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Reclaiming Wood in a Rehabbed Firehouse

Some said it couldn’t be done, but…behold! In keeping with its mission of historic preservation, the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest [now known as the Oak Park River Forest Museum] is resuscitating the oldest municipal building in Oak Park, Illinois – a firehouse built at the turn of the last century. The firehouse, whose exterior and interior are being rehabbed to closely match their original appearance, operated there from 1898 until 1916. Subsequently, it had many other uses: a gathering place for Civil War veterans, the home of the Village health department, and a children’s theater, to name a few.

The centerpiece of the restored building is the floor-to-ceiling wood paneling on the first floor. Construction workers had to peel back four layers in order to bring to light the original Georgia pine. For the flooring, designers came up with an ingenious solution: instead of stripping out the old, scuffed and pitted floorboards, most of them were flipped over and reused.


The Oak Park firehouse will be open to the public on April 23. Visitors can see for themselves the progress that’s been made to date, and how green features are being woven into the fabric of the old structure. Recently, for example, recycled brick pavers were installed in the front yard. Below the pavers, three newly drilled 500-foot-deep boreholes contain geothermal piping that will provide energy-efficient heating and cooling for staff and patrons alike.

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