OK, we’re convinced. Last week Larry Piekarz, executive director of the park district, took our editor and photographer on an interior tour of the about to be acquired Roos Building.
This once handsome, once substantial manufacturing building is now a derelict wreck – dangerous, actively decaying. With its access effectively unsecured, it is also a daily litigation risk with the holes in its floors, the collapsing ceilings. The Roos Building must be demolished as soon after the park district closes on the parcel as is possible. Piekarz said he is working on demolition bids already.
Certainly all of us who have long admired the Roos find this a discouraging outcome. The façade facing Harrison Street is a reminder of the era of entrepreneurial capitalism when an owner put his name on a building and a stamp on the community with some architectural extras such as the columns at the entry. The rest of the building with its 10×10 wood beams and tall ceilings recalled the time when America made real things – in this case generations of memories with the Roos Company’s well-crafted cedar chests, otherwise known as the hope chests of millions of brides.
That is a history that would have been satisfying to save. But years of exposure to the elements as the building was ground up by foreclosure and bank failures have rendered a verdict and that verdict is demolition. Attempting now to reclaim the Roos would prove nothing but unknowable expense for generous taxpayers who voted to grow their great park and its programming more than to save a relic.
Take down the Roos, start planning the clean slate of these two-plus acres, save elements of the Roos columns as Piekarz suggests for some sort of gateway to the park and let’s have some fun.