As 2012 comes to a close, so does my contributions to the Des Plaines Yesterday and Today column.
I began writing about Des Plaines history in 2009. My curiosity about Des Plaines history reached back to my childhood, but I was always frustrated at how it could be difficult to discover the stories behind the places around us. I realized that the imperfections and scars on the buildings I passed daily were marks left by other members of our community. As I gained the skills needed to uncover these stories, I felt compelled to make these marks legible for future generations.
My goal in writing these short histories of places in Des Plaines has had several layers. I wanted to help current residents remember the different roles places have held in their own past. I wanted to help others realize that these places are what makes Des Plaines a place with its own unique identity. I wanted to highlight how different Des Plaines felt in past generations as a result of its development. Most of all, my goal has been to make people consider what we lose when these places fade away: the connection to our heritage.
From 1969-1975, there was considerable interest in local history. The Des Plaines Historical Society had been founded in 1967, the Illinois Sesquicentennial was celebrated in 1968, the first of many rounds of downtown redevelopment planning was well underway, and the United States Bicentennial was on the horizon.
In this context, several surveys were completed to identify the most historically significant places in Des Plaines. While the sites missed many places that would now be considered significant, they still found many others.
Of the sites surveyed, the following have been demolished or lost: Scotch Pine at Algonquin Road & Lee Street, Rand Mill Cottage, Rand Mill Original Site, Rand Mill, Earle House, Webster House, Pflughaupt House, Gniot House, Methodist Episcopal Church, Ellinwood Food Locker, Kinder Hardware, Boeckenhauer Barn, Western Tire/First Jail, Old State Bank/Market, Quilici Apartments, 1702 Mill Street, 1967 Rand Road, War Memorial Park, Sengstock House, Pioneer Building. 28 others still stand.
How many more can we afford to lose?
My future columns will appear at www.revitalizedesplaines.org and will be linked on Patch.