Old Slave House
HICKORY HILL — The cornerstone for John Hart Crenshaw's manor house is dated 1838. Located outside Equality, Illinois, the Old Slave House, as it's better known, has long been the focus of stories of slavery associated the third floor. According to research conducted in the 1930s, even the ghost stories were in circulation as far back as 1851.

Jon Musgrave photo

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Plan of Action

  • The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) has no plans to reopen the site.
  • IHPA has no money to reopen the site — therefore no plans.
  • Even if IHPA received funding, they say it may be years before they can reopen the site.
  • IHPA has no contingency plan for site security when current occupant moves out.
  • IHPA doesn’t have the legal flexibility to even look at other options, including leasing the site to a non-profit group who could reopen it using admission fees to pay for the site’s operations — This had been everyone's backup plan until they figured out they couldn't do this earlier this spring.


  • The danger of the site disappearing completely increases without adequate site security and money for maintenance and upkeep. In other words, if nothing changes it may not be here for future generations.
  • One of Southern Illinois’ best known tourist sites remains closed in one of the most hardest hit economically distressed regions of the state.


  • Adopt a Plan of Action urging the governor transfer the Old Slave House to the Department of Natural Resources.
  • Combine the site with the Saline County Fish and Wildlife Area (Glen O. Jones Lake) to create a new state park named Eagle Mountain State Park.
  • Instruct DNR to lease the operation of the Old Slave House to a regional non-profit group in order to develop the site as a public educational facility with its operations paid for by admission fees.
  • Accomplished all of this in the next months by the Eighth of August, the traditional date once celebrated by African-Americans and residents of all races in the Lower Ohio Valley as Emancipation Day.
  • In addition, once the site reopens to the public, a public advisory committee open to all interested parties meet at least quarterly to provide input, help build further support for the site and strengthen its ties to interested communities.

  • Special Features: Old Slave House | Cairo | Indians of Southern Illinois | July 7, June 28, 2003 — Back to the Southern Illinois History Page
    ©2003 Jon Musgrave