We have followed with interest the multiyear saga of the purchase and restoration of the Sterling house where Abraham Lincoln slept on July 18, 1856.
Volunteers with the Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Society have done the community a tremendous service by buying the old Manahan home at 607 E. Third St., doing a top-notch restoration, and opening it to the public.
Now, the community can return the favor.
People can do a tremendous service to the Historical Society by donating toward a fund to purchase the former C&E Glass building next door to the Lincoln-Manahan home.
The group has nearly reached its goal to raise $85,000 by May 15.
Only about $5,000 remains until the objective is attained.
Historical Society members are confident enough of success that the board voted Tuesday to buy the building.
It will be transformed into the Lincoln Learning Center, a place where visitors to the Lincoln-Manahan home can learn more about the 16th president.
When Lincoln visited Sterling, his star was on the ascendancy, although his contemporaries may not have yet realized it.
Lincoln, then a 47-year-old lawyer from Springfield, was a former one-term congressman and four-term legislator, though he held no office at the time. But he did have big ideas, an effective way of communicating them, and popularity that transcended his humble beginnings.
Ahead for Lincoln was his famous 1858 debates with Stephen Douglas, his election as president in 1860, his Civil War presidency where he preserved the Union and freed the slaves, and his tragic assassination in 1865.
But after giving his Sterling speech, Lincoln was ready to rest, and Sheriff William Manahan put him up for the night. Manahan was pressed into service to host the out-of-town guest by Lincoln’s original host, Robert Wilson, who bowed out after his wife was badly hurt in a horse accident.
So the 6-foot-4-inch Lincoln, instead of being offered a sumptuous guest room by the Wilsons, had to content himself with sleeping in the Manahan parlor on a too-short couch with an adjacent chair for his long legs.
Since the restored home opened about 2 years ago, people have been able to tour that parlor.
With the purchase of the building next door, the Historical Society hopes to have educational programs for children and others, a library, gift shop, and space for traveling historical exhibits.
We like the sound of that.
The Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Society deserves all the credit in the world for saving a historic landmark and dreaming up plans to further develop it.
We strongly encourage community members to dig deep for a lot of Lincolns, as well as Hamiltons, Jacksons, Grants and Benjamins, to help the group raise that final $5,000.
Call the Historical Society at 815-622-6215 to find out how to donate to the effort.