What do President Dwight Eisenhower and the tallest American chestnut tree in Illinois have in common? And no, this is not a trick question or the beginning of a bad joke. These seemingly random entities are connected by one thing: the International Preservation Studies Center (IPSC).Formerly known as the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies, the newly renamed IPSC (pronounced ip-cee) is located on the historic Frances Shimer Academy campus whose history reaches back to 1853. Whether you are a volunteer, a student, or a summer intern, it only takes a few moments of looking at the red brick buildings on campus to realize this place holds countless stories waiting to be discovered.
Over 160 years of history permeate this campus, but very little of that history is accessible to the public. That is where I come into play. As IPSC’s intern, I plan to use this blog to provide a behind-the-scenes look at our institution. I will tell stories about constructing headless mannequins, organizing artifact collections, and meeting interesting people. With this blog, you will explore the various buildings on campus as I take you from the basement of our dormitory building to the top of the Metcalf Hall bell tower. In addition to sharing the escapades of my time as an intern, I will share the stories and significance behind many of the hidden treasures that call this campus home.
One of these hidden treasures includes an old-growth, 85ft tall tree near the south side of campus. The Frances Shimer Wood Arboretum located on this campus includes over 60 species of trees. A few of these trees are rare, old-growth American chestnut trees, one even being listed on the Illinois Big Tree Register as the largest of its kind in Illinois (https://web.extension.illinois.edu/forestry/pdf/tfb-nres-1101-13.pdf, pg 5).
Another hidden treasure includes a painting hanging in the sitting room of IPSC’s office building. At first glance, it is a simple painting of a lake and distant mountains, with a green forest carpeting the middle ground. But upon closer inspection, you can make out some faded initials in the bottom left corner: DDE. The International Preservation Studies Center has not one, not two, but three paintings from President Eisenhower, signed and in their original frames.
To get the full story on how these paintings ended up in Mount Carroll, IL and to see complete pictures of the Eisenhower Collection, check back here next week.
Also coming up next week: How to Build the Perfect Man(nequin)