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Historic summer kitchen built by Oregon’s founder has a new home

Founder John Phelps built brick building

OREGON – The relief was obvious early Tuesday afternoon when, after months of planning and days of preparation, a historic brick building safely arrived by flatbed at its new location in Oregon.

The small crowd of people waiting at Phelps Park behind the Coliseum burst into cheers as the truck carrying the brick summer kitchen, built by Oregon founder John Phelps in 1861, rounded the corner from state Route 64 onto Fifth Street.

Moving the structure was a community project spearheaded by Oregon Together with help from the Ogle County Historical Society.

“I’m still nervous. I’ll believe it when it’s sitting here,” said Oregon Together member Roger Cain as the crew from Heritage Movers, of Mount Hope, Wisconsin, jumped out of their trucks and started the lengthy process of getting the building onto its new concrete footing.

Earlier in the day Cain voiced concerns about whether the fragile bricks would successfully make the trip from Robert and Esther Mongan’s farm about 4 miles away.

Historical society member Otto Dick had a practical concern. “I just hope it fits my footing,” he said with a grin, referring to the concrete at the new location.

Russell Childs, one of the owners of Heritage Movers, said the preparation and move went according to plan.

“It all went smoothly,” Childs said. “It was mostly making sure it would stay together. The bricks are deteriorating. It took a lot of banding – we do extra banding. We’ve moved a lot of brick houses.”

The project started almost 2 years ago, when Robert Mongan, who lives on the farm homesteaded by Phelps on state Route 64 between Oregon and Mount Morris, contacted Dick to see if he wanted to take a photo of the summer kitchen before he tore it down to make way for an addition to his house.

After further discussion, the Mongans readily agreed to donate the building.

Dick enlisted the help of Cain and the Oregon Together Arts & Beautification Committee, which began raising funds for the move and restoration at the new site.

Childs and his crew, who are all family members, spent the last several days readying the small brick structure for the move, reinforcing it inside and out with steel I-beams, bracing, and banding.

They worked late Monday evening, cutting it loose from its foundation and raising it a few inches.

The heavy-duty banding ran from the I-beams on the outside underneath the bricks, every few inches, and and were secured to the I-beams on the inside.

The crew started early Tuesday morning slowly, painstakingly raising the building with hydraulic jacks placed on the four corners. 

Shortly before noon, it was high enough for the flatbed to be backed underneath, and then the building was gently lowered and secured for the trip to Oregon.

It pulled out of Mongan’s driveway at 12:15 p.m. and nearly an hour later was at its destination.

Cain said an estimated $20,000, most of which has been raised, will be needed for the $12,000 move and subsequent restoration.

Most of the funds came from private donations, with the exception of a $6,000 contribution from the city of Oregon.

With the summer kitchen safely situated on its new footings, the bricks can be tuck-pointed and the restoration work can begin.

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