The city of McHenry has designated the property that Riverside Chocolate Factory occupies a historic landmark.
The business is located at 2102 W. Route 120, at the corner of Route 120 and Chapel Hill Road. Property owners Diana and Robert Hunter petitioned the city to receive the status, according to city documents.
Olaf Olsen, a carpenter who immigrated to America from Norway in 1904, constructed the uniquely shaped building in the 1930s, according to city documents. The structure originally was known as the Pine Tree Tower and was the tallest building in the area at the time, according to city documents.
Olsen lived with family on Fair Oak Lane during that time, according to city documents.
Pine Tree Tower has housed a hamburger and ice cream shop; a real estate office; a pet shop and now the chocolate factory, according to city documents.
The Hunter family began Riverside Chocolate Factory at the corner of Pearl Street and Riverside Drive in 1986. In 1990, the two moved the business to its existing building.
Riverside Chocolate Factory is a chocolatier company that offers a variety of products, such as chocolate bacon, bear claws, turtles, truffles and more, according to its website.
Olsen’s granddaughter Nancy Hill wrote a letter to city officials regarding the property.
“Unusual buildings, especially old ones, add interest to the landscape and lend a historical flavor to the community,” Hill wrote. “A building such as this – whose design was most likely intended to advertise the business it housed – is one of the themed roadside structures that appeared in the mid-20th century.”
Those types of buildings drew travelers in during the automobile age, she wrote.
Hill said the building serves as a familiar and welcoming sight for residents and visitors.
“It is a reference point in the mental maps that people acquire over time and helps provide a legible environment that enriches our everyday experience and sense of security,” she wrote. “Without such connections to sense of time, it diminishes the human experience of the place.”