Casseday House in Joliet sits in muddy lot 3 years after being saved

19th Century limestone house was relocated to make room for Thorntons gas station.

It’s been three years since the Casseday House was saved, and a couple of people involved in the Joliet preservation effort are asking what kind of future awaits the building.

The 19th Century limestone structure sits on a muddy lot on Jackson Street, where it was relocated to make room for a Thorntons gas station four blocks to the west at the corner of Collins Street.

Barb Newberg and Mary Beth Gannon, two preservation advocates who cheered when the Casseday House was moved to its present location in March 2020, told the Joliet City Council on Monday that the building has become an eyesore.

Newberg noted the city gave notice in May 2021 that the building has a failing roof.

“The bigger issue is it’s in general disrepair – possibly a blighted structure,” Newberg said.

The Casseday House, seen Monday evening, has sat unused an unimproved on a city-owned lot on Jackson Street in Joliet since the 19th Century building was moved there in March 2020 to save it from demolition. March 6, 2023.

“Something needs to be done,” Gannon said.

Both were critical of Sandy Vasko, president of the Will County Historical Society. The society owns the house, and Gannon said Vasco is not responding to inquiries about its status.

Vasko, contacted after the council meeting, said something is being done, and Joliet city staff has been notified.

What’s being done is that the society board at its next meeting will consider whether to open negotiations to transfer ownership of the Casseday House to Luther Johnson, a local military re-enactor who focuses on Black military history and heads an organization called History on Wheels.

Since the board has not met on the matter, Vasko said, she has not said much about it.

“I think everybody’s trying to jump the gun and force us into saying something that we just don’t know,” she said.

Johnson’s interests mesh with the original plan to turn the building into a local Black history museum, Vasco said.

Vasco said she sent an email to the city Planner Jayne Bernhard, who handles preservation matters, and Johnson has met with Bernhard.

If the Will County Historical Society decides to negotiate with Johnson, the city would be involved since it owns the land on which the Casseday House sits, Vasko said.

The society agreed to take ownership of the building to save it but did not have the money to restore it and convert it into a museum, Vasko said. It still does not.

Newberg, who is a board member at the Will County Historical Society, said the house needs to be saved because it’s the oldest building in the city made of Joliet limestone.

But she suggested the city declare it a public nuisance to force the issue.

“What we’re seeing now,” Newberg said, “is demolition by neglect.”