Bald Knob Cross board eyes date for lighting improvements

Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Bald Knob Cross is silhouetted against the sky at dusk in Alto Pass, Ill., on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. (Kristin Eberts)

ALTO PASS, Ill. -- The Bald Knob Cross of Peace will be lit with state-of-the art LED lights, its board of directors decided during its annual meeting last week.

The lights will bring the 48-year-old cross back to its original state, Bald Knob Cross president D.W. Presley said. When erected in 1963, the cross was illuminated with grounded stadium lights at night.

But in recent decades, the 111-foot-high Alto Pass landmark's appearance has deteriorated because of aged materials and a lack of community support. The grounded lights were often vandalized, Presley said, and the cross' panels grew dilapidated because of condensation inside the cross.

A drive that started in 2008 led to the repaneling of the cross in November 2010. The new panels cost roughly $550,000.

The cross is $20,000 shy of the $80,000 it needs to restore the lighting. The LED lights are justifiably expensive, Presley said.

"It's a bigger cost up front, but it's a bigger savings over time," he said. "It costs at least 60 percent less to run these lights than the original lights."

Light-emitting diode, or LED, lights have grown increasingly popular in recent years because of their brightness and durability.

Presley anticipates raising the money in the coming months and beginning construction on the lights this fall. A fish fry and auction Friday raised $5,000 for the cross, and fundraising efforts have been consistent despite a tough economy, Presley said.

Rather than being placed in the ground, the new lights will be placed on poles to prevent vandalism, according to a news release. Electrical wiring will be routed underground and throughout the cross. Electrical outlets will be available for events at the cross, like weddings and concerts, the release said.

When the cross was originally built, four "bunkers" containing 10 incandescent, 1,000-watt light bulbs illuminated the cross. While the lighting technique was state-of-the-art in 1963, it has grown obsolete in the last 50 years, Presley said.

"We want to be on cutting edge of lighting technology," Presley said. "In 10 years, we want the technology to be 10 years old, not 20 or 30 years old."

The original grounded lights were frequently vandalized, although defacement of the cross and its accessories has gone down in recent years. Security cameras will be installed to ensure the cross' safety, according to the release.

The cross will be fully restored once the lights are in place, but construction will not halt. With the cross restored, the focus will turn to walkways with personalized paver bricks, Presley said. A cost and timetable for the walkway project has not been determined.


Pertinent address:

3630 Bald Knob Road, Alto Pass, IL

Map of pertinent addresses

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