.

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