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.
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.”