Riverside history is always interesting, especially recent articles on what was once the beautiful Babson Estate and other buildings which are no longer.
I only vaguely remember the Babson Estate as a child, noting the large house in the center of much property with long grass waving in the wind around it. It was not close to either of my houses, my parents’ on Selborne and my grandparents’ on Northgate, so I was not a regular visitor, and the bike path to my best friend’s homes were nowhere close, either. But, one could not help but be awed by how beautiful the house was and how unique it was because of its size and all of that land.
As children, we think in forevers, as in: “this beautiful house will be there forever because who, in their right mind, would want to tear it down?”
Well, as “progress” would have it, the house was torn down and the land “developed” into many smaller homes, some of the newest in the village. I guess that that was to improve the tax base. Meanwhile, we still have a few bits and pieces of the estate at the Riverside Historical Museum, but nothing which can convey the majesty of the building.
The home, apparently, did not have historic preservation status, which is very important to buildings we want to preserve in the village. I can understand why the buildings across the street from the former Henninger Pharmacy, now a condo complex, would like to see such status.
There are some monetary perks attached to that status, as well there should be if we really mean to preserve our heritage.
But, not all buildings are historic or worthy of salvation. Some are just plain, old buildings, and subject to being torn down for something better, if proposed. Maybe that would be a good fate for these buildings, which are just plain and old, and look more and more shabby with the new, shiny condos across the street as a point of comparison.
There is a potential for business in downtown Riverside, and it need not be limited to florists, which we now seemingly have in abundance.
Boutiques and specialty stores are always of interest to people both in and out of the village. Places where unique things can be bought will always generate interest. I highly doubt that major franchises would ever come downtown as they have already infiltrated surrounding villages and get more than their share of Riverside supporters as it is without having to locate here.
I think the village board has tried all sorts of ideas in trying to develop a retail tax base. The board has undergone much criticism from various groups and individuals in the village, some of it earned.
But, the fact remains that the board is trying to come up with innovative ideas on how best to keep the village afloat without having to consistently raise taxes in the landlocked community.
There are no more Babson Estates to tear down, which is easy. Now comes the hard part-keeping and maintaining a village. Because these folks are willing to serve on the village board, returning their pay by tradition (which I think is silly in this day and age), they deserve praise for trying to come up with innovative solutions.
And so, the Babson Estate joins such bygones as the old Riverside Hotel and the Hoffman Brewery which, if you can believe it, used to use Desplaines River water to make the local brew served at Hofmann Tower in Lyons. Too bad they are gone as they would have been great tourist sites.