After months of badgering State Rep. Calvin Giles (D-Chicago) and other state officials to make good on a year-old promise, Riverside finally has $75,000 in its hands to transform a former water works building into a museum space.
Last Friday at a special meeting of the Riverside village board, trustees officially accepted the grant, which Riverside was awarded in 2005 by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Giles was responsible for authoring the legislation giving communities in his district the opportunity to seek the $75,000 capital improvement grants.
The grant will fund the design and renovation of a former well house in Centennial Park at Longcommon Road and Forest Avenue, the location of the village’s historic water tower. One of a pair of former cylindrical well houses in the park, the west well house will be transformed into an exhibit space for the Riverside Historical Museum.
“We’re all very excited and looking forward to it,” said Suzanne Bartholomew, director of the Riverside Historical Museum. “It’s going to be something wonderful for the community to come and see the collection and see it up close. There should be a number of wonderful items that represent the history of Riverside.”
Two of the major items that will be on permanent display in the new space are the chandelier from the Louis Sullivan-designed Babson Estate and the original general Plan of Riverside by Frederick Law Olmsted.
Currently, the Historical Museum calls the east well house home. But since the vast majority of that space contains the collection’s archives, there is virtually no room to display any of the artifacts it possesses.
In accepting the grant, the village board authorized spending $11,250 for design and engineering services for the west well house, which will be completed by Antunovich Associates, the firm responsible for the restoration design of the water tower itself.
According to the proposal submitted by Antunovich to Village Manager Kathleen Rush, the west well house will be outfitted with a new heating/air-conditioning system, a new floor (which will include an ADA-comliant ramp), new lighting and repair and painting of the interior walls and ceiling.
Rush said she expects to have a completed design in hand no earlier than June, and that construction wouldn’t begin until probably August at the earliest. A separate issue is the purchase or construction of display cases for exhibits. According to Rush, such an expense “is not budgeted anywhere,” although she noted that the Riverside Historical Commission does have a fund it might be able to tap into for such an expenditure.
Bartholomew confirmed that the commission has set aside $30,000 from its own fund to purchase display cases. Should the cases cost more than $30,000, they might be phased in as funds become available, she said.
If all goes smoothly, Rush said she anticipated that the new building might be ready for use in late fall, perhaps November.