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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

The Crawlspace Of Ald. Maria Hadden’s Ward Office Has Become A Preservation Haven

Rogers Park residents are encouraged to stop by the ward office for terracotta pieces and purple bricks from The Heartland Café.

This lion head terracotta has been saved and preserved at Ald. Hadden's ward office.
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ROGERS PARK — When the Heartland Café came tumbling down, some Rogers Park residents snagged a brick from the site as a way to remember their beloved neighborhood institution.

Now, another building has been razed at 1315 W. Loyola Ave., and with it, some gorgeous lion head terracotta.

But Ald. Maria Hadden’s 49th Ward office has fought to save some of Rogers Park’s precious memories.

Maria Hadden at Sol Cafe.

The lion head terracotta is the latest piece added to the basement crawlspace of her ward office at 1447 W. Morse Ave. Torrence Gardner, Hadden’s director of economic development, has been spearheading the effort.

Gardner and Hadden worked with the developer to convince them to allow them to keep the best pieces of terracotta. The building had been around since 1927 and they felt some part of it should be kept.

“Our office is becoming a place where Rogers Park’s important architectural memories are saved,” he said. “We are kind of becoming a preservation office,” he said while laughing.

Downstairs in the crawlspace sits different terracotta pieces, along with plenty of purple bricks from the Heartland Café.

Credit: Jonathan Ballew/Block Club Chicago
Dozens of neighbors stopped by to grab a brick to remember the Heartland Cafe.

And although Gardner is working to find a home for these pieces, they are encouraging Rogers Park residents to come by and take a look.

“Anyone who wants some of [these pieces] can come on by and pick them up,” he said.

The office isn’t charging anything, they just hope the bricks and terracotta go to a good home.

Gardner said their office couldn’t have saved these historic pieces without Jimmy Nuter. He runs a company called American Vintage Reclamation, where he salvages old artifacts and sells them to interested buyers, or donates them to preservation organizations.

But Nutter did the work pro bono for Hadden’s office. He also helped them salvage bricks from The Heartland Cafe.

Chad Willets, co-owner of Le Piano, has some terracotta from the Heartland Café proudly displayed at the jazz club down the street from where the Heartland Café used to reside.

“We wanted to honor what the Heartland represented by having a piece of their architecture in our space,” Willetts told Block Club in April, when the Heartland Café was being demolished.

Credit: Jonathan Ballew/Block Club Chicago
Chad Willets, co-owner of the nearby Le Piano, in front of terra cotta pieces salvaged from the Heartland Cafe.

Torrence said he has a personal love for preserving relics of the past.

“We have lost some of the importance of historic preservation in this country,” he said. “It’s a reminder of where we came from in order to improve our future.”

Credit: Torrence Gardner
Left: Terracotta that was saved. Right: Torrence Gardner, Ald. Maria Hadden’s director of economic development.

Torrence said, for now, there is plenty of space below the ward office, and they have no plans to stop saving any future Rogers Park mementos.

“We want to collect as much as we can; we have a sentimental attachment to what goes on in the ward,” he said. “People in the neighborhood care, and so do we.”

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