Fire, water and something in between: A trio of intriguing buildings in Maywood

September 8, 2011

The photo above is of a 102-year-old former fire station in the western suburb of Maywood, Ill., a leafy but rough-around-the-edges town just west of River Forest--Oak Park's more affluent neighbor--along the bank of the Des Plaines River.

It's Maywood's first fire station, located at St. Charles Road near 5th Avenue. It was retired from duty long ago and it looks as if someone in recent years has turned the place into a residence, preserving a great-looking building crowned with a remarkable stair-step parapet.

The structure is one of three impressive buildings that stand together shoulder-to-shoulder on the industrial street. The first is a water department building built the same time as the firehouse. The architectural style is compatible with that of the fire station with that killer roof line and striated blond brick facade:

The building in the middle is a puzzle. I couldn't find it on the tax rolls, so I was unable to determine a date of construction--and its blocky Art Deco style would indicate it was either built or recladded after the two end buildings. The original use was also a mystery, although by the looks of it, the building would have made a great powerhouse or police station. It is a youth center today:

And all together now (although I wish I'd brought a wider lens with me):

Architecture doesn't come to mind when you think of Maywood. But it should. The suburb of 27,000 has been marred by blight, crime and loss of industry. Yet the village possesses a collection of late 19th and early 20th century homes and public buildings that rivals that of their suburban neighbors to the east. There are large Prairie School homes, particularly on Maywood's northeastern edge; Queen Anne homes, substantial former bank and commercial buildings--the works. Some are tattered, torn and outright endangered (click on this link, then scroll down to see the Prairie School/Arts and Crafts bungalow designed by Talmadge and Watson that's for sale for $129,000) but they're still standing. And that's the important thing.