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Officials hoping gazbo will help attract tourists

Barb Ferrone, Oregon, reads one of the plaques in the gazebo that now stands on the northwest corner of the Ogle County Courthouse lawn.
Barb Ferrone, Oregon, reads one of the plaques in the gazebo that now stands on the northwest corner of the Ogle County Courthouse lawn.

Officials unveiled the newest addition to the Ogle County Courthouse lawn Saturday with hopes that tourism dollars will follow.

The “interpretative gazebo” that offers glimpses about the more recognizable icons of Oregon and the Rock River Valley, was officially dedicated by state and local officials Saturday.

“This area draws tourists and tourism draws dollars,” said State Representative Jerry Mitchell (R-Rock Falls) during a grand opening ceremony for the structure Nov. 28. “Hopefully, tourists will stop at the gazebo and spend some time and money here.”

The gazebo is one of 16 constructed along the Illinois Lincoln Highway National Scenic Byway and its corridor in northern Illinois.

It was recently constructed on the northwest corner of the courthouse square, facing Ill. 64 just one block west of Ill. 2.

Barb Heimbach, project director for the Illinois Highway Lincoln Coalition (ILHC) said Oregon qualified for a federal grant to help construct the gazebo because the city was part of early marketing efforts soon after the coast-to-coast highway was opened in 1913.

“Oregon is not exactly on the highway, but it is mentioned as early as 1915,” said Heimbach.

The Lincoln Highway is located south of Oregon and runs east to west, through Franklin Grove and Dixon. It was the first highway in the United States to connect the east and west coasts.

Oregon and Ogle County are included in the Lincoln Highway corridor because Lorado Taft’s Black Hawk statue was part of the cover of the original promotional flyer that advertised the first all-weather transcontinental highway, said Marcia Heuer, executive director of the Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We have always been a tourist spot along the Lincoln Highway,” said Heuer. “Tourists wanted to see Black Hawk and Taft’s Eagle’s Nest Art Colony.”

Four panels greet visitors in the gazebo. One tells the history of the Lincoln Highway while another offers an overview of architecture along the route. The two other panels offer information about Taft, the Black Hawk statue, and art along the highway.

Barb and Joe Ferrrone, Oregon, stopped by the gazebo during the ribbon cutting.

“It’s wonderful,” said Barb. “We’ve seen the other gazebos that are nearby in Ashton and Creston and they are all very nice.”

Heimbach said ILHC is the designated agency overseeing the 179-mile portion of the highway that runs through Illinois. The agency’s mission it to continue to seek ways to recognize the significance of the highway and make its history come alive.

Each gazebo was  constructed for $16,000 with a National Scenic Byway Grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
That grant provided 80 percent of the funding for each gazebo with local groups providing the remaining 20 percent.

ILHC worked with the City of Dixon with support from the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois Bureau of Tourism to complete this project, Heimbach said.

Individual sponsors making up the 20 percent match for the Oregon gazebo included Exelon Byron Nuclear Generating Station, E. D. Etnyre and Woods Equipment Co.

Sponsors for the excavation and foundation for the gazebo were Martin & Co., the City of Oregon and the Oregon Park District. 

The Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce added additional funds for planning and completion under the guidance of project manager, Rebecca Martin.

The gazebo was originally slated to be placed on the northeast corner of the square, close to where the tourism information booth used to be. But due to renovation work on the courthouse, the gazebo was relocated to the northwest corner, Heuer said.

“We had to move it due to all the construction,” said Heuer. “Hopefully, we’ll have some landscaping around it once the courthouse project is completed.”

Heimbach said all the gazebos had to be in place by this fall. “We wanted to get them all done this fall because we have murals coming in the spring,” she said.

Heuer said she hopes individuals and local agencies will embrace the new gazebo.

“We want the Oregon community to take ownership of the new gazebo,” she said.

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