With upholstery installation underway and renovations nearly complete, the Strevell house — famous as the Pontiac residence where Abraham Lincoln once stayed the night and was once measured — will soon be open to the public.
    But it won’t just be another museum, according to Historical Society President Bob Sear; instead, a part of the house will double as a community gathering center.
    Built sometime in the middle of the 19th century, the home once housed Steven Strevell, a lawyer who moved from New York to Pontiac in 1855. On Jan. 27, 1860, Lincoln delivered a speech to the Pontiac Young Men’s Literary Society and stayed the night in Pontiac, a stopover on his way to a trial in Bloomington.
    While political topics were discussed, such as Lincoln’s potential nomination to the Republican Party presidential ticket, the more enduring anecdote about Lincoln concerns a debate about his height: Stevell did not think Lincoln was 6-foot-4, being 6-foot himself, so had the eventual president stand against a doorframe and have his height marked with a notch.
    But in a bizarre twist, Lincoln turned out to be, in fact, exactly 6-4. Thus entered Strevell and his house into Pontiac lore.
    But “The House That Lincoln Visited That One Time” was eventually forgotten and scheduled for demolition, which might have come to pass had it not been for the efforts of a group of concerned Pontiac residents, including former U.S. Rep. Tom Ewing.
    On Tuesday, Sear said that the restoration of the house into what it is at present was a decade-long labor, one that required generous donations of time and money — upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars. But it was a labor that was fast approaching completion.
    “We’re installing some artwork, now, painted by members of the Community Art Center and a number of paintings from Harold Cunningham, a local artist,” he said. “We should have the Strevell house open sometime during the summer.”
    Sear said that the Strevell house will not be a traditional museum home a la the Yost House or Jones House, however, noting that there were other plans for the structure in the works.
    “There’s a side of the house that’s going to be a historic part, which will tell the story of Strevell and Lincoln’s time here, and look as it would from that era, and there will be a community area, as well,” he said, referring to the large, open hall on the east side of the house.
    “The community or gathering spot of the house will be a place people could have meetings, get-togethers and the like. It’s almost a gallery space, with all the art on the wall.
    “The other houses, like the Jones House, is a beautiful place where you go in and there’s all this stuff to look at, like a museum. But then you leave and that’s it. This is different in that it’s setup to where the space can be used. There’s a counter where people can make food, serve drinks.
    Sear said the Historical Society was unsure if they would be renting out the space to groups once complete. Mostly, though, he was just thrilled it was nearing completion.
    “It’s taken a long, long time to get this to where it is, 10 years or more,” he said. “The people and organizations around the community have been very helpful donating to us to make this dream a reality.”