By Lucas Wright
While the issue of the county courthouse has remained the focal point of conversation in the county, a former Vienna resident has put forward an offer with a well-known piece of property in town.
Kenneth Carter, owner of the property where the Whitnel Funeral Home used to be – situated on Vine Street west of the square – has offered to donate the property to the county. Carter was a member of the 1953 graduating class from Vienna High School and in a letter to commissioner Ernie Henshaw he pointed out that his memories from when he lived in Vienna still resonate well with him.
In Carter’s letter, he outlines four major conditions that must be met for him to donate the property. These points include the county must assume all closing costs, he should be absolved of the responsibility for all accrued taxes on the property, he should be given a donation appraisal of the property at a minimum of $125,000 and the building should bear his name, Kenneth Amon Carter.
Carter said the reason behind him wanting the building to be named after him was to honor his family.
“I wanted that on the courthouse to commemorate (my father), as well as to leave a legacy for me that my family, even though I have no immediate heirs, can say ‘well there’s ole Uncle Kenneth,’” Carter said. “It was not meant to be pretentious, I know that many public buildings bear the name of somebody relevant to the community.”
Carter did go on to say that if the naming of the courthouse would be a deal breaker, he would settle for a plaque commemorating him.
The proposal is just the newest development in the ongoing controversy; however, the proposal has not yet been presented at a meeting. Carter said he has been in talks for nearly a year with Henshaw over the property, and before the June 28th meeting Carter outlined a formal proposal for the board to review.
Carter was unhappy with Henshaw not presenting his proposal and said he expects it to be discussed at the July 12th meeting.
Carter acknowledged that although the property is not on the square, he hoped the positioning would help highlight the downtown area.
“When people come in to town from 146 from the west, the building would stand in a very prominent position, announcing you have arrived in Vienna, which is the county seat,” Carter said.
For Mr. Carter’s exact proposal, read the letter that follows, which was sent from Carter to Commissioner Henshaw.
Dear Commissioner Henshaw,
This will confirm the offer I made to you in the telephone conversation I initiated with you on June 22 regarding the location of the new County Building Complex.
I share your concern–and that of many other citizens of Vienna and Johnson County–that the site selected by your two fellow commission members in the industrial park near the interstate would spell the death knell for the City of Vienna.
In an effort to avoid that tragic consequence, I hereby formalize my offer to you–and thereby to the Board of Commissioners–to donate to the County the entire “funeral” property that I own on Vine Street in the City of Vienna.
I do not want to appear impertinent in making this offer, but I consider myself a “native son” of Vienna and Johnson County.
First, I was born in Vienna and spent many summers of my childhood on the Johnson County farms of both my paternal and maternal grandparents.
Second, after living for several years in Northern Illinois, my parents returned to Vienna where I enrolled in Vienna High School to finish my sophomore year and complete my junior and senior years, graduating with the Class of 1953.
I attended Southern Illinois University where I earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree.
Suffice it to say that I have always considered Vienna–and Johnson County–”home” and for that reason I have invested in the historic “Jackson House” at 701 W. Main, the Hankins property across from 701, the old Fairgrounds, and the funeral property.
With my gift of the funeral property, I have four conditions:
1. That the building/complex bear my name, vis. Kenneth Amon Carter in lettering consistent with the letter on the structure(s) identifying the county building(s).
2. That the County assume all “closing” costs associated with the transaction.
3. That I be absolved of responsibility for all accrued taxes relating to the demised property.
4. That I be provided with a donation appraisal of the demised property, based on the “highest and best use” concept, of a minimum of $125,000.
I am hopeful that my gift will generate reconsideration of the sitting of the County complex and produce a degree of harmony among the County Commissioners–if not for themselves then for the future of Vienna, the County Seat of Johnson County.
I remember when the Vienna Square was so crowded on Saturday evening that a parking space was hard to find, when farmers occupied the benches on the Court House lawn to swap stories and discuss the latest news.
I remember Cates and McCorkle’s grocery store, Turley’s grocery store, William’s Dime Store, Drover’s State Bank, Hogshead Feed Store, Throgmorton’s Drug Store (and soda fountain) where “Pop” Throgmorton made good milk shakes for high school kids who congregated there after school.
There was Johnnie Paust’s Men’s Clothing store and Oshel’s Furniture store.
I know my list is not complete, but through all of those years, and long before, there has always been the venerable Vienna Times to catalogue the births and deaths, the weddings and anniversaries of generations long gone and present.
Vienna and its Square likely will not return to the days long gone, but they are an indelible part of our shared history.
Some forward thinking members of our community have started small businesses in an effort to revitalize the Square.
I believe that we, as a community should applaud and support their faith in the future of Vienna.
Separating the County building facility from an “in town” location would only assure the city’s demise.
Kenneth Amon Carter
The Vienna Times homepage survey results:
Should the Johnson County commissioners accept the proposed donation of the former funeral home property for the construction of a new county government office complex?
Yes 179 / 201
No 22 / 201