Rehabilitation of 115-year-old community icon honored with Landmarks Illinois’ Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award
[La Grange, IL] – Each year, Landmarks Illinois sets out to celebrate Illinois’ most outstanding historic preservation projects with the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award. This year, the nonprofit organization faced the difficult task of choosing 9 winners from 39 outstanding nominations.
The project that emerged in the program’s “restoration” category was the Village of La Grange’s Stone Avenue Train Station rehabilitation. The award, funded by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, honors not just the projects, but also “the people who went through extraordinary efforts to save, restore, rehabilitate, and reuse these historic places in Illinois.”
The Stone Avenue Train Station restoration, designed by Legat Architects and performed by Boller Construction, returns the station, with its stone arches and strong details, to its former glory.
Landmarks Illinois President and CEO Bonnie McDonald called the restoration a “model project demonstrating a community’s value for its civic infrastructure. The Stone Avenue Train Station’s restoration is admirable, especially the commitment to improving accessibility. However, perhaps more unique and noteworthy is the pantheon of partners that coalesced around the importance of its reuse.”
That “pantheon of partners” consisted of village officials, legislators, railroads, and volunteer community organizations.
The Route to Restoration
The Village of La Grange’s Stone Avenue Train Station has stood as a cherished landmark since it was built in 1901. Village President Tom Livingston refers to it as “a real workhorse.”
The 900-square-foot-station, designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, symbolizes the village’s historic bond with rail and its traditional ideals of strength and grace.
The station, however, suffered from a failing roof and gutters, rotted wood, and deteriorating masonry. Functional, yet less historic improvements in the 1970s and 1980s replaced many of the original architectural features.
In 2005, the village launched the restoration effort. The goal was to stabilize the building, yet recreate the turn-of-the-century feel within a tight budget. The revived station that emerged in fall of 2014 is a result of thoughtful planning and stewardship.
The village received two major grants, one from the U.S. Department of Transportation secured with Congressman Dan Lipinski’s assistance and one from West Suburban Mass Transit District, to achieve a 100% grant-funded restoration.
The team took an innovative approach to accessible design by removing the steps in front of the station and redesigning the grades to create a seamless route leading to the front door. The gradual approaches mimic the symmetrical design of the building.
Nancy Cummings, executive director of the La Grange Business Association, said, “The beautiful enhancements, which serve to showcase the integrity of the station’s original design, assist us in marketing La Grange as a vibrant and established destination.”
Every day, over 1,000 commuters use the Stone Avenue Train Station, which connects to downtown Chicago. The station also serves as a backdrop for annual community events like the village’s West End Art Festival.
“Many appreciate the station’s history and its contribution to the growth of the village,” said Jeannine McLaughlin, president of the La Grange Area Historical Society. “Others appreciate the station’s distinctive design, its dominating roofline, and the grace and beauty of the arches that beckon one to enter. But to most, the newly renovated station is, very simply, lovely to look at, and like a treasured piece of art, it enriches our lives while serving the transportation needs of thousands of commuters on a daily basis.”
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