Roos family part of early Forest Park history

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By Jean Lotus

Editor

The enormous brick building with the funny name Roos is being demolished, and with it, brick-by-brick, an era of history in Forest Park comes to an end.

The Roos Cedar Chest factory was, at one time the largest industrial concern in Forest Park, employing 400 people. The company created wooden bridal hope chests, marketed around the world. Three million feet of cedar a year were used, which required 1,200 trees per day to be cut.

The factory was forced to slow down during World War II, and reopened for a few years until it was sold in 1951 and all 150 employees were laid off.

The Roos name reaches back to the early years of Forest Park, previously known as Harlem. In 1868, Bernard Roos was a founder of German Waldheim (now Forest Home) Cemetery, consecrated in 1871. His son Albert founded the A. Roos and Sons Bank, which became the Harlem Savings Bank (later Forest Park State Bank), in 1897. Albert's son, Fred B. Roos, became an Illinois State Representative, while son Albert C. formed the singing group Harlem Maennerchor, which exists to this day.

Albert C. helped found the Forest Park Businessmen's Assoc. in 1912 (today's Forest Park Chamber of Commerce) and was later president of the Kiwanis Club and served as Treasurer for the Proviso Township School District. Both Fred and Albert C. were village officers: Albert C., Collector and Fred, Attorney.

Their uncle Edward owned Ed Roos Manufacturing, a small Chicago wooden chest company at the turn of the century.

Edward died in 1907, but his sons Edward and Otto took over the Chicago business at 1024 S. Van Buren. In 1916 during World War I, the government shut down the business because the product was considered a luxury.

In 1918, Edward Roos joined his cousins in Forest Park, where he built the first Roos cedar chest factory with a $100,000 investment. By 1928 the brick building on Harrison Street exceeded 85,000 square feet. The company employed 400 people and was the town's "largest local manufactury." Shrewd magazine marketing and a sales force made the cedar chest a "must-have" item for new brides.

But Edward Roos died in 1943 at age 62, and the business never really bounced back after the government once more curtailed manufacturing during World War II.

The factory later housed the Fisher Pen Co. and Castle Soap Co.

In the 1990s the brick behemoth became vacant and underused. In 2005, developer Alex Troyanovsky went broke after taking out a $15 million construction loan to convert the Roos building into lofts and townhomes. As commercial foreclosure wound its way through banks and courts for years, the building fell into disrepair.

The Park District of Forest Park acquired the building in May for $499,000. When part of the ceiling collapsed in a late June storm, the village issued an emergency order to demolish the structure.

Thanks to Historical Society of Forest Park Director Diane Hansen Grah for historical details.

Contact:
Email: jlotus@forestparkreview.com Twitter: @FP_Review

Reader Comments

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Julie Eaton Daniels from Portage  

Posted: February 4th, 2016 7:45 PM

I have a very old Roos cedar chest that has the rooster stamp on the inside of the lid. It has original stamp and also the date of 1871. Which I believe would be one of Edward Roos original chests before his death in 1906 or 07... It would have to be a chest made by Edward Sr. Before his sons Otto or Edward Jr. Took over. I was wondering if any one would know anymore about this cedar chest and its value. I understand the original Roos mgf. Co. Was in Chicago and was established in 1871.. So this would definitely be an original piece. Any info. Would be greatly appreciated.

South Lesa Lorraine from Hoopeston Illinois 60942   

Posted: December 29th, 2015 2:21 PM

I Have a Ed Roos excellent shape chest with flat iron and wheels on bottom at least a 1920

Maureen Barden Peabody from Leesburg,Fl  

Posted: September 21st, 2015 5:30 PM

Not a funny name to my family. Roos was my greatgrandmother's maiden name. Addie married Rial Standish in NW Ohio.

Andrew Russ Hann IV  

Posted: June 26th, 2015 3:42 PM

We were just giving a roos chest it still has the 3 year warranty all the paperwork is

Pam Fontana  

Posted: March 24th, 2015 8:36 PM

Tammy, there are many of us that still have our Roos chests. I have two.

Tammy L. Yates from Clearwater, Florida  

Posted: March 24th, 2015 7:14 PM

Hello. I have recently acquired what seems to be a very old and somewhat damaged cedar chest. It has a partial name printed on the lid which led me to this web page. My husband and I love it and are attempting to restore it. Just wanted to let someone knowthat there is at least one in existance still. And it is cherished. Thank you.

Mary Roos Dodge from Port St. Lucie, FL  

Posted: August 16th, 2013 6:19 PM

Yes, it may be a funny name, but a short one to spell every time you had to give it to someone. Thanks for this history about my family. I am the granddaughter of Fred B. Roos.

Karen  

Posted: August 7th, 2013 8:34 AM

Thanks for the interesting and informative history of this building. Do we know exact dates for when it will be coming down?

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