Storied Past, No Future Wrecking Ball Threatens Nearly 20 Historic Sites

Article excerpt

Byline: Amy E. Williams

In the early 1900s, Chicagoans crowded onto trains headed for Algonquin, where they spent the weekends relaxing.

During the days, they picnicked, fished and swam along the Fox River.

They spent their nights in the grand hotels that lined the river, including the Riverview Hotel. That hotel, built in 1903, is the only hotel left from Algonquin's tourism heyday.

But the hotel, which now is the Riverview Restaurant at the corner of Route 62 and North Harrison Street, now tops the list of McHenry County's most endangered historic sites.

It's scheduled to be demolished in less than two years, when the Illinois Department of Transportation will pave it over to widen Route 62.

"We're pretty disappointed, but there's nothing we can do," said Jeff Battaglia, who's owned the building for 10 years. "It's too old to be moved.

"If the money is right, we'd like to rebuild further back from the road, but we're disappointed this will have to go," he said.

Historic groups from throughout McHenry County placed the Riverview Hotel and other structures on the list in hopes of making people aware of the history the county could lose - and in hopes of savings some of the sites.

However, they've already lost one structure on the list.

Earlier this summer, Karl Kristensen, who owned the red-brick James Philip Esq. Home on Main Street, demolished the 1856 structure.

It was a huge loss to Algonquin and McHenry County historic commission members. But they're using the loss to inspire them to work that much harder to save other structures on the list, said Nancy Fike, director of the McHenry County Historical Society.

She says the way to save the structures is to get municipalities to pass historic preservation ordinances.

"In Algonquin they have a very active commission, but they don't have any teeth in their ordinance now," Fike said. "They're working on it."

The village of Algonquin put a six-month moratorium on demolition permits as officials write the ordinance.

But before they issued the moratorium, officials from St. John's Evangelical Church, which was built in 1914, took out a demolition permit. Now that church is also on the endangered list.

"Some are going to go down and others, there's nothing to protect them," Fike said. …