BOLINGBROOK – Bolingbrook's oldest historical marker now has a new look.
A collaborative effort by the Bolingbrook Historical Preservation Commission, Bolingbrook Public Works Department and First Midwest Bank, the Barber's Corners landmark – located near the intersection of Route 53 and Boughton Road – was recently refurbished and redesigned in order to increase pedestrian visibility.
The engraved placard – which details the excursion of John Barber, one of the area's original settlers – was previously situated atop a knee-high boulder in the First Midwest Bank parking lot, but now rests prominently on a 5-foot-tall post, peering out toward the bustling intersection.
The restoration was long overdue, said Historical Preservation Commission Chair Bill Kohl, explaining that the landmark had not been touched after it was first completed in September 1979.
He emphasized that being able to see the landmark from both the street and sidewalk was the driving force behind the renovation.
"A lot has changed since the Barber's Corners landmark was first built in 1979," Kohl said. "The landmark has withstood harsh winters and a growing retail community. But, before the restoration, it could not be seen outside the parking lot."
Earlier this year, the Historical Preservation Commission approached First Midwest Bolingbrook Bank Branch Manager Amy Monahan about restoring the monument. The bank happily obliged, funding the $160 renovation cost, according to Monahan.
The monument was tarnished, chipping and was tough to read, Monahan recalls.
"First Midwest Bank and the Historical Preservation Commission agreed that, most importantly, it should be seen from the street. It is great exposure for both parties and provides nice historical insight about the village's past," she said.
In fact, Barber's Corners predates the village itself.
In 1832, when John Barber, his wife Emma Barber and their four children trekked west from Vermont, they laid claim to 211 acres of land located on the east side of Route 53, eventually founding a rural community and establishing the local First Presbyterian Church in 1833.
Over the last century-and-a-half, the corner has transformed from a general store to a Methodist Church, a cheese factory, a one-room school house and a bank. It was twice the location of the DuPage Post Office.
Long before Bolingbrook was incorporated in 1965, the surrounding area was marked on maps by one thing: "Barber's Corners."
While Barber's Corners is currently surrounded by retail and shopping centers, it will remain an appealing stop for a five-minute history break, Kohl said.
Historical Preservation Commission member and former chair Judy Bredewig believe that, during an era of rapid change, the Barber's Corners landmark will forever remind residents of their roots.
"We built Bolingbrook from farmland and dirt and gravel roads," Bredewig said. "Barber's Corners is an important reminder of our past, and now it can be enjoyed by present and future generations."