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Old Des Plaines Municipal Building Use Hotly Debated in 1974

When it was built at Graceland and Prairie avenues in 1937 it included the city’s administrative offices, police department and library.

In 1935, Des Plaines' city leadership was feeling cramped, and applied for a grant to find relief. The old Village Hall, built in 1892, was created to serve a much smaller village than the city that existed 44 years later.

Des Plaines had grown, with annexations and subdivisions of former farms, a larger administration that had to fit in quite a small space, shared with police and fire.

A new municipal building at Graceland and Prairie avenues was dedicated on June 26, 1937. Today, the site provides parking for the Civic Center and the Des Plaines Police Department.

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The federal government's Public Works Administration aided local projects including this one during the Great Depression. Des Plaines had an ideal site at the corner of Graceland and Prairie avenues, which housed the Des Plaines Public Library and a park.

The 29-year-old building was wrecked to make way for a new two-story building to house the city government, police, and council chambers in a two-story building at a cost of $84,920.

The new building had single-story wings to house a larger library and police garage and fire department.

The modernized Georgian-style building was decorated by limestone with quoined corners, a belfry housing the fire siren and detailed brickwork.

Chicago architects Thielbar & Fugard designed the building, financed with $39,920 in funds from the Works Progress Administration. Proceeds from the sale of the old village hall provided $36,000, and the city’s delinquent tax funds covered the balance.

The old village hall was sold for redevelopment, and the library moved to temporary quarters in the abandoned Des Plaines State Bank.

Twenty years after the new municipal building at Graceland and Prairie avenues was opened, the library moved into a new building at Graceland Avenue and Thacker Street and the police department moved into the former library wing.

The Civic Center was built in 1974, and as it neared completion, a heated debate broke out over the future use of the municipal building.

The Historical Society sought the space for a new museum and community center. The Bicentennial Commission wanted it to be used as a more general community center. Another faction believed it would be best to demolish it and create 20 more parking spaces for the Civic Center.

After three years of debate, the city council decided in July 1977 to demolish the building.

The Historical Society received funds to relocate to the Kinder House at its present site.

The building was demolished several years later and continues to provide parking for the City Hall and the Des Plaines Police Department.

Richard Ornberg September 19, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Enjoyed the old photos! I remember the old building well, as one of the last firefighters to start on the job at the old fire station on the east end in 1971. As described in my new book, 10-24: A Firefighter Looks Back", now available on Amazon: "The two story, three-bay firehouse was the eastern section of a much larger old brick building. The center of the building was home to City Hall, its offices and associated departments, and the City Council chamber where its regular meetings were held. The Police Department headquarters filled the western section. The station dated back to horse-drawn wagon days. The old folding stable doors were still in place where horses had been housed in stalls at the back of the station. The area was now used as a workshop. Our bunkroom, dayroom, kitchen and showers were located upstairs at the top of a single straight flight of stairs that emptied down below onto the apparatus floor. The slide pole that used to be located in the corner of the dayroom had been removed years before as larger apparatus encroached on the pole’s landing area. The upstairs area for the pole had since been converted to a single stool bathroom."
Margie Borris September 19, 2012 at 06:25 PM
The old library and this municipal building were at the corner of Graceland and Miner, not Prairie. The first library was torn down to make way for this municipal "complex." During construction the library was housed in the bank building at the southwest corner of Lee and Ellinwood. upon completion, the library was housed in the west end of the municipal building until moving to the Thacker and Graceland site in the 1950s. Here's a historical piece about the library. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TX9l2xy2e8
Brian Wolf September 19, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Thanks Rick. Dave Wolf is my grandfather and took the color slide photos above.

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