E. Dundee landmark to meet the wrecking ball
Anyone who has walked or cycled the Kane County bike path in East Dundee knows this building well.
It's big, yellow and looks like it should have fallen down decades ago. It's across from the path and overshadows the Dundee Township Tourism Center.
This landmark has no sign on it, but it is part of the Doederlein Lumber Co. complex, across from the Anvil Club.
From the peeling yellow paint on its rotted sideboards, passers-by see a sentimental eyesore and wonder what's inside? And, why is it still standing?
The business hasn't been used as a lumber supplier in years. Its patriarch, Fred Doederlein, died last year, and there are no plans to reopen it.
Wonder no more. Fred's widow, DeLoris, is encouraging Dundee Township residents to photograph the warehouse now because its days are numbered. She plans to donate the three-story building and property to East Dundee, where village trustees will knock it down and plant grass seed to expand the park surrounding the tourist center complex.
"People have already started taking wedding and engagement pictures near the building," she said. "I guess they like the looks of it."
Before it becomes a mere photographic memory, though, Deloris has to empty out the structure and get rid of all the "stuff" that has collected in it.
"For decades we've been storing furniture that local residents didn't have room for," she said. "They came to us saying they will be back in a few weeks and months to pick it up. Some of them came back, and others just left their items in there. Now they are ours to clean out."
Residents left their old manual typewriters, bed headboards, chairs, pianos, organs, carpeting, tables and china cabinets in the warehouse. They also left theater equipment, antique washing presses for bed sheets, televisions and cooking pots and pans.
Some of the items are broken and some have weakened with age.
"One of the old organs in there was played in the statehouse in Springfield. I'm going to keep that," said DeLoris, a retired Illinois state representative. "And the old elevator hardware that was used when it was a working grain and lumber warehouse should be saved and kept.
"The other stuff, I don't know what to do with."
Ironically, only a wall separates the dusty, musty items from the grounds of the Dundee Township Old Farmers Market, which is held during the spring, summer, and fall on the tourism center's grounds.
No doubt, antique and collectible dealers would love to get their hands on some of the items, DeLoris said. But she has not spoken to any of them to have a township rummage sale.
When that wall comes down, the warehouse will be lost to the age of memories.
Anyone who has lived in Dundee Township for more than 70 years will remember when the freight trains stopped next to the building and unloaded lumber through its second story doors.
Also, they will remember when passenger trains stopped next to the building for passengers at the East Dundee depot.
The tourism center, which Fred Doederlein spearheaded the construction of, sits on the property where the depot was located.
Before they brought in lumber at the turn of the 20th century, the trains carried grain to it when it was owned and used by the Farmers Cooperative Elevator Company.
"When Fred's father (Walter) worked at the warehouse, it was considered the most modern lumber shed in the Midwest," DeLoris said. "The elevator equipment made it easy to unload the trains."
Then there were the years when the building and others along the tracks housed coal for the area.
"Now it has a lot of junk in it," she said. "And that junk has a lot of dust on it."
That junk has been protected from the weather, though. With a solid new roof over the building, the contents of the warehouse — and the handful of raccoons that have called the warehouse home through the generations — have been protected from the snow and rain.
After village leaders and DeLoris sign a contract to transfer the building, she will have 30 days to empty it, said Robert Skurla, East Dundee village administrator.
"Once it is down, we'll be able to square off the property where it stands and add to the park surrounding the tourist center," Skurla said. "It will be a nice addition."
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