The State Journal- Register (Springfield, IL)
Saturday October 23, 2010
NEWS; Pg. 1
Landmark honor / State preservation group recognizes restoration of Pana pavilion
By Pete Sherman Staff Writer
PANA – The meticulously renovated Chautauqua Pavilion in Pana’s 40-acre Kitchell Park will receive one of nine awards this year from Landmarks Illinois, an organization that annually cites top preservation projects and preservationists in the state.
The pavilion, built in 1911, is one of the few remaining Chautauqua facilities left in the area. "Chautauqua" refers to a movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries during which communities would hold camps featuring speakers, entertainment and enrichment activities.
"It was the center of the community, in the sense of where those people in the early 20th century were getting information about what was happening," said Springfield architect Chuck Pell, whose firm Charles Joseph Pell Architects Inc. oversaw the renovation. Pell also helped restore Shelybville’s Chautauqua auditorium and has become an authority on Chautauqua history.
William Jennings Bryan, Billy Sunday and Sgt. Alvin York all spoke at Pana’s Chautauqua, which seats 3,500 – more than half Pana’s current population of about 5,700.
According to a booklet from the nine-day "Pana Chautauqua Assembly" of 1913, a season pass cost $2. Former governor of Missouri and prominent Republican Herbert Spencer Hadley was one of the main speakers that year.
The round facility has been in constant use since then, but portions of it were closed off for years after falling into disrepair. While the facility is relatively simple compared with some other permanent Chautauqua facilities, Pell said, it’s unique because it has a stage, a band shell and a backstage area for dressing rooms.
The two-year renovation is wrapping up this month, although extensive steel work still is needed. The project has cost about $400,000 so far, most of which came from state and federal grants as well as local donations. A rededication is planned for May 21.
"At one time, there were 250 to 300 (Chautauqua) pavilions nationwide. There are very few left – just three in central Illinois," said Jim Deere, economic development director for Pana. "It was a predecessor to movie theaters … People used to travel hundreds of miles to camp at Kitchell Park. They’d fill it up to attend all the events held at the Chautauqua. We are looking to get back to those days when it was a true auditorium."
Ralph Johnson, 92, remembers his days as a boy attending Chautauqua at Kitchell Park.
"My grandma made sure I had season tickets," said Johnson, who lives at the Heritage Manor nursing home in Pana. "There were a lot of vaudeville shows, ‘Our Gang’ comedies. Everyone came and played on the stage there. Boy Scouts camped out in their tents – I wasn’t old enough. It was a real big time."
Deere said the Chautauqua pavilion should attract more attention to the park, which already draws many visitors.
"The park has been such a central point," he said. "Pana is so central – we have people who come to Pana every summer who secure the pavilion for family reunions and who don’t even live here."
Anyone interested in renting the pavilion can contact Deere at 562-4240 or panail
Pete Sherman can be reached at 788-1539.
About Landmarks Illinois
Landmarks Illinois is a Chicago-based statewide organization that promotes historic preservation throughout the state. Founded as result of the 1971 demolition of the Adler and Sullivan old Chicago Stock Exchange Building, the organization has grown to 2,500 members.
For the past 16 years, it has held an annual awards ceremony highlighting top preservation projects and leaders in Illinois.
For more information about Landmarks Illinois and previous winners, visit www.landmarks.org.
2010 Landmarks Illinois winners
* Carolyn Oxtoby, Springfield (lifetime achievement)
* Chautauqua Pavilion, Pana (restoration)
* Buckingham Building, Chicago (adaptive use)
* Harlan Hall, Marshall (rehabilitation)
* Haskell, Barker, and Atwater Buildings, Chicago (restoration)
* Polo Historical Society, Polo (leadership)
* Preservation Summer, Carbondale (project of the year, education)
* St. John’s Episcopal Church, Quincy (reconstruction)
* University Commons, Chicago (President’s Awards, adaptive use)
- PETE SHERMAN STAFF WRITER pete.sherman