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Illinois Country Living

Bald Knob Cross is being saved
With your help landmark cross will be resurrected this summer

In 1936, Wayman Presley, a rural mail

Bald Knob CrossBald Knob Cross

Bald Knob Cross is located southwest of Carbondale, Ill., just 5 miles off Illinois Route 127 near scenic Alto Pass, Ill. Bald Knob, rising 1,034 feet above sea-level, overlooks the Mississippi River flood plain and the beautiful Shawnee National Forest. The view from the top of Bald Knob is spectacular and breath-taking.

carrier, and Rev. Bill Lirley, a rural preacher, envisioned a dream of an ideal spot for an all-denominational Easter Sunrise Service. Both agreed that Bald Knob Mountain, the highest point in Southern Illinois (elev. 1,034 ft.), would be that ideal place.

This vision evolved and expanded over the next several decades with the help of many volunteers and partners, not the least of which was Myrta Clutts, affectionately known as the “pig lady.” These three founders are remembered as primarily being responsible for the construction of Bald Knob Cross of Peace, a 111-foot tall structure situated on the pinnacle of beautiful Bald Knob Mountain, nestled in the Shawnee National Forest, near Alto Pass, Ill.

The bright white cross created a spectacular night site which could be seen for 7,500 square miles after it was illuminated with 40,000 watts of lighting. The Cross quickly became the most popular tourist attraction in Southern Illinois, attracting visitors from literally all over the world.

After the passing of the founders of the cross, it became the responsibility of a new generation. That generation held up the legacy for a decade or so, but as generations continued, interest waned in its existence. In a lot of ways, it was just “taken for granted.”

“If and when we wanted to go visit it, we (the community or visitors) just expected it would be there and that someone was taking care of it,” says Malcolm Todd, one of those involved in the project. As a result, the beloved “old friend” fell on hard times and nearly met its demise.

Fortunately, a wakeup call brought about the current project being carried out by two groups and many other volunteers to raise funds to restore Bald Knob Cross. In addition to interested parties serving on a Bald Knob Friends of the Cross board, the courts also established a Transition Board, headed by President Steve McKeown, to proceed with this not-for-profit restoration of the cross.

Last year, about $175,000 was raised and has provided for removal of exterior panels, structural engineering inspection, structural steel repair, rust and corrosion removal and rustproof painting of the structural steel framework. Contractors, engineers and architects have provided bids for work and materials that are well under the normal cost of doing business.

When complete, the base of the cross will be 4-inch thick, granite stone panels. The remainder of the cross will consist of a 4-inch thick, sandwiched panel of heavy gauge steel and polyurethane foam insulation painted a brilliant white with a Kynar paint, which resists fading. These panels will be solidly attached to the steel framework and have tongue and groove joints with a weatherproof sealant. And lights will shine upon the panels, making it visible for many miles.

At this point in time, about $150,000 is needed to complete all the work by this summer’s construction season — approximately July 2010.

The next major event of the Friends Board will be the 3rd Annual Crosswalk, June 12. Buses take folks to the top of Bald Knob for them to trek the 5 miles back down to town. Those interested can log-on to the website for an application as well as for general information on our activities and contacts. You may also call Debbie Nash at 618-893-2612 or Ruby Lingle at 618-893-2314. For sending in applications or donations mail to Friends of the Cross, P.O. Box 81, Alto Pass, Ill. 62905.


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