Schaumburg history, artwork celebrated in Al Larson's final ribbon-cutting as village president
During his 32 years as village president of Schaumburg, Al Larson has been a constant promoter and fierce defender of the village's art, history and culture, community members say. It's only fitting that his final ribbon-cutting ceremony in the top seat Sunday paid homage to the town's historic crossroads through public artwork.
The newly constructed Heritage Park at the northwest corner of Schaumburg and Roselle roads sits in the heart of the Olde Schaumburg Centre, where much of the community's commerce and social life boomed at the turn of the 20th century. Dedicated Sunday by the village and the One Percent for Art Committee, the parcel contains two large brick walls embedded with murals depicting the families and establishments of early Schaumburg.
"Heritage Park is celebrated both as an object of art and culture. Certainly, that's something we're doing a lot in Schaumburg," Larson said. "This is a dedication to the history of Schaumburg (and) where it all began."
Originally the site of a one-room school house, the land was more recently planned to be included in an adjacent residential neighborhood, landscape and design planner Todd Wenger said. But as designs progressed and a turn lane was added to Roselle Road, the parcel became too small to be developed and instead was slated as a park.
Working with the local library and historical society, the One Percent for Art Committee chose to incorporate various photos that members hoped would represent a "broad swath" of the village's history, Wenger said. The murals show a hotel that has since been converted into a pub, a German Lutheran church built in 1863, a general store that burned to the ground, an early grain mill, a former bank building and various other businesses that made up that intersection, along with the people who inhabited it.
The park was funded through the One Percent for Art program, which was established by Larson nearly two decades ago to allocate 1% of the village's capital budget to public artwork, Wenger said.
"Mayor Larson has always been a champion of the arts. His vision and dedication have personally inspired me to design spaces that engage and enliven our community," he said. "I will forever be grateful for the opportunity he provided me to help beautify Schaumburg and create memorable places."
Larson, 80, who did not seek re-election this year, credited village trustees for supporting his vision to "preserve sites such as these." He is stepping down from his post Tuesday to hand the job over to Village President-elect Tom Dailly.
Historic maps, records and aerial photos show that the crossroads are "where everything started," said Jane Rozek, local history librarian at Schaumburg Township District Library. Photos of that era's buildings and people deserve to be memorialized in a park, rather than sitting in the library's collection, she said.
"It's nice to have a mayor who had not only a vision of the future but also remembered the past," Rozek said. "To incorporate this park into the future of Schaumburg is a pretty cool thing to do."