knox_homecoming_319.jpgKEN EXUM/The Register-Mail

Old Main provides a scenic background for participants in Knox College's 7th Annual 5K Homecoming Walk/Run last October. Old Main is in the running to be one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois through a contest by the Illinois Bureau of Tourism.

Knox: Make Old Main Wonder-ful

College landmark in running for state designation

Monday, March 19, 2007

GALESBURG - Knox College wants its most historic building to be named one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois.

And Old Main, the last remaining site of the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates held across Illinois in 1858, is in contention for that honor.

"Old Main has been in continuous use for 150 years," said Knox College spokeswoman Karrie Heartlein. "What a wonderful way to celebrate such a wonderful piece of history we have here in Galesburg."

The Illinois Bureau of Tourism last month launched the Seven Wonders of Illinois promotion. Nominations for interesting, historic and quirky spots were accepted in seven regions across the state.

Heartlein said she didn't know who put Old Main into the running, but suspects it may have received multiple nominations.

Through online voting at the bureau's Web site, residents can show support for their favorite wonders once a day. The competition continues through the end of March, but the list of contenders will narrow to four in each region this week based on voting that ends tonight. In the first round, 12 nominations were narrowed to eight.

In addition to Old Main at Knox College, other remaining contenders in western Illinois are Bishop Hill, Black Hawk State Historic Site, Dickson Mounds, Historic Nauvoo, John Deere Pavilion and Collectors Center, the Rock Island Arsenal and Wildlife Prairie State Park.

As of 8:30 a.m. today, Historic Nauvoo was leading the western Illinois race, with 47 percent of the vote. Old Main at Knox College was tied for second place at 15 percent of the vote with Black Hawk State Historic Site. Wildlife Prairie State Park was in fourth place, with 10 percent of the vote.

Bishop Hill, the historic Swedish colony in Henry County, had 4 percent of the vote this morning.

To win, contenders will have to make it through two more rounds of competition.

Knox College has been sending e-mails to alumni to encourage them to vote, which Heartlein said has made a "huge difference."

"When I looked at it early on, we were around 3 percent," Heartlein said.

Heartlein is optimistic support will continue coming in for Old Main, as members of the campus community are logging on daily to vote for the architecturally and historically significant building, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Knox College students have been on spring break for the past week, but classes for the spring term begin Wednesday. Heartlein said she believes students will help Old Main get even more votes, if the building makes it to the next round of competition.

"I have no doubt the students will mobilize," Heartlein said.

The college also hopes residents of Galesburg will vote for Old Main, because the designation as one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois would be a huge benefit to the college and the community.

"It certainly will increase the number of people who know about our history and increase the number of visitors to Galesburg. It would bring more folks here from around the state and around the country," Heartlein said.

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On the Net:

Seven Wonders of Illinois:

www.enjoyillinois.com/sevenwonders/western.html

Old Main at Knox College:

www.knox.edu/oldmain

Bishop Hill:

www.bishophill.com/

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