James Van Allen house saved

An update on the boyhood home of James Van Allen, noted UI astrophysicist for whom the Van Allen radiation belts are named:

The boyhood home of famed astrophysicist James Van Allen will get a new lease on life.

The 147-year-old home in Mount Pleasant was auctioned off last month after a local non-profit group could no longer afford to operate it as a museum.

Neighbor Lee Pennebaker purchased the property for $40,500 and had planned to raze the house.

But after the sale, area residents decided they couldn’t let the historical treasure meet that fate.

Pennebaker has agreed to donate the house to the Henry County Heritage Trust. That group will move the house two blocks, relocating it near Saunders School, which is the future home of a Henry County museum.

“It’s an exciting proposition that we’re going to move the Van Allen house … and ultimately maybe create some type of historical complex,” Pat White, secretary-treasurer of the Henry County Heritage Trust, said.

“The reality of it actually being torn down sunk in for a lot of folks after the sale.”

The Henry County Heritage Trust is seeking donations to help with the cost of moving the two-story house, which White expects will exceed $25,000. Donations can be sent to the trust at P.O. Box 333, Mount Pleasant, 52641.

The house must be moved by Sept. 1, and officials hope the museums can open next summer.

The Van Allen radiation belts that circle Earth are named for James Van Allen, who worked with the U.S. space program in its early days and was a noted UI professor for decades.

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