The exterior appearance of the historic Strevell House in Pontiac, Illinois, recently underwent a major, and quite noticeable, improvement. After months of preparation, the weedy, patchy, and neglected lawn at the 1855-era home has been completely replaced with new sod. Under the direction of Collins Miller, a member of the Livingston County Historical Society’s Strevell House Committee, workers unloaded and placed new grass at the 401 West Livingston Street location.
The Strevell house is the only remaining structure in Livingston County known to have hosted Abraham Lincoln. Jason Strevell was a colleague and friend of Lincoln’s and took an active role in state and local politics. On January 27, 1860, Lincoln came to Pontiac to address the Young Men’s Literary Society at Pontiac’s Presbyterian Church. After his speech, Lincoln went to Strevell’s home for a brief reception and to await the early morning southbound train so that he could return to Bloomington where he was involved in a legal case.
Over the years, the house was divided into three apartments and interior changes were made accordingly. When the house was threatened with demolition in 2009, a group of history-minded locals gathered together and bought the home, eventually donating it to the Livingston County Historical Society. Over the course of the last four years, local businesses, individuals, philanthropic trusts, and others have helped to pay for the complete restoration of this important local landmark. To date, over $75,000 has been collected and spent restoring the carpenter gothic style home.
The house has had its foundation repaired, windows and doors refurbished, a new roof applied, and most of the distinctive exterior fretwork replaced or repaired. The three entrances that were added to the home to accommodate the apartment dwellers have been either closed or altered. Modern doors that had been added were replaced with period-appropriate doors and hardware. The antique doors and hardware used were a generous donation from the Bloomington Illinois Old House Society.
Currently, the volunteers from the Historical Society are working on the demotion required on the interior of the home. The lead pipes and antiquated electrical circuitry in the house has been removed, replaced, or updated. On the east side of the home, the floors are currently awaiting a historical restoration, while on the west side of the structure the floors have been stripped of modern flooring materials and returned to the original wood plank flooring. The long-range plan for the home is to make the east front parlor, where Lincoln and Strevell spent most of that January evening engaged in conversation, as historically accurate as possible for the time of Lincoln’s last visit to Pontiac. The west side of the building will be designed to serve as a meeting space for small community events. According to Tom Ewing, former congressman and head of the Strevell House Restoration Committee, “Real progress is being made on the restoration and we anticipate the inside of the house will be in a condition that will lead to the decoration of the interior soon.”
To fund the restoration of the Strevell House, the Historical Society has been selling engraved granite bricks that make up the ornamental walkway to the front door of the building. The fund-raising bricks come in a variety of sizes and may be engraved in honor of a business, person, or organization. For more information on the Strevell House Restoration Project, contact Pontiac Tourism at (815) 844-5847.