Work on water tower to start this fall in Western Springs
Historical Society Board members Pete Caris and John Vevona walk down the steps of the tower that are scheduled to be replaced. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
What do you like best about the Western Springs Water Tower?
The annual Gathering on the Green will be held from 5-10 p.m. Friday on the Tower Green, surrounding the water tower north of the railroad tracks in downtown.
This year’s gathering will include music from the Banjo Buddies, the Midway Ramblers Cajun Band, and Retrospect. There will also be dancing by the Trinity Irish Dancers, and the 2012 association scholarship winners will be honored.
Updated: July 22, 2012 6:31AM
The stairs leading up to the water tower in downtown Western Springs need fixing.
“Right now, they’re crumbly and ugly,” said Allyson Zak, president of the Western Springs Historical Society.
The tower, built in 1892 by architect Benezet Williams, is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
“It is both literally and figuratively the center of town. It provides some open space. It’s also very architecturally significant,” Zak said.
Ingrid Velkme is director of Administrative Services for the village. She sits on a special committee working to restoring the tower’s stairs.
The Quasquicentennial Committee was created to organize the village’s 125-year birthday celebration last year. The committee also set out to give a gift to the village for future generations.
“They decided it was best to donate toward the water tower which is the landmark of our village. Right now the stairs are crumbling and the entrance is less than grand,” Velkme said.
Members of the committee first decided to enhance the area outside the tower. After visiting the actual structure they noticed the poor condition of its stairs. The committee hired a landscape architect and approved a plan for the stairs.
The village will pay for the first phase of the project, which calls for the replacement of the stairs and the widening of the walkway leading up to the entrance. Construction begins this fall.
Velkme said the final cost to the village has not yet been determined and is still under consideration.
“This is not some backyard project,” she said.
A sub-committtee of the Quasquicentennial Committee raised more than $46,000 from people in the community. Velkme said the cost is high because the quality of new stone must match that of the water tower.
“We’ll need a lot more money. You’re working with stone that is very expensive,” she said.
Money raised from the community will be used to add seat walls, decorative brick edging and a bronze medallion in honor of the Quasquicentennial year.
Phase two, which includes the bronze medallion and the decorative landscaping, will not begin until next year.
Neither phase of the construction will incorporate the inside of the building, which Zak said is in good condition.
Zak said work being done this fall will be enjoyed by future generations.
“Having the stairs re-done shows how important this building is to our town. And it’s important to invest in this legacy by maintaining it, by keeping the stairs safe and beautiful,” Zak said.
For an obsolete building, the old water tower still gets its share of attention. The Western Springs Historical Society operates a museum at the site and the regular French Markets take place there on the surrounding grounds.
In the past, the building was used as a police station and a village hall.
Zak said the second floor of the tower also had a temporary courtroom.
For the community, the tower is also a source of pride.
“It just is a marker,” Zak said. “A reminder for people about the history of our village. We’ve grown so much since then. But it really does remind us of our roots.”