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posted: 4/3/2014 5:30 AM

Libertyville's Butler Lake Park band shell to be razed

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  • The band shell at Butler Lake Park in Libertyville was built in the 1960s.

       The band shell at Butler Lake Park in Libertyville was built in the 1960s.
    Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • The band shell at Butler Lake Park in Libertyville has fallen into disrepair and will be torn down.

       The band shell at Butler Lake Park in Libertyville has fallen into disrepair and will be torn down.
    Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • A plaque of dedication for the Butler Lake Park band shell honors a Libertyville village trustee who died in office.

       A plaque of dedication for the Butler Lake Park band shell honors a Libertyville village trustee who died in office.
    Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

 
 

For many, the cedar canopy on the island at Butler Lake Park in Libertyville is a reminder of long-ago summer nights sprawled on the lawn across the narrow lagoon and listening to live music.

Built more than 40 years ago, the band shell hopped for a while. But in recent times, its only use has been the Libertyville Village Band's annual appearance as the prelude to the Fourth of July fireworks show.

Soon, the sagging structure and accompanying components will be torn down, leaving a concrete slab and a tiny brick storage building as the remains of a project envisioned and pursued by a local drummer in the 1960s.

"That was really his baby a long time ago," said Cecile Harris, whose husband, Dale, got the ball rolling on what originally was simply known as the community band shell. "He just got this idea to have community concerts out there. We had fundraisers, (and) a lot of builders donated the labor and materials. It has a lot of history."

The Libertyville village board last week approved a contract with Continental Construction Co., of Evanston, for $31,000 to remove the roof over the performance area and the laminated arches and knee walls, and to button up what's left.

The village staff already has removed some electrical fixtures and wiring in advance of that work.

What to do with the band shell, which has fallen into disrepair, had been discussed periodically for about six years before village officials took the plunge.

"The cost of fixing what was there was going to be substantial," Mayor Terry Weppler said. "Our thought is we'll probably put up some type of pavilion that can be used year-round" and would provide a greater benefit to residents.

The potential replacement has not been determined.

"It'll be a functional place for people to gather," said Connie Kowal, who heads the village's parks department and Sports Complex.

As he pursued the band shell, Harris' ally on the village board was Bill Robbins, a lifelong resident and linotype operator.

Besides championing the band shell, Robbins was instrumental in a village building program that included the public works and municipal facilities, as well as a fire station on Milwaukee Avenue.

The band shell had been open and operating for a few years, hosting a variety of community musical groups, when Robbins died in office at the age of 48.

In 1969, at Harris' urging, the structure on the island was rededicated as the William K. Robbins Memorial Band Shell and a plaque was affixed to the storage building.

The plaque will remain on the building.

Bands that played there through the years included the Hough Vocalaires -- named for the huge local company where Harris worked.

But activity diminished over time, and even the cavalcade of bands that played on the Fourth of July thinned to only the Village Band. Still, band manager Paul Schmidt said playing that gig has a certain charm.

"It's on a little island. It's cool," he said. "It's more than just a band shell -- it's the whole venue."

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