A day in Arthur, Illinois is always something to celebrate. Last Tuesday my husband, Keith and I headed for Eastern Illinois. Our destination was the Illinois Amish Heritage Center. We both love to see any type of farm history preservation so we jumped when we had a chance to see this living history center that is being developed right here in the heart of Illinois!
History of the Center
We were on our way to meet Wilmer Otto, the President of the Board of Directors for the Illinois Amish Heritage Center. I had got the scoop on the cool center from Wilmer after a phone interview. The Center began in Arcola in 1996 as the Illinois Amish Interpretive Center. They moved to Rockhome Gardens in 2010.
I don’t know if anyone else remembers how cool Rockhome Gardens was, but it was amazing, and I remember visiting the museum when it was at the Gardens. After Rockhome Gardens sold in 2015, the museum contents were placed in storage until a new site could be found. In 2016, the Board obtained land to build their Illinois Amish Heritage Center! Wilmer told me how lucky they were to find land. “So many young Amish couples are looking for land to build on the owner told me. But he wanted a place for Amish history so he agreed to sell.”
Wilmer said that many Amish are now in cottage industries rather than farming. Because of this the community in general is supporting this endeavor. Then their community as well as visitors can learn about Amish farming history.
What’s at the Heritage Center today?
Wilmer Otto said the Illinois Amish Heritage Center had originally planned to open in 2020. But, because of COVID-19 the opening date has been pushed back to spring of 2021. Currently onsite they have two Amish houses including the 1865 Moses Yoder house which is the oldest Amish House in Illinois. This house is currently undergoing renovation.
I was able to go through the house, it will be amazing once completed. The Daniel Schrock home though is already a masterpiece of history ready to tour and complete!
During a tour of the home, Mr. Otto pointed out some of the unique Amish architectural aspects of the home. There is a drying rack next to where the stove would have set. Cabinets were inset all on outside walls. What is really unique was the hinged walls would lift when a family would have a church service in their home. “The men sit on one side of the house and the women on the other,” Mr. Otto added.
Onsite there is also a Pavilion that will be a picnic area and a former school that Moses Yoder turned into a workshop.
What else is coming to the Heritage Center?
Still to come is the Yoder Barn which is an 1893 or 1894 barn that will be dismantled. The barn then will be placed onsite with an old fashioned barn raising! How cool is that!
Also yet to come is a German school where youth attended at age 14 or older to learn to read and write German. Thanks to Karen Miller, the school was saved. The school still has the original desks and many items! It was so neat to see German writing on the chalk board!
The centerpiece of the Heritage Center will be a Museum Center which will be a vast 14,000 square feet. More details will be in an upcoming issue of Farm World.
Who can go to Arthur and not eat while visiting? We had to stop at Yoder’s Kitchen. We ordered from the menu and I had to try the fried chicken, their specialty. I originally thought that the servers were wearing masks but I must have been wrong because a local that lives there has told me that they do not. I apologize if this information was incorrect. She did say though that they do try to socially distance inside the restaurant.
While there, we all wore a mask to the table and were socially distanced while dining.
Beachy’s Bulk Foods
Wilmer wanted to be sure we saw some of the cool stops in town. He took us by Beachy’s Bulk Foods. While I have been there in the past, I was amazed because they have expanded and added on! A whole new section has been added on since we had been there. What a great place to find just what you are looking for. Great Amish quality food is available.
A new store I had not been in was Beachy’s Countertops which had an array of lovely countertops to choose from! Here I met Karen Miller and her brother-in-law Howard Miller. Maybe I need to give some hints to Keith for some new countertops for Christmas……
After touring, dining and shopping, we headed home. We can’t wait to hear when the barn raising will be and to learn about the opening of the Illinois Amish Heritage Center!