THOSE WERE THE DAYS: THE “ROUNDHOUSE” CIRCA 1908

What is that little white round building? Over and over again that question is asked by strangers and newcomers.

The “roundhouse,” preserved near City Hall.

The “roundhouse,” preserved near City Hall.

Joyce Wagner, editing the Warrenville News during the summer of 1960 from the castle-like structure, decided to do an investigative piece on her headquarters.  Her “Tower Topics” column reporting her findings was somewhat less than sensational. All she could dig up was the unromantic spectacle of a bunch of pipes.

It has been asserted that the profusion of living springs in Warrenville drew the first settlers here. Years later William J. Manning discovered an artesian well on his farm, and he announced even before subdividing that he intended to pipe the water from his overflowing springs to all the houses. The 12-foot diameter circular lot was indicated on his survey recorded in November 1906, and assuredly the purpose of the site was already designated.

Perhaps the Michigan Avenue water tower that survived the Chicago fire inspired him; whatever his reasons for building the elaborate camouflage for his water works will have to remain with him and the Hotchkiss Concrete Stone Company.

The intriguing tower, which William Manning deeded to his son, Ralph in 1915, has seen a few side lines within its confines over the years. Matt Moran and his half brother, Alex ran a thriving business in “the Tribune Tower” for several years, vending candies and tobacco as well as magazines and newspapers, and operating a film service.  Mary Singleterry’s short-lived confectionary shop occupied the place in 1946, and then George Soukup sold bakery goods there before opening his grocery store on Warren Avenue.  Earl Brogie bought the building in 1970 for a gift shop, but it was closed in a dispute with the city fathers.

Most of the time the roundhouse has been vacant.  Sometimes it is cursed as a safety hazard, or sneered at as a worthless nuisance; other times it is pointed to as a not-to-be-tampered-with historical monument.  At all times, it is a conversation piece.

Many residents stop by the Museum and tell us their memories of this community icon.  Do you have a story about the roundhouse? Email the Historical Society at info@warrenvillehistorical.org or stop by the Museum and record your memory to add to the history of this interesting structure!

Taken from Leone Schmidt’s In and Around Historic Warrenville

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