ALTAMONT – The stage lights are set, microphones are in place, sound monitors are tested and pews are ready for a future opening of the Altamont Living Museum locally known as the “Little Ryman.”

Progress continues on the Altamont Living Museum resurrection project, according to Museum board member Bruce Kessler and venue manager Elijah Doty.

Kessler and Doty are both anxious to get their “Little Ryman” open this summer. The duo said once the restrictions on the amount of people who can gather in one place due to COVID-19 are gone they plan to open.

“As soon as it gets lifted, we want to start getting bands in here.” Kessler said.

The building that was once home to the First Presbyterian Church of Altamont eventually became the Altamont Living Museum and Little Ryman, located at 102 South Main Street. The venue at one time was weekly host to the country and bluegrass sounds of the Altamont Opry every Tuesday evening.

Kessler stressed the urgent need to get bands playing in order to generate operating capital so the museum can survive. He said there are more improvements that need to be made and expenses continue to add up since they cannot host large audiences.

He said tentatively they have two bands set up to play, including Firebox and High Cotton.

“We’re in hopes they can help us generate some money,” Kessler said.

Doty said one of the stage improvements made recently is a new light dimmer for stage lighting.

Kessler said Doty has been working the past several weeks in the basement, removing old costumes and leftover set props from past play performances.

“They got a dumpster in here a few weeks ago and hauled out a lot of the contents,” Kessler said.

“The basement is completely cleaned out,” he added.

The basement, including a full kitchen, in years past was rented for special occasions before it became a costume and prop storage room. Kessler hopes they can provide the same special occasion rental opportunities after it is allowed to open.

Kessler said Altamont Living Museum Board members Larry Dunaway and Missy Foster Dunaway were instrumental in assisting Doty make much-needed improvements to the venue.

The Garden Club of Altamont worked on the landscaping and will be bringing mulch to complete the work, Kessler said.

“That should really jazz it up a little bit,” he said. “So, the outside appearance is coming along.”

Doty said donations are still needed for interior painting, elevator repair and woodworking for some of the original wood trim around the stained-glass windows.

Remaining are the old stained-glass windows from the church that gives the old sanctuary a colorful natural glow, while the original church pews still provide seating for any guests who may want to visit in the future. One of the two windows were donated by a Faught in memory of their daughter; the other was donated by the Wright family.

Also needing fixed is a water leak into the sanctuary.

“It was water coming in from a vent at the top of the old church,” said Kessler.

Kessler said R & H Plumbing, Heating and Electrical of Altamont is working on the water leak project. He said R & H is going to take measurements to create a canopy on the outside to take care of the problem.

Kessler said they are optimistic about the future of the museum.

“I hope to one day get this on the National Register,” Kessler said.

He said by putting the Altamont Living Museum on the National Register they could possibly be eligible for grants to protect the museum in the future. The National Register is a program of the National Forrest Service recognizing historic sites throughout the United States.

Doty said during his cleanup of the museum he found an old plaque recognizing the museum as a National Road art and architecture site.

He said one of his long-range plans is to one day install lamp posts on the sidewalk of the venue to simulate the exterior of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Doty said donations are always welcome as they prepare the Altamont Living Museum for opening in the near future. He said the museum is considered a 501©3 non-for-profit organization and donations to the Altamont Living Museum are tax deductible. Donations can be sent to Altamont Living Museum, PO Box 13, Altamont, IL. 62411.

“This place means a lot to a lot of people,” Kessler said. “We’re ready for some excitement and music to come out of the Little Ryman.”

Charles Mills can be reached at or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.

Charles Mills can be reached at or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.


Charles Mills is reporter and videographer for the Effingham Daily News. A 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, he worked as senior video editor for a Nashville television station. He is a native of Vandalia.

Recommended for you