History that you can see and touch most always makes for a better lesson. And a local teen is creating just that for Grantfork as the village prepares to celebrate its 100th birthday celebration.
Kenzie Holzinger, who lives in the country between Grantfork and Highland, is an aspiring artist who specializes in painting and sculpting fantastical underwater scenes. She loves art, and she relishes opportunities to test her skills.
“I’ll be more up to doing it if it is a challenge than if it is not,” Holzinger said.
However, Holzinger recently took on a project that she said was way out of her comfort zone — constructing a scale model of Grantfork from the time of its founding, 1917.
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Holzinger, the daughter of Randy and Tonya Holzinger, is currently a freshman studying art at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. Her marine themed masterpieces have won her high honors at the Madison County Fair and many superior ribbons at the Illinois State Fair. It was during the 2016 Madison County Fair when her art got her handpicked for the model project.
Wendy Reinarcher-Heilig, who is helping to arrange the centennial celebration on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, saw Holzinger’s artwork and was impressed by her natural talent.
“Kenzie does wonderful work,” Reinarcher-Heilig said. “She is amazing and talented.”
After the fair, Reinacher-Heilig approached Holzinger and asked her if she would be interested in constructing the model.
“I knew right off the bat that I could do it,” Holzinger said.
For the last three months, Holzinger has meticulously sculpted clay replicas of the many buildings that constituted the village of Grantfork one century ago. Each building takes her anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes to create, and once the project is complete there will be more than 20 structures on the model, including Mudge Mansion, the old Grantfork school, two town cemeteries, a creamery, multiple churches, Grantfork Bowl, Diamond Mineral Springs and a large hotel that used to be associated with the restaurant.
Most of the buildings were chosen, with a few exceptions, because they were standing in 1917, before Illinois Route 160 came through town, and the year the village officially got its name. While some of the buildings on the model are still standing, many of the structures have been gone for quite some time, and that only adds to Kenzie’s challenge.
“The hardest part is the uncertainty,” Holzinger said.
For the most part, Holzinger has been molding the buildings based off of black-and-white photos. She said the pictures usually only show the front of the building, though sometimes she is lucky enough to see the sides. However, she said this leaves her grasping for details about the back of the structures.
To make sure the models are accurate, Holzinger has been working with a number of locals, including her own mother and Lawrence Schwarz, Grantfork’s historian, to hammer out the fine details. They have helped her to identify the physical attributes, like the correct colors of the structures, the number of windows they had, and where they stand on the plot. Needless to say, Holzinger has been learning a lot about Grantfork, and her mother said she has been proud to watch her daughter mold the history she grew up with.
As of last Friday, Holzinger only had to make two more buildings. After that, she said she will get to the really fun part, which is putting in all of the details like trees, bushes, filling in the road material and placing small signs that hold the facts about each building. The project will be on display at Grantfork’s centennial celebration.
Becoming a part of Grantfork history
Part way through the model project, Hozlinger was put to another challenge that would tie her into the history she has been learning. Reinacher-Heilig asked her to design a logo for the centennial that will also become the logo for the village.
The design shows a stagecoach sitting on a diamond-shaped field inscribed with the words “Fitz-James” written on the top and “Saline” written on the bottom. Holzinger said the village, which is located in partly in Saline Township and party in Leef Township, was once called Fitz-James Crossing and was also a stop on a historic stagecoach route from Vandalia to Edwardsville. It is also called “Saline” due to mineral deposits located there. She said she was told the village was officially named Grantfork in 1917, for the fork in the neighboring creeks.
Holzinger said her involvement in both of the projects has helped to instill a sense of pride and appreciation for the small community. She has also learned how her own family heritage is tied into the town’s history. Holzinger said she understands every village street, and as she drives through the village, she can now see where the remnants of history still linger.
“There is a very rich sense of community in Grantfork, and that’s another thing that makes this project a lot of fun,” Holzinger said.