Justin Skolnick lives and works in Portland.

Historical Preservation Week

Originally posted to justin.revision8.com on in Cary, Illinois

The artist “painted from the driver’s seat of his car, resting the board against his steering wheel.” By squatting below each image and looking up, his lines appear parallel. Unsatisfied with his subject in one watercolor, he added a cupola to the structure, only to learn years later that the original house plans included a cupola.

The house, incidently, belonged to the Mr. Cary for which the town is named. Trivia for some future Antiques Roadshow.

My bank exhibited the work of local artists as it relates to Cary-Grove, just one part of McHenry County Historical Preservation Week. Photo exhibits, slide shows, a “Historic House Detective,” a lecture on “the ecological advantages of prairie plants,” and a collection of informative placemats in area restaurants rounded out the event list.

My fascination with the area’s development began years ago, when I first thumbed the County’s official history book, published (I think) in 1968. These places grew from a line of sleepy whistle-stops into the sooty suburbs they are today. A 1950s aereal photograph of downtown Cary depicts no more than a few hundred meters centered on the junction of 14 and Main — site of the train station — with wide grassy patches already at its edges.

From the smiling figures splashing in the river I see in other photos, Fox River Grove appears to have been a summer hotspot. Business clustered a few steps from the depot: the theater, the market, the bakery. Resort necessities. Anymore I can’t imagine a single season affecting the area’s revenue.