Tonight, The Fate of The Famed Oakdale Nature Preserve Auditorium Decided

FREEPORT, ILLINOIS — Another vote is planned by the Freeport Park District board Tuesday evening to decide whether it should demolish the famed Oakdale Tabernacle Auditorium at Oakdale Nature Preserve located just outside the city of Freeport, Illinois.

The origins of the tabernacle date back to 1895, when the Oakdale Park Camp Meeting Association held its first 10-day gathering on the site. Festivities included Bible study, religious services and outdoor activities for all ages. At one time, 2,000 people took part in these annual camp meetings.

In 1915, the original 1895 tabernacle burned, but was replaced with this eight-sided tabernacle before the 1916 August camp meeting. Eventually, the United Methodist Church took over operation of the meetings, with the last annual gathering taking place in 1967.

In 1971, the Freeport Park District bought the campground, renting out the Tabernacle for community events. The building was closed in 2012 due to lack of bookings.

Since that time, wildlife has overrun the building and made the structure uninhabitable. Despite threats of demolition, a group of community advocates is pressuring the Freeport Park District to restore it as a low-cost alternative that could be used as a community gathering space.

On April 25, 2018, at a press conference in Springfield, Landmarks Illinois through asking preservationists, community leaders and concerned citizens throughout the state to nominate threatened or endangered historic properties for its annual list, announced its 2018 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.

Of the 15 other historic places on the 2018 list, Oakdale Tabernacle along with two other Tabernacles in Illinois made the most endangered.

In 2017 we sat down with the group of community advocates to discuss Oakdale Preserve, the Tabernacle and to talk about decisions being made by the Freeport Park District. Many of these same people represent the current group called Save the Tabernacle.  Save the Tabernacle has offered to take the building over, rehab it with donations and labor with no cost to the taxpayers.

Tuesday evening at 6:30 the Freeport Park District board will take a re-vote at Park District Headquarters. The vote is being re-taken because, according to the Illinois Attorney General’s office, wording on the Jan. 7 Park District agenda was “vague.”

 

 

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One thought on “Tonight, The Fate of The Famed Oakdale Nature Preserve Auditorium Decided

  • February 18, 2020 at 1:01 pm
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    It would seem to me that had the Park Board upheld its obligation to care for park property under its care, they would NOT be able to declare the Tabernacle at Oak Dale “uninhabitable.” It would seem to me that if they’ve been derelict in their duties, perhaps it should be the park board that’s torn down, and not the Tabernacle. It would seem to me that if the group advocating for the preservation of the Tabernacle can be PROVEN to be wrong, there would be plenty of time for demolition, and there should therefore not be such a huge rush at this particular moment. Otherwise, it would seem to me, the park board has no right to steamroller over their offer to clean it up and refurbish it to make it usable as a city heirloom once again. Lord Acton famously said that “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Here’s a chance for the Freeport Park Board to prove that’s not necessarily true.

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