Sunrise Health AS Feb2018

Local history is one of those things, like air, that is all around us every day, shaping our lives without being noticed much. It’s more likely to be noticed when a bit of it goes missing, like the death of a community leader or loss of a cherished building. Or, as is the case this year, when there’s an anniversary of sufficient extent to give us an excuse to notice.

  Eric Crump

This year, Homewood’s 125th anniversary of incorporation is giving us an opportunity to look around and look back. 

At the Artisan Street Fair a few weeks ago, I asked several people I met what aspects of Homewood’s history mean the most to them, what things from the past continue to shape the community today.
Lee Braun and Tony Falvo, who have lived in Homewood since 1987, agreed that the railroads are the most evident example. The village, of course, sprouted from the seed of Thornton Station, a stop on the Illinois Central line built in 1853. The village continues to be a railroad town, with commuter and cross-country passenger service, busy freight lines and Canadian National’s U.S. headquarters.
  Lee Braun and Tony Falvo

They also cited Patriots Park, which was once home to the radar installation associated with the Nike missile base a few blocks away. They can see the park from their home on 187th Street and they witnessed the last brief spurt of military activity there during the 1991 Gulf War. 

Charles Celander also cited the railroad as the defining characteristic of the village. His daughter, Anna, said the first things to come to mind were architectural features. 
  Anna Celander and 
  Charles Celander


She recently returned to Homewood after several years living in Utah, and she said the sight of the familiar places and structures — the water tower behind village hall, the three 1920s-era buildings at the intersection of Ridge Road and Dixie Highway, Pearson’s Bakery, Mitchell’s Ice Cream Shop — made her feel like she was home again. 

For Anna, those are the places that define this place. 
Our cover feature includes the three 1920s buildings she mentioned and expands upon her list. Pull out pages 16, 17 and 18  and they can serve as a guide for a walking tour through Homewood’s history, with brief explanations about the role those places played and, in most cases, continue to play. 
Some of those places no longer exist but live on in the story of our community.  When long-time residents gather at festivals or at village hall on Saturday mornings, places that are gone still pop up when they tell stories about the past. Those places still exert influence as long as people remember them.
Changing places
One thing the cover feature illustrates is that even places that live long in our history rarely live unchanged. The photos provide a then-and-now view of several key buildings. 
Two more familiar places are about to change. 
The oldest and most important is the train station. Last year, Metra officials presented a conceptual plan for a major renovation of the station that will be undertaken by Amtrak and Metra, the two companies that provide passenger rail service to Homewood.
Metra is still seeking funding for its part of the project, but Amtrak’s portion of the project is fully funded. Assistant Village Manager Napoleon Haney has been in contact with Amtrak officials regularly in recent months and said they plan to start work this summer.
The Amtrak project will include renovation of its platform and signficant changes to the west side of the tracks, including the installation of a ramp that will make both Amtrak’s and Metra’s platforms more accessible from the west side.
Metra’s contribution to the project this year will be to move the Illinois Central engine and caboose that are on display in the Rail Park on the west side. The engine and caboose will not move far. They just need to make room for reconfigured parking areas. 
Another familiar place that’s about to change is the former Bogart’s Charhouse, 18225 Dixie Highway. After several years, and with help of two land banks, the red tape has been cleared away and the village now owns the property.
The building was deemed uninhabitable and was formally codemned by the village in 2016. It is slated to be demolished as soon as possible.
The site is one of five the village featured in a marketing campaign launched this spring to attract developers to town. Mayor Richard Hofeld said there has been some interest in the site, so he hopes it will not remain vacant for long.

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