Progress made on Joliet African American museum at Casseday House

19th century home was relocated in 2020 to make room for Thorntons gas station

A temporary sign on the Casseday House in Joliet announces plans to convert it into The African Descendants Historical Museum. Feb. 9, 2024.

The new owner of the Casseday House gave the city a progress report on the Jackson Street project.

Luther Johnson last year took over the 19th century building with plans to create a local African American museum.

Johnson said he plans to have a March 23 event at the Casseday House.

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.

“I’ve started the project,” Johnson told the City Council at a meeting last week.

Johnson said he’s put up a sign, gutted a portion of the building, and has begun to find interesting artifacts.

He plans to create an African American museum in the building, which was the plan when the city designed a deal to save the building and relocate it from its original site.

The 19th Century Casseday House, located on a muddy lot in Joliet on Jackson Street near the corner of Youngs Avenue, is planned as the future site of a museum devoted to local African American history. Feb. 9, 2024.

Thorntons built a gas station at the original Casseday House location at Jackson and Collins streets. The company provided the city with $300,000 to move the building a few blocks west to its current location near the corner of Youngs Avenue in a deal approved in early 2020.

The Will County Historical Society took ownership of the building but was unable to move forward with its plan to create a museum devoted to local African American history.

Johnson, who runs a Joliet-based organization called History on Wheels devoted to African American contributions to the American military, acquired the Casseday House last year with Joliet City Council approval.

“I appreciate all that you have done, and it’s been a good journey,” Johnson told the council.

Johnson said that he has put up a temporary sign to show the plan for the building and has gutted the first floor. He said that he uncovered original wallpaper in the building and has provided the council with portions of it as souvenirs.

The temporary sign on the site describes the future operation at “the African Descendants Historical Museum.”

The house was built in 1851 for George Casseday, a land speculator who moved his family to Joliet. The building has stood since then and had been converted to apartments before its relocation to the current site.

Luther Johnson stands next to the Casseday house. Johnson plans to convert the 1851 Joliet building into a museum depicting local African American history and the role of African Americans in the U.S. military. Nov. 9, 2023.