Old McHenry County sheriff's garage about to be history

WOODSTOCK – A historical but dilapidated garage behind the Old Courthouse soon will be demolished.

The Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission approved a certificate of appropriateness to end the life of the 1920s-born building with no roof, boarded-up windows and cracks in the
walls.

At the same Sept. 24 meeting, the commission decided to model Old Courthouse restoration on the building’s appearance in 1905.

Restoring the former McHenry County sheriff’s garage would have cost more than $60,000, the city estimated in asking for the certificate.

“From my standpoint, it really was kind of an agonizing decision,” Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Allen Stebbins said. “We need to do what we can do to preserve our historic structures, and it is a historic structure. ... But I really had to go back to where would the money be best spent.”

The city also cited a leaky water main behind the garage as a reason to take down the structure. The leak is costing the city more than $2,000 a year, Stebbins said.

Some commissioners thought the city could have explored other options for the garage, Stebbins said, but only Erica Wilson voted against the city’s request to demolish it.

The garage was built by jail inmates, including Dapper Dan McCarthy and Hymie Weiss – members of the Prohibition-era Dion O’Banion gang.

After the demolition – expected to take place before winter hits – the city will turn its attention to courthouse restoration. The decision to model the building on its 1905 self gives a first glimpse of what the finished product might look like.

Additions to the courthouse were built in 1904 and 1905, which was a major factor in the commission’s decision.

“Both of those additions really tried to duplicate the original architecture, and they’re incorporated into the floor plan and the layout of the building,” said Nancy Baker, Woodstock city planner and liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission.

Subsequent additions didn’t pay as much attention to the style of architecture, Baker said.

Stebbins said restoring the building could mean taking down a couple of later additions, including one at the north end of the front side of the building, and another on the building’s southwest corner.