HOME » online historical archives » news clipping month index » March, 1993 »

[month index] [previous] [next]

Newspaper Clippings for
March, 1993

from the pages of the Chicago Tribune 4 March 1993
Way of life collides with U.S. 45 plan
by LeAnn Spencer
For more than 100 years, the world has been whizzing by Millburn with scarcely a backward glance.
Passersby have slipped through the historic little community as they travel busy U.S. Highway 45 on their way to someplace else.
But lack of attention has been quite all right, thank you, for the 60 or so folks of Millburn. Most want to preserve the town's status as a historical district, one of the county's last standing reminders of an early 1800s settlement.
But now some fear that progress could change the face of Millburn. The unincorporated village lies directly in the path of U.S. 45, and the Illinois Department of Transportation is studying the possibility of widening the highway from Illinois Highway 120 in north central Lake County all the way north to the state line.
No decision has been made and public hearings are three to four months away, but preservationists are working with transportation officials to make them aware of Millburn's historic status.
Indeed, the area's band of history buffs - who live in unincorporated Millburn or have an abiding interest in preserving the community - have been looking out for this rural patch of history since 1979, when they first got wind of a possible state plan to widen U.S. 45.
The group formed the Historic Millburn Community Association Inc., which boasts about 50 members, said Dorothy Fettinger, president of the association and an unabashed Millburn booster.
"There's a lot of community spirit here," said Fettinger, who also volunteers at Martin's General Store, the last of Millburn's original businesses.
In the last century, U.S. 45 was little more than a gravel track that ran from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico, and Millburn grew up along the route. It eventually boasted two stores, three doctors, a milliner, seamstress, blacksmith and a tiny schoolhouse.
Millburn's citizens have been protecting their own ever since, beginning long before the association was born. According to Reva Konefes, whose greatgrandparents immigrated from Scotland to settle in Millburn, turn-of-the-century residents managed to turn away a proposed railroad line, and it eventually was routed through Antioch.
Today, thanks to the efforts of the association members, the community's historic district includes 18 buildings on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
The area has a certain country charm. You won't find a gas station, strip mall or department store. The only businesses are the old store and a new gallery.
The general store, which Fettinger said is the oldest continuously operating store in the county, is open only on weekends and sells antiques and displays a collection of artifacts.
Most of the landmark buildings are nestled on their wooded lots, surrounded by area farms. But several sit perilously close to the shoulder of the highway.
Fortunately for the preservationists, landmark status makes it more difficult for the state to condemn the land to make way for a road, said Anne Hacker, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
If a highway project uses federal or state funding, transportation officials must meet with preservation officials and prove that all other alternatives have been considered, she said.
The state Department of Transportation is studying a variety of options in the area, said Richard Starr, a Transportation Department spokesman. No decision has been made, and public hearings will not be held for three to four months, Starr said.
Options include constructing bypasses on either side of town, but each has its problems.
On the east side is the cemetery where gravestones memorialize Millburn's first families, who had Scottish names such as Strang, McCredie, Bairstow, and Bonner.
To the west is 300-acre McDonald Forest Preserve, a portion of Lindenhurst and privately owned farmland.
Members of the historic association would like to see a U.S. 45 bypass on the road. They said that it would be the lesser of many evils and would fix an awkward curve just north of town, uproot few people and pave only a sliver of the forest preserve.
Still, many in Millburn acknowledged that they would rather just be left alone.
"It's discouraging to see development moving into the area so rapidly," said Dawn Revenaugh, owner of the Millburn Gallery.
Revenaugh and her husband, Bill, moved to Millburn from Lake Forest 10 years ago and have settled into an 1890s farmhouse. The gallery is in a remodeled chicken coop and overlooks a portion of McDonald Forest Preserve.
A small stream winds through the property, and Revenaugh said that if the road were widened she would lose her wooded front yard.
Meanwhile, an ungainly new stop light, still wrapped in burlap, hangs over the intersection where Grass lake Road and Millburn Road meet U.S. 45.
It serves as an uncomfortable reminder to Millburn preservationists that even though the village historically has been able to avoid many of the trappings of modern life, Millburn's future may not look the same.
"We realize that we may not live ling enough to see a highway built here," Fettinger said, "but if they would only designate the right-of-way before people build more houses and subdivisions ..."
[month index] [previous] [next]