Western Springs’ Village Hall Saga
Starting in 1930, several efforts were made to build a village hall to replace the offices in the town’s historic water tower. And, one of them involved the Tower Green.
Most village residents know that the town’s historic water tower was built in 1892 and supplied water for the entire village. But, the water tower’s two lower floors (each about 25 feet in diameter) also housed the police department, circuit court room, village manager, village clerk, etc.
While that was sufficient for a town of just 500 residents, by 1926 the growing population and increased number of village employees required more office space. So, the village board approved the renovation of the tower’s third floor for office use, as well as the addition of a new vault, heating plant, and restroom in the basement.
In 1930, a long-range planning study commissioned by the villages of LaGrange, LaGrange Park, and Western Springs recommended that the town actually consider constructing a “civic center” directly north of the Water Tower. However, this would have required the demolition of at least three historic homes and would have radically changed the character of the Tower Green. See first photo.
Fortunately, this proposal never saw the light of day. But, in 1938, the state allowed municipalities more flexibility in issuing bonds. As a result, the village proposed the construction of a $63,000 two-story village hall, location to be determined. The 42’ by 70’ colonial brick structure was to house the police department, including a two-cell jail in the basement. It would also have had enough space for all of the village offices, a court room, and an auditorium. Although a $35,000 referendum was approved by voters, the remaining $28,000 was expected to come from the federal Public Works Administration. However, due to the timing of the request, the funding of the Chicago subway project took precedence, leaving the village’s plans on hold.
By the early 1950’s, the village board had decided that its greatest construction need was a garage to house and maintain the town’s public works vehicles and refuse trucks, which otherwise stood outside in the weather year round. However, in 1957, just as the new garage was being completed, village officials floated a proposal (click on second photo) to expand the new garage facility (right) to include a two-story municipal and police building (center), and a fire station (left). But, this plan was also never implemented.
Since the town was still growing by leaps and bounds with little space for the municipal staff, the village decided on a short-term, temporary solution in the form of a small L-shaped municipal building behind the old fire station (roughly where the police department garages are now located). But, it was extremely small and provided little room for the additional staff that the growing community would soon require. See third photo.
By the 1960’s, the Circuit Court was threatening to curtail meeting on the 2nd floor of the water tower due to limited space, lack of air conditioning, inadequate restroom facilities, etc. So, after countless meetings and financial reviews, a referendum was proposed (and passed) which provided for the acquisition of a Phillips 66 gasoline station on the northeast corner of Wolf & Hillgrove, as well as the demolition of all of the buildings between the village garage and Hillgrove. See fourth photo.
The referendum also called for the construction of a new village garage at the west end of Hillgrove Avenue (near the Tollway), the conversion of the former garage into a fire station, and the building of a new single-story Village Hall on the corner of Hillgrove & Wolf. See fifth photo.
Over time, the Village Hall offices have been renovated with new windows, new Board Room décor, an elevator to the basement, a new heating system, new roof, and more office space in the basement area, as well as the adjacent fire station. But, what does the future hold? The village’s downtown redevelopment plan hinted at the possible, long-term construction of a new village hall in its present location, but with retail space on the first floor. See sixth photo. Sound far-fetched? Only time will tell.