Today Building Futures will take you on a trip down memory lane with the Alton Museum of History and Art (AMHA).
The AMHA has been a long time Building Futures partner, providing AmeriCorps members opportunities to utilize their learned facilities maintenance skills. The experience for our members has been invaluable as every project they work on can be used as volunteer working experience that can be used on their resumes to obtain employment after they receive their GED. In this manner, not only is AMHA a vessel to house Alton’s rich history, but it is also contributing to the development of the future leaders that will make future history in this community.
Let’s begin by giving you a little history about the Alton Museum of History and Art, shall we?
The AMHA was founded in 1971 to preserve the rich history of the Alton community. Through each exhibit it is the goal of the AMHA to share with each visitor the past and present and introduce you to people, places and events that have and continue to shape our area. The AMHA resides in Loomis Hall located on the dental school campus across from the Robert Wadlow Statue.
Often times I pass by seeing visitors taking pictures next to the statue, but I wonder how many actually know there is an interesting exhibit about him right across the street detailing his full life in depth.
According to the AMHA, Loomis Hall, which is the oldest building in the state of Illinois that has been continuously dedicated to education, was built in 1832 by Baptists, as the first building in what was to become Shurtleff College.
Within this museum you can find the Classroom Gallery which displays the art accomplishments of area citizens; the Wadlow Room, which tells the story of the tallest man in the world; and the Pioneer Room, which describes the exploits of Lewis & Clark. You can also find information on the Wood River Massacre, the Lincoln & Shields Duel, the Confederate Prison at Alton and the black pioneers, who settled this area.
The AMHA also maintains The Koenig House, which is located on 4th St. and Oak St. in Alton. The Koenig House was built in 1887 by a German American Engineer who was employed by the Illinois Glass Company. The house was designed by Lucas Pfeiffenberger, a well-known architect from the St. Louis area. The home was occupied for several generations by the original owners until given to the AMHA.
The Koenig House was the site of the most recent activity that Building Futures has done in partnership with AMHA. Oct. 12, in the lot behind the Koenig House, Building Futures members cleared debris, pulled vines off the fence and mowed the lot.
One would ask what is really the significance of all this work? What’s the big deal about students clearing out an empty lot at a historic home?
Well to begin with, it teaches our students the importance of giving back, caring about the aesthetics of your community but also becoming social conscious about the cares of others.
All of our students may not be history fanatics or appreciate the value of “some old house” as some of our students so poetically coin it. But our students have recognized the value of what it means to other people when individuals see the dramatic difference in appearance of the property and how their eyes light up.
In addition, the work that the students have done is even more significant when you take into account that the lot will be used by Saint Claire’s Hospital as a meditation garden for patients. Meditation gardens can take many different forms, but their primary purpose is to provide a beautiful and therapeutic place for relaxation, rejuvenation, and meditation.
So, see if you look deeper you will begin to realize that a small step in volunteerism goes a long way like throwing a pebble in a lake and watching the ripples it will create.
Join Building Futures and the AMHA; become a pebble and create a ripple in someone else’s life.
For more information, to schedule a visit or support the Alton Museum of History and Art, visit www.altonmuseum.com. The AMHA is a non for profit organization which depends on membership dues, gifts, bequests and foundation grants to help preserve and tell the story of the individuality of the community which it serves.
Until next time!