Effort underway to save Alton playhouse

ALTON (KSDK) - It's a playhouse straight out of a story book… and the story behind it is too. It involves a wealthy family, the Haskells, and a little girl named Lucy.

"Everyone in the neighborhood and the city loved Lucy because she was such a beautiful and precocious child," said Carolyn Dooley, of the Haskell Playhouse Restoration Association.

Lucy's family built her an extravagant playhouse and gave it to her on her fifth birthday. The year was 1885. But Lucy was only able to play in her playhouse for four years because she died tragically of diphtheria. However, her playhouse was left standing. Then, when her mother died, she left the Haskell property to the city in memory of Lucy.

"It's just a place that people in the neighborhood gravitate to," Dooley said.

So, when the playhouse started falling into disrepair, lifelong residents of the neighborhood, like Dooley, couldn't let it fall apart

"We won't let it go," Dooley said.

So, the restoration group was holding pastry sales and other small fundraisers when Ryan Hanlon, a filmmaker who originally from Alton, stepped in. Hanlon made a video, launched a website, and helped the group start an online campaign to raise $50,000 in 50 days.

"The fact that something so fragile, a child's playhouse, has survived since 1885… we all kind of have this feeling that we need to do our part now to continue to preserve it," said Hanlon, owner of Route 3 Films.

As of Tuesday, the group is halfway to its goal with 10 days left to go. The money will pay for lead paint removal, a new roof, and foundation and carpentry work, among other repairs. But, more importantly, it will allow Lucy's story to live on.

"It just, it's a special place," Dooley said.

The campaign is gaining attention throughout the entire community. This Saturday, a group of kids is holding a lemonade stand to raise money. It will be at the Haskell Playhouse, located at 1211 Henry Street in Alton, from 1-3 p.m. The Playhouse will be open to visitors during that time, as it has been every Saturday afternoon since the start of the fundraising campaign. The facility is also available to rent for tea parties. To learn more about the fundraiser, visit the Haskell Playhouse website:



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