Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Old Slave House Status Report

Just returned this afternoon from a trip to the Old Slave House where IHPA officials, including Historic Sites Division Manager Paula Cross, had arranged a tour for a Federal Highway Administration official whose name I admit I didn't catch.

Gallatin County tourism officials were also present. Last year they were successful in securing the designation of an official spur off of the Ohio River National Scenic Byway along Route 13 to come down Route 1 to the house.

That's the first transportation tie-in. The second is a major grant application IHPA submitted last year for a transportation enhancement grant for the Old Slave House, or the Crenshaw House as they continue to call it.

The highway official was about 120 pages into my book and asked good questions during the tour.

Cross also noted that principals from Ratio Architects had met with officials from the Illinois Capital Development Board to negotiate their contract for the historic structure report.

Due to the limited funding - $150,000 - they will apparently be doing just the report, no archeaological work and most likely no repair work.

As to book updates, I'm am for all practical purposes out of the paperback edition of "Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw". All I have left are about 15 returns sent back to me from the distributor. I am only selling these to individuals or bookstores when they have seen the books first as these are not pristine copies, and a few are damaged.

The paperback was the 2004 edition. I still have plenty of copies of the 2005 expanded and revised hardcover edition.

I won't print a new paperback edition until I've almost sold out of the hardcover one. At that point it will likely be an abridged edition without some of the back matter from the hardcover. It will though include any correction or new research finding that's been found since the hardcovers came out.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New People Count Set for Hub of the Universe

The Marion City Council authorized funds Monday to pay the U.S. Census Bureau for a special census to be conducted later this year.

Marion was the 139th largest incorporated place in Illinois in the 2000 Census, and the third largest in the Southern Illinois region outside the MetroEast. Only Mount Vernon and Carbondale were larger.

The Census Bureau currently estimates that Marion has grown by 818 residents since the 2000 Census for a new total of 16,853. The city council thinks the city has grown even faster and I agree.

The bottom line is that if the city has grown at least 500 residents then the cost of the special census will be covered by the increased per capita funding the city receives from the state. Anything over that is gravy.

What's interesting are the population figures for Williamson County. Enumerators counted 61,296 residents in 2000, which meant that the county had finally recovered from the four-decade downward spiral that began in the 1920s following the Herrin Massacre and the general switch from underground coal mining to surface mining that eliminated thousands of jobs.

The 2000 population figure for the county was only 204 residents more than in 1920. The downward trend ended following 1960 when the population was 46,117, or just 1,019 more than we had in 1910.

Despite the booming economy now, the fastest population growth actually took place in the first two decades of the 20th Century when the county went from 27,796 residents to 61,092 in just 20 years.

Herrin went from a post office in a prairie to the largest community in the county during those same two decades. (People have wondered if it will survive the upcoming closing of the Maytag plant. Trust me, it will. The community has survived far worse economic and social upheavels).

Interestingly, the Census Bureau estimates that in 2002 Marion surpassed Mount Vernon as the region's second largest community. Between 1990 and 2000 Mount Vernon lost 719 residents. By 2004 the Census Bureau estimated they only grew by 68 for a total of 16,337.

The 2000 Census also showed that Williamson County had surpassed Jackson County as the largest county in the region outside the MetroEast with 1,684 more residents. Census estimates through 2004 show the gap widening to 4,823 as Williamson County's population is now projected to be 63,094.

Population isn't the only way to measure the region, there's also retail sales.

Figures from the Illinois Department of Revenue show Marion edged past Carbondale for the title of the region's top retail trade center in FY2004 (the latest year available online) with $427.1 million in retail sales versus Carbondale's $426.9 million. The difference is even greater comparing the counties. Jackson County businesses reported $578.2 million in taxable sales. In Williamson County the figure was $679.0 million.

Besides the increased government funding the new census will provide hard data to replace the estimates now in place. The new data, if it shows the growth that's apparent, should help in the effort to attract new outside investment in the region in terms of new industry and other businesses.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Old Slave House Backer Dies

Assistant House Majority Leader Lou Jones, D-Chicago, a strong backer of the Old Slave House died yesterday Chicago media are reporting.

Jones visited the house towards the end of the spring legislative season back in 1997 during a trip organized by the then local state Rep. David Phelps, D-Eldorado.

The site fascinated her and the other members of the Black Legislative Caucus who were able to attend. That fascination led to funding and she's been the House leader the state representatives in the 118th District had gone to in their efforts to secure additional funding for the site.

She was an interesting lady who has suffered long with poor health. I wish her family, friends and staff well.