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Article updated: 10/17/2013 12:09 PM

Whitewash of a piece of Elgin's history


As Lisa Madrid sees it, a piece of Elgin's history was erased when her landlord painted over a vintage sign on the side of the downtown business she runs.

Madrid, owner of Retro-a-GoGo at the corner of Villa and Chicago Streets, says she arrived at her shop last Thursday to find the Carswell's Flooring sign had been covered over by a coat of white paint.

The longtime flooring store closed several years ago, but had been a fixture in Elgin for decades. Madrid said it fit well with the theme of her store, adding that she got the city's permission to keep it intact when she opened her business almost two years ago.

But the owner of the building, Joe Jacknick, told her painting over the sign would enhance the look of the outside of the building, she says.

"I told him repeatedly, 'Do not paint over that,' and he just did," she said. "And he did it pretty sneaky, because I'm closed on Wednesdays. I would have chained myself to the building to make him not do it, if I was here."

Jacknick could not be reached for comment.

Madrid said she fears people may think the paint job was her idea.

"My biggest worry is that people are going to think that I did that, and that it's going to hurt my business," she said, "I'm sick, I'm just really sick over it."

Madrid and a city official acknowledged Jacknick, as the owner of the building, had every right to paint it, but was skeptical that the effort was about sprucing up the property; several other areas on the north exterior wall are in far worse shape, she said.

Sarosh Saher, senior planner for the city, said local laws allow signs like these to remain on city buildings, but no part of the ordinance prohibits a property owner from removing them.

Elgin resident Elisa Groh, who's grandfather used to own Groh Leather and Western a few doors down the street, said she was disappointed to see Elgin lose a point of civic pride.

"I was sad to see (Carswell's Flooring) go, but I was happy that the mural remained," Groh said, "I feel it's a tragedy that it was painted over with disregard to the historic value of it to the city."

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