One of the restoration projects completed by the Reddick Mansion Association is that which dealt with the reconstruction of the exterior cast-iron fencing on the east and south sides of the Mansion property.
The original fence which bordered the Mansion lot was very simple in design and was likely built of wood. A photo of the Mansion, dated ca. 1866, shows both a "anti - splatter" fence (painted white) on the berm as well as the Mansion lot fence (smaller in height and of a dark color).
The ornate cast-iron fence is clearly visible in another photo of the Mansion. As this photo includes Elizabeth Funk Reddick as one of the individuals at the front stairs, it is dated before the death of that individual, who died in 1887. The viewer should note the style of the front gate as well as the side-panels of the lot fence. A close examination also reveals that the city was still using a "anti - splatter" fence in the berm along the edge of the street.
It was once reported that the cast-iron fence was made in 1865, and that it surrounded the Mansion lot until 1910 when the Reddick Library sold the original fence to the association in charge of the Jewish cemetery located in South Ottawa. The minutes of a meeting (dated about 1910) of the Jewish Cemetery Association can be viewed if you click here. That same cemetery association was required to relocate its cemetery fence line when the State of Illinois widened Route 23 in the early 1980's. At this time, the Reddick Mansion Association developed its interest in what was left of the original cast-iron fence.
A very detailed report was created by R. A. McClevey, Jr., who was Chairman of the RMA Restoration Committee in the early 1990's. That report, in its entirety, can be viewed if you click here. The report details what was done with the remnants of the original fence prior to the restoration work that was ultimately completed by the firm of Johnson Pattern & Machine Company, Ottawa, Illinois.
A record of the work completed in restoring the cast-iron fence was published in an issue of The Daily Times (local Ottawa newspaper) on January 13, 1992. The article was by a staff writer named Candi Ferguson; it appeared, with photos, on pages 11 and 12 of that particular issue. In part, the article stated:
One of Ottawa's oldest and best-known structures soon will have a new look with the restoration of an old feature.
The black, cast-iron fence which once surrounded Reddick Mansion will be back in place this spring, yet another milestone in the ongoing restoration of the ornate Italianate mansion built in 1856-57 for William Reddick.
Jim McClevey, vice president of the Reddick Mansion Association and chairman of the restoration committee, recalled that the fence project, one placed on the agenda when the Association was formed in 1975, was given unexpected impetus in the early 1980s.
"The Jewish Cemetery on the south side had some pieces of an old fence they offered (the Association) when Route 23 was being widened back around 1982," McClevey said. "It turned out to be 10 sections of the original fence made in 1865. They had documentation proving it was sold to them around 1910 by the library."
Work on the fence didn't begin, however, until 1989.
"We had to raise the money before we could get started," McClevey explained. "Also there were several other projects we had already started which had to be completed first."
Once they were ready to start the project, the first order of business was to repair the low stone wall surrounding the Mansion. The new fence, running along the east and south sides of the Mansion, eventually would be anchored to this wall.
Along with the original pieces obtained from the Jewish cemetery, twenty-five more sections had to be created to complete the fence.
McClevey has estimated the total cost of the project, including installation and repairs to the wall, at $150,000. A major portion of this sum came from the profits earned by the annual Reddick Mansion Ball. The rest was raised through private donations. In addition, a major portion of the restoration itself was donated.
Keith Johnson, co-owner of Johnson Pattern and Machine Co. and one of the Mansion Association's 24 board members, donated his time and materials to make the patterns used to cast the new fence.
McClevey said, "The patterns alone are worth from $16,000 to $18,000. That represents a very substantial donation on the part of Mr. Johnson."
"My job was to duplicate the old fence," explained Johnson, who has been in the pattern-making business for 21 years. "We used seven different castings to accomplish this task. The patterns themselves are fashioned out of wood," Johnson continued.
"We use working tools such as chisels and lathes to shape the patterns. Often we follow a blueprint, but in this case we used the existing fence as our model."