Archive for the ‘Government buildings’ Category


November 13, 2016


Prairie Center 2 of 1

Prairie Center 2 of 2

These wonderful renderings of the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts were recently discovered on a 1983 calendar prepared by the First Bank of Schaumburg.

The drawings were created by architects, LaRocca Associates of Chicago, in anticipation of construction of the Prairie Center.  It had been many years in the making and was soon to come to fruition.

Two years later, on March 13, 1985, the invitation for bids went out to the public.  Final approval had been given for a building that would contain a 429-seat theater, ticket office and conference rooms, as well as an outdoor plaza.  The location would be just east of the Municipal Center on Summit Drive at a planned cost of $2.2 million. The project was paid for through a special endowment of funds collected over the years from developers.

Not surprisingly, there had been earlier suggestions for an even larger venue.  As far back as 1968, former Mayor Robert Atcher had originally planned a 500-seat drama theater and a 900-seat concert hall.  Scott Fisher, who was the chairman of the Cultural Commission in 1983, favored a 750-seat hall but the price was too high.  And, interestingly, prior consideration had also been given to a proposed site near Woodfield Mall.

The bid for the scaled down project in 1985 was eventually awarded to International Contractors of Elmhurst and building commenced in May of that year.

During the course of construction, consideration was given to who would be the director of the Cultural Center.  By July, Village President Herbert Aigner suggested that the village board opt for former President Bob Atcher as the ideal candidate.  “His heart is in this.  He’s in the entertainment field. He’s got contacts with major business people and a tremendous reputation.”  (Daily Herald, 7/17/1985)  After giving it some thought, the 71-year-old President Atcher turned down the job, concerned that the time necessary to devote to the job was more than he was comfortable with.

In October the village hired Elizabeth Armistead, former program coordinator for the Hemmen’s Auditorium in Elgin.  Going forward, her duties were to manage the Center, be involved in the construction process of the building, establish a group of part-time workers to assist her in day-to-day operations and seek out entertainment for the venue.  To this day, Ms. Armistead continues in her role, even as that role has expanded to include oversight of Septemberfest, the Prairie Arts Festival, the village’s cable channels and the Volunteer of the Year Awards program.

On June 14, 1986, a little over a year after the project had begun, grand opening ceremonies were held.  The stars of the show were former Schaumburg Village President Robert Atcher and his wife Maggie and their three children.  Having long desired such a facility for the village, the Atcher family returned their gratitude with a country and western concert to the an appreciative audience of nearly 200 people.

Kudos were also extended to William Lambert who originally donated some 40 acres of land to the village as the future site of the municipal center and cultural center.  He was given the honor of cutting the ribbon that stretched from end to end across the new stage.



Twenty years later, during the 50th anniversary year of the Village of Schaumburg, the theater at the Prairie Center was officially dedicated to Maggie Atcher who helped form the first cultural arts commission in Schaumburg.  It was a fitting bookend to the building next door, the Robert O. Atcher Municipal Center.

Today the Prairie Center continues to offer itself as a lineup for entertainment, a venue for local orchestras and choirs and a patio for the festivals held on the municipal center grounds.  Even if you haven’t been there for an attraction, you may just want to stroll the grounds.  The walking paths are an enticement to return again!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library


April 29, 2012

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

The Gieseke/Hammerstein farm house is one of the most historic buildings in Hoffman Estates.  It can be found on a quiet residential street surrounded by small ranch homes that were built in 1957 and 1958.

John and Caroline Gieseke were immigrant German farmers who bought their 165-acre farm from the U.S. Government in the mid 1850’s. Land sold for $1.50 an acre.   An Indian trail went through the farm and Pottawatomie Indians would stop for a cold drink or sit and rest on the front porch.

The third generation of Giesekes, John and Edwin, sold the farm to Arthur and Dorothy Hammerstein in 1943.  The Hammersteins added additional barns, new silos, and several smaller homes along with an additional 100 acres.  They hired Architect Thomas McCaughey of Park Ridge who made major changes to the old farmhouse.  When finished the newly renovated farmhouse had 5 bedrooms, seven bathrooms, servant quarters, a kitchen in the basement and a wine cellar.

Arthur was the uncle of Oscar Hammerstein II who was famous for his Broadway musicals and Dorothy was a silent movie star.  Dorothy especially enjoyed the quite rural life.  Their farm was known as “Cardoa Farm” but Arthur jokingly called it “Headacres” when the farm work got the best of him.  They raised pure blooded and registered Duroc Jersey hogs and Holstein dairy cattle.

When Arthur died in 1954, Dorothy sold the farm to F & S Construction for $150 an acre.  Within a year Hoffman Estates was springing up from the corn fields.  The farm house became the field headquarters for F & S Construction.  The largest of the barns became the first Community Center but on Nov. 11, 1959 a fire broke out and the barn burned to the ground. Another fire damaged part of the farmhouse.

Shortly after the fires Jack Hoffman deeded the property to the Hoffman Estates Home Owners Association.  With incorporation in Sept. of 1959, the farmhouse became our first village hall, police department and maintenance garage.  Fire insurance money along with an additional $19,500 was used to remodel and repair the 100 year old building.  Certified Construction Co. was awarded the bid in late Sept. of 1960.

The village hall grounds originally had a duck pond and several swamps.  The five acre site also had 75 trees, among them were 19 apple, 5 pear and 4 cherry trees.  Eventually the pond and swamps were filled in and the old silos torn down.

When the Village moved to their new home on Gannon Dr., the large white farmhouse was used by Health and Human Services and later became home to the Children’s Advocacy Center.  Through the efforts of Mayor O’Malley, the trade’s people from 20 local trade unions took on the aging farmhouse as a remodeling project.  Their volunteer work and donation of time and materials earned the Village the 1993 Governor’s Home Town Award.  The Center pays $1 a year for rent and many volunteer hours are still donated toward the upkeep of the now 150 year old farmhouse.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian


September 18, 2011

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

It’s been more than 45 years since our Hoffman Estates Post Office opened for business in the Hoffman Plaza on February 4, 1966.  It was a wonderful convenience for all the residents of Hoffman Estates.  Our own post office had finally opened that cold February morning.  The first customer was Dr. Alex Waxler.  Postal staff consisted of 15 to 20 people, Superintendent Sheldon Galanter, his assistant, 2 clerks and the remainder was postal carriers.  The post office was at the south end of the plaza located were South Beach used to be.  It was so nice to be able to mail packages at a full service post office with our own Hoffman Estates post mark.  No more trips to Roselle with Christmas packages and bundles of cards. 

The story of our first post office begins in early 1960 with 9 months of negotiations with the postal authorities seeking permission to establish a post office in Hoffman Estates.  In late October of 1960, Hoffman Estates Village president Ed Pinger received permission from the board of trustees to search for an appropriate site. Trustee Jenkins suggested that residents send letters asking for a post office for their town. 

In June of 1962 Democratic Senator for Illinois, Paul Douglas, pledged his support for a new post office.  Shortly after, on July 2, 1962, Senator Douglas announced the establishment of a Roselle branch post office for Hoffman Estates.  We would finally have our own post mark “Hoffman Estates” on all our mail.  All of the town residents at that time had Roselle, IL 60172 as their mailing address.

In the mean time, public bids for temporary postal substations were called for by the Roselle postmaster and Frank Vaccaro of Frank’s Beauty Salon, located in Hoffman Plaza, was awarded the contract.  He opened the first postal substation on November 1, 1962.  He would continue this community public service until July, 1963 when he was no longer able to handle the increased work load due to the rapid growth of the village. Going through another Christmas season was next to impossible for him.  By the spring of 1962, the population of Hoffman Estates had risen to 13,000 residents.  Another substation opened at the Cloths Basket, a laundry and dry cleaning establishment at 213 S. Roselle Rd. It closed in September, 1964 due to increased volume of mail and services. Once again a local businessman, Joseph Boris of B & K Realty came forward to become the next postal substation. 

Impatient to get their own post office, Hoffman Estates residents didn’t see the beginning of construction until the foundation was poured in the summer of 1964.  After many delays with bidding, as well as construction delays and delays with government contracts, the post office opened more than 3 ½ years after Senator Douglas’ announcement.  Postal carrier’s hourly wage back then was $2.57. 

Our present day post office at 1255 Gannon Dr. opened in the fall of 1988.  It’s been a good 45 years of service.  Offer a nice cold drink to your carrier on a hot day to say thanks.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian


August 8, 2010

During the early years of development in Schaumburg Township, it wasn’t just houses that were being built at a furious clip, it was schools too.   On April 3, 1958  F & S Construction–who was the developer of the early homes in Hoffman Estates–and the District 54 school board announced plans for the construction of the 5th and largest school yet in the elementary district.

The announcement was dramatic in that the school was desperately needed but also because the design was so unique.  Fridstein and Fitch, the architects commissioned by F & S, were instructed to design a 12 room school that conformed with the elongated, narrow property that ran along the east side of Illinois Blvd at Schaumburg Road. 

What they initially came up with was a double hexagonal design with 6 classrooms in each hexagon with doors leading to the outside.  The two hexagons were connected by a central area for office space, restrooms and a lobby.

More than 80 percent of the sides were glass and the roof had enough of an overhang so that classrooms did not receive direct sunlight.  Each hexagon had a folded roof with six gables and a clear story in the center to permit sunlight to enter the corridors and to provide ventilation for the individual heating units.

However, as plans progressed, a third hexagon was added to the rear that housed an all-purpose theater style auditorium for school assembly use.  It featured a large stage, dressing and washing rooms, floor space for school athletic and community activities.  According to Keith, one of our commenters below, the school did not have a cafeteria so many of the neighborhood children went home for lunch.  In addition, he also noted that the playground was covered with smooth pea-sized river rock.

By the end of construction, the outlay for F & S was $175,000.  And, since a new building needs a new principal, Octavio Candelara was hired for the job by District 54’s first superintendent, Robert Flum.  It should also be noted that Anne Fox who was later to have a school in Hanover Park named for her also spent some time teaching at Blackhawk.

In 1958 the community was already making good use of the building’s stage.  The Hoffman Estates Theater Guild held their first production “The Tender Trap” on December 5th and 6th and followed with showings of “Harvey” and “Sabrina Fair” in 1959.  In addition, the Hoffman Estates Baptist Church, a mission of the First Baptist Church of Palatine was holding services in the hallways in 1959.

Much beloved by the community and given awards for its innovative design, the school, nevertheless, closed in 1976 because of a decline in attendance.  In the fall of 1977, the school district vacated the building and the Schaumburg Township offices moved into the building from the Buttery on Roselle Road. The building was razed in November, 1996 after a new Township office was built on the same site.

What are your memories of Blackhawk School/Schaumburg Township offices?  It was certainly a unique building for its time and almost reminds me of a school you would see in Southern California.  Any thoughts?

(Photo of Blackhawk School courtesy of the Hoffman Estates History Museum.  Photo of Anne Fox courtesy of Bill Engler.)