The Stephenson House is "Raising the Roof" next month.
The Stephenson House, which is owned by the city of Edwardsville, will have to replace its cedar shingle roof a few years ahead of schedule, according to Sid Denny, secretary of the Friends of the Benjamin Stephenson House.
"We put on a new roof in 2000, and it should have lasted 30 years," Denny said "But unfortunately, because of the staples reacting to the fire retardant, it didn't last that long."
The city received a Madison County grant of $40,000 for the roof repair, which covers most of the cost. Denny said the nonprofit Friends are trying to raise the remaining $8,000 in a "Let's Raise the Roof" capital campaign, contacting individuals and businesses for donations. "If anything is left over from the campaign, it will be used for future maintenance projects," Denny said.
Benjamin Stephenson was one of the founding fathers of Edwardsville and ally of Ninian Edwards, third governor of the state of Illinois, after whom the city was named. Stephenson helped write the Illinois Constitution, and of the 33 men who worked on it, his original home is the only one still standing.
The four-room house was built in Edwardsville in 1820 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stephenson died only two years after the house was built, and it passed through many hands until it was sold to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity in 1982.
In 1999, the city purchased it with a $500,000 state grant. Over the next six years, the city and the nonprofit volunteer organization raised more funds and restored the house.
Now the oldest brick house in Edwardsville operates as a "living museum," Denny said. Daily tours are offered by docents dressed in period costumes, and the Stephenson House works with District 7 schools for field trips and other educational programs. There is a Christmas candlelight tour as well as summer camps, such as Pioneer Camp and Miss Lucy's Camp for Girls, which deals with all the things an 1820s girl would have to know, Denny said.
Including the students, as many as 5,000 people visit the Stephenson House every year, Denny said. The city parks department handles maintenance, and the nonprofit handles administration and the educational programs.
Denny said even as the work is ongoing for the roof, fundraising continues. Their annual antique auction and 50-50 raffle will take place in September, just as tours resume in the fall, he said.
For more information, go to www.stephensonhouse.org.