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Walter Waite home getting a facelift

Jack Rooney attempting to get home on the National Register of Historic Places

CHERRY — Efforts are underway to restore a historic Cherry home to its original charm and glory.

Former Cherry resident Jack Rooney, now of Springfield, is leading the efforts to restore the former home of Cherry Mine Disaster hero Walter Waite, who helped in the Cherry Mine Disaster rescue efforts in November 1909. Waite and fellow mine manager George Eddy were awarded the nationally-recognized Carnegie Medal for their heroic efforts in leading a group of 20 men from within the Cherry mines where they had been trapped for eight days after an explosion in November 1909.

Rooney, current owner of the Walter Waite house, has retained Fever River Research of Springfield as consultants in the process of restoring and preserving the historic house. Fever River Research has completed its detailed analysis and recommendations report, which is the first step in attempting to have the house listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Rooney said.

Springfield architect Dave Leonetti is completing the formal detailed design diagrams. Leonetti is especially interested in the project, since his grandfather was a miner in the Dalzell and Spring Valley area, and he still has cousins living in the area, Rooney said.

Among projects needed at the Walter Waite home are a new western porch, new roof, walls restored to original positions, window improvements, air/heat updates and acquiring period furnishings, etc. Hopefully, the house will be fully restored and lit up for the holidays at the end of the year, Rooney said.

Looking ahead to the future use of the Walter Waite house, Rooney said he has a vision that sees the house being very “flexible” and “multi-purpose’ in nature.

“We envision it being a place for historical tours and presentations, where children will see what it is like to use a coal stove, bring in water from the well, know where an ‘outhouse’ is located,” Rooney said. “At the same time, it would be great to see groups hold small meeting, dinners, parties and retreats there.”

Also, it would be nice to use the Walter Waite house in any way possible to further the efforts of the recently-organized John the Barber Foundation, which he started as a not-for-profit foundation to promote Christian, community outreaches for Cherry, Rooney said.

“We will do any little thing we can with the house to assist the needy, reach out to strangers, and forgive while encouraging others through example to do the same,” Rooney said.

As far as financial needs to restore the Waite home, Rooney said he is funding the project himself, but other individuals or entities could definitely help with the project as well. The financial plan for the project is evolving as the project evolves, he said.

“That is why we want to keep things as flexible and nimble as possible,” Rooney said. “We won’t know what will work and what won’t work, especially over time. Changes may need to be made to keep things fresh. This was definitely a decision of the heart, not the ‘brain.”

In time, a certain amount of money could come in through using the Waite house as some type of bed-and-breakfast use or through renting it to groups, but likely funds for the upkeep of the house will need to come from visitor donations and possible grants, Rooney said. When completed, he will donate the finished home to the John the Barber Foundation, so it would be easier for people to make donations to it, he said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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