WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mike Bost (IL-12) authored a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt requesting the National Park Service (NPS) conduct a study of the historical significance of sites in Prairie du Rocher for possible recognition as a National Historic Park. This action comes as Prairie du Rocher, one of the oldest French villages in the United States, prepares to celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2022.
“Prairie du Rocher is a national treasure that we are blessed to have right here in Southern Illinois,” said Bost. “Established in 1722, it was one of the oldest French villages in America and played an integral role in establishing the western boundary of the United States after the Revolutionary War. I am hopeful that Prairie du Rocher can achieve national park status by its 300th birthday, and this reconnaissance study is the first step.”
“The French Historic District in Randolph County is integral to the formation of the United States,” said Chris Martin, coordinator of economic development for Randolph County. "That story is largely unknown to Americans and overseas visitors. Prairie du Rocher and Fort de Chartres were once the western boundary of our country. The saga involves the French, the British and ultimately, a fledgling republic. A National Park designation will help tell the story of where Illinois began, the Kaskaskia Cahokia Trail, and how the U.S. expanded from here."
Text of the letter sent to Secretary Bernhardt:
The Honorable David Bernhardt
United States Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Bernhardt:
I am writing to request that the National Park Service (NPS) undertake a Reconnaissance Survey to identify the national significance of sites in the area of Prairie du Rocher, IL and to determine their suitability as a National Historic Park. Your prompt attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.
Prairie du Rocher is one of the oldest original French villages in America. The region and its fortifications, helped to establish the western boundary of the United States after the Revolutionary War.
A reconnaissance survey, conducted by the National Park Service, will evaluate the region’s national significance and suitability for designation as a unit of the National Park System, and the need for National Park Service management of this historical resource. I believe the results will validate the area as worthy of National Park designation.
The Prairie du Rocher site interprets the French Colonial period of our nation’s early development prior to our Declaration of Independence from England. The village, established in 1722, and Fort de Chartres were important stops between New Orleans and Quebec. The region thrived for nearly 100 years before Illinois became a state.
The area boasts a National Historic District established in 1974. Two National Landmarks, Fort de Chartres and the Menard Home, along with other significant assets, including the Milliere home (1735), Jesuit Windmill site (1720s), Lee-Brickey Mansion site, Church of St. Anne site (1721), St. Anne/St. Joseph’s cemetery (early 1700s), St. Joseph’s Church, the Kaskaskia Cahokia Trail (1600), and several others.
With this request I submit 3 properties to be considered for the establishment of the park. Copies of letters from willing owners that are willing to discuss terms to provide property to the National Park Service are attached. They are:
- Bienvenue Home, owned by Mr. Steve Gonzalez
- Creole House, owned by the Randolph County Historical Society
- Pierre Menard Home, an Illinois Department of Natural Resources asset
The community has authored a Strategic Plan for the next 300 years of their development and has held several public meetings to gain public support. According to local leadership, there is strong support and no expressed opposition. It is my hope, and that of the broader community, that the establishment of the park coincides with Prairie du Rocher’s 300th birthday in 2022.
I urge you to give the most serious consideration to this reconnaissance survey request and look forward to the opportunity to directly discuss it with you. Thank you for consideration in this matter.