FULTON, Ill. — A multi-year saga with the Drives Building was put to a close earlier this year, with the Fulton Historical Society getting the nod to purchase the building.
The Fulton City Council in April of this year voted unanimously to accept a bid of $10,500 from the Fulton Historical Society for purchase of the Drives Building. The Fulton Historical Society paid an additional $1,500 to cover closing costs. The council also voted 9-0 to approve an ordinance to sell the Drives Building to the Fulton Historical Society, with closing on or about April 29.
A long history
The Fulton City Council in October 2018 voted 5-3 to approve the demolition of the Drives Building before the end of that year. The funding for the demolition was to come from the 2018 sale of city properties, including the Robert Fulton Community Center, Heritage Canyon lots, Maresca and the Fulton-Thomson Food Pantry. The council also voted 5-3 to approve a motion to advertise for bids for asbestos abatement and to demolish and remove materials.
Fulton City Administrator Randy Boonstra in November met with Barb Mask and Neal Luker. Luker, representing the Fulton Historical Society, said the Fulton Historical Society was interested in purchasing the Drives Building, which he saw as a win-win situation. He said the city would not have to pay any money to demolish the building, adding he believed the building is a great asset to Fulton.
The Drives Building was set to be demolished after a vote on a bid from the Fulton Historical Society to purchase the Drives Building back in December. The city council at the December meeting voted 5-4 in favor of accepting the Fulton Historical Society’s bid of $10,500 to purchase the Drives Building. The motion failed due to a 75 percent approval being required for the sale of property. Seven votes were needed to approve the motion.
The city later in the meeting passed a motion to award a contract for abatement and demolition of the Drives Building to Lohman Construction. Lohman Construction was the low bidder at $143,850.
Fulton Mayor Mike Ottens in January proposed a plan that would allow the Fulton Historical Society to purchase the Drives building. Ottens in an email to members of the Fulton Historical Society proposed the functions of the Martin House Museum be moved to the Drives Building museum within a specified time period, subject to the renovation schedule. Under his proposal, ownership of the Martin House, per the will of Maxine Martin, would revert to the Presbyterian Church.
Martin, who died in 1998, willed the house to the city of Fulton to be used as a museum/community center. The house goes back into the church’s hands if the city violates those terms, according to a statement from Fulton City Attorney Bill Shirk. The will also gives the city money for upkeep of the museum or community center. Ottens, in his proposal, suggested the money, around $275,000 to $300,000, be given to the Historical Society for establishment of a museum and/or community center.
Neal Luker and Jane Orman Luker, both representing the Fulton Historical Society at a council meeting in January, said the group’s plan for the Drives Building did not include a museum. Orman Luker contended Neal Luker informed Ottens years ago of problems with the interpretation of the Martin will, Martin House funds and how the Martin endowment was originally established.
Orman Luker at the January meeting said Fulton Historical Society members believed the Martin House “beautifully displays the items in the house, in the setting, in the home, where people give guided tours under very watchful eyes.” Significant security challenges if the Martin House materials were moved to the Drives Building were cited at the meeting.
The Fulton City Council accepted the Drives Building in 2010. A July 7, 2010, article in the Clinton Herald indicated the city council at that time anticipated growth as a result of development at the Thomson, Illinois, prison. The prison at that time was owned by the state but was not fully opened due to state budget constraints.
A June 29, 2010, Clinton Herald article regarding the preliminary acceptance stated then-Fulton Mayor Larry Russell said the hope was for the Drives Building to stay on the city tax roll as a private business, to possibly be used as a restaurant or for housing. Russell at the time said he hoped the Drives Building and former fire station would be used to prepare the city for an expected influx of families resulting from the planned development of the Thomson prison.
A article published October 8, 2014, indicated the Drives Building, assessed at $300,000, was set for public sale. Ken Crane of Crane Project Management submitted a $10,000 offer. There were too many unknowns and public backlash surfaced as a result of the agreement.
After months of discussion, the Fulton City Council in April of this year voted unanimously to accept the Fulton Historical Society’s bid.