In January of 1860, Abraham Lincoln came to the First Presbyterian Church in Pontiac to speak before the Young Men’s Literary Club. After his speech, he went to the home of Pontiac attorney, Jason Strevell. There the two men talked late into the night discussing the upcoming presidential campaign, the state of the Union, and other important social and political issues of the day. The Strevell house, located on West Livingston Street just a few blocks from the Presbyterian Church, still stands, and is the last known structure in Livingston County to have hosted the man who became our nation’s 16th President.
The Strevell house, which was built in the mid 1850s, was threatened with demolition in 2008 when it was rescued through the efforts of a group of concerned citizens headed by Thomas Ewing, Donovan Gardner, and Collins Miller. The group purchased the home, and then later, donated the house to the Livingston County Historical Society with the intent that it be restored and used as a home for the Historical Society’s collection of artifacts.
Since 2008, the Historical Society has worked diligently to gather donations in order to begin the extensive restoration process needed for the house. From cash gifts, donations of goods and services, and the sale of commemorative paving bricks, money has been raised to restore the exterior of the home. That work is now nearing completion.
The first part of the restoration process was the renovation to windows in the main part of the house. Then, the elaborate trim that helps to define the house as being in the Carpenter Gothic Style was replaced or repaired. That was followed by the time-consuming and difficult process of removing multiple layers of existing paint, getting the exterior surface down to bare wood. During that process, it was discovered that some areas of the home’s wooden siding were rotted or damaged and needed to be replaced. The final step was painting the exterior with a colonial red paint with white trim. The chosen color scheme was based on investigation into the original colors for the home. Mike Ingles, a member of the Strevell House Steering Committee recently said, “Now that the exterior has been painted, the next step is to install a new roof. We expect that to be done in the next 30 days.”
The remaining project for 2012 will be landscaping the yard and the installation of the memorial walkway paved with the commemorative bricks sold to help pay for the home’s preservation. The walk will run from the city sidewalk to the front door of the house.
In an interview last week, Tom Ewing, chairman of the Strevell House Restoration Committee stated, “Over 100 commemorative bricks have been purchased by philanthropic trusts, businesses, and individuals. Each brick will be engraved with their name or message and when installed, they will create a lasting memorial to the generosity of the people of Livingston County.” Ewing added, “Additional funds are needed and memorial bricks are still available. The bricks that are ordered before the installation begins this fall will provide the greatest benefit. It costs considerably more for engraving and installation of bricks after the walk has been created.” Ewing encouraged anyone interested in purchasing a memorial brick to do so now by calling the Pontiac Tourism Office at (815) 844-5847.