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Posted by: Henry
Posted on: Nov 14th, 2017, 11:28am
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2017 10:56:50 -0500 From: "Alexander D. Mitchell IV" <LNER4472 at verizon dot net> Subject: New Lenox (Ill., CRI&P) Historical Society launches petition drive to save train station (rshsdepot)
Source: Chicago Tribune
New Lenox Historical Society launches petition drive to save train station
"All along the village made it sound like this (station) would be turned over to us," she said, adding that she learned a few weeks ago of the building's imminent demise.
Village administrator Kurt Carroll invited her to a meeting -- not to discuss saving or moving the building -- but to determine what the historical society wanted to save from it, she said.
At first she thought about the benches, signs and bricks, but later said she refused to give in to demolition.
"This is like a bad dream," she said.
Like other old train stations, in Joliet and Lockport, that have been preserved, "it is very important to keep it where it is and restore it," Lindberg said.
Years ago, when the historical society saved Schmuhl School, Lindberg was instrumental in working with Walgreens, which assisted them in moving the old school across the street.
Carroll said he informed the historical society "five months ago" of the demolition. Church Street, which leads directly to the old station, will be vacated to make room for the new CVS, and the water and sewer lines that serve the station are below that street, he said.
It would be "too costly" to rework the water and sewer lines to serve a building that would get little use, he said.
CVS, which will anchor the Rock Island Station Shopping Center, has not yet closed on its land sale with the village. The mayor previously said the old depot would be preserved, but he did not respond to a call Friday seeking comment.
"We thought it had a historical designation, but when we found out it was not a landmark, Metra said 'get rid of it,'" Carroll said.
"It is their station, not ours. They don't want to deal with these stations," he said, calling the building an "attractive nuisance and a liability."
Metra spokeswoman Meg Reile said they have discussed plans for a new station with New Lenox, but the fate of the existing building is "to be determined."
Metra must approve the demolition as well as plans for the new building, which will be larger than the existing 1,500 square foot depot, Carroll said, adding that they hope to begin construction next year.
When the old station is demolished, a temporary trailer will be installed in the parking lot to serve commuters during construction, he said.
In 2008, the historical society tried to nominate the 1,500 square foot brick structure for Will County landmark status, but its owner -- Metra -- would not allow it, Lindberg said. Society members hoped the old structure could be incorporated into the new development.
Local historians want to save the building and create a rail museum and a meeting space, to educate people on the pivotal role of the railroad in this area, she said.
It changed everything in the community, as it shifted the town's center from Gougar's Crossing to Cedar Road, and from an agricultural community to a commuter town with a more diversified economy, according to the historical society's research.
The Chicago and Rock Island Railroad laid track through New Lenox in 1852 and the first train ran from Chicago to Joliet Oct. 10, 1852, said historical society member David Rubner, who authored a booklet on the "History of the Rock Island Railroad in New Lenox."
With that, came more businesses -- a grain elevator, general store, and a building supply shop. The first depot was on the west side of Cedar, but later the brick station was built on east side, where it stands today, according to his research.
While improvements have been made to the building, it has remained essentially the same architecturally, with its alcove on the north side for the telegraph operator, and its eight foot eaves, which give the building a "distinctive look," he said.
Half of the waiting room was once used for storing packages to be shipped by rail, he said, explaining why there was a larger door on the east side of the station.
Rubner said brick construction was rare back then and the station is one of only three remaining buildings in the area that were built with this deep maroon-colored brick. The others include an old milkhouse in Marley and an 1800s farmhouse on Silver Cross Boulevard.
The old building is "too risky" to move, but still solid enough to be saved, he said.
Rubner, a commuter for 20 years, considers himself a true "rail fan" who thought it was "cool" to ride the train to work every day.
Carroll said it may be possible to use the bricks from the old station to create an historical monument in the new station.
But the historical society is as adamant about saving it as the village is about demolishing it, Rubner said.
As he collected signatures on the petition and talked to people about this, he said they are "disappointed, surprised and dumbfounded."
"Judging from the reaction I am getting from people, they are upset," he said.
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