Moline officials must have been taken aback at the reaction from Quad-Citians upset after the city council set the wrecking ball in motion to level the 112-year-old Moline railroad depot.
We were both surprised and gratified by the outpouring of support for the effort to move the historic structure to Western Illinois University's Quad Cities Riverfront campus for use as a welcome center.
After the council balked at spending money to move the city's last train depot out of the path of the new Interstate 74 Bridge, Citizens began contacting Diann Moore, president of the Moline Preservation Society and other preservationists to find out what they could do to save the depot.
On Tuesday, Ms. Moore, asked aldermen to delay voting to raze the structure to give depot fans time to raise the $155,000 needed to relocate the Davenport, Rock Island and Northwestern depot. We join with Ms. Moore (see her column elsewhere in Viewpoints today) and others in urging the city to slow the demolition juggernaut down to see if preservationists can build on the $22,000 it already has raised to get the job done.
While we regularly and gladly applaud city officials for keeping the purse strings tight, this action seems penny wise and pound foolish. The fact is that the state money set aside for the depot project cannot be spent on anything but tourism. We'd be hard-pressed to find another place to spend that small amount of money that would pay off so handsomely.
Even before the new welcome center draws a single tourist, the city would already double its money WIU has committed to spending $300,000 to refurbish the depot for its welcome center, twice what five aldermen opposed spending.
Worse, rather than applaud WIU for its commitment to helping preserve the structure, some suggested that the university should assume all the costs of the move.
It seems to us shortsighted to lose the chance to preserve such an important piece of Moline history for the cost of disconnecting utilities and repairing windows, doors and a roof.
Barb Sandberg, chairman of the Moline Historic Preservation Commission, was among those surprised by last week's decision. The commission and the society "thought we were on track" to save the structure after a three-year effort, she said at a news conference last week. Had preservationists known of this "deadline," they would have approached fundraising with a greater sense of urgency. Surely some are seeing shades of the historic Huntoon House, which was similarly felled because there was no mechanism in place to help save it. Its demolition led to creation of Moline's preservation ordinance and commission to protect landmarks like the depot.
Last week's vote added similar impetus to the effort to save the depot. We hope that this campaign meets with better success. But winning the battle requires the community's support. To enlist in the effort, fans of the depot are urged to attend a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the First Congregational Church in Moline (enter via the tower door.) Also, this weekend, train-lovers gathered for the train expo in Rock Island can drop by the Save the Depot table to pledge to help preserve it. It's a wonderful chance for railroad lovers to express their devotion to its rich Q-C history. Even if you cannot attend those Save-the-Depot events, you can visit molinepreservation.org and leave a note by clicking on "Webmaster" at the bottom of the page. We also urge Moline residents to contact their aldermen and the mayor. Find out how by visiting moline.il.us.
The growing support is gratifying, but last week's vote shows that it's unwise to take anything for granted. So, join the effort.
Today is Thursday, April 17, the 107th day of 2014. There are 258 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Journeymen shoemakers of Rock Island struck for higher wages yesterday morning, asking 25 percent increases. Employers have acceded to their demand. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Lighting struck wires of the Merchants Electric Light Co. during a furious storm, and many Rock Island business houses were compelled to resort to gas as a means of illumination. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Members of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, decided to erect a new edifice at a cost of about $60,000. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Willard Anderson, junior forward for the Augustana College basketball team, which won 17 out of 22 contests, was elected captain of the quintet. 1964 -- 50 years ago: John Hoffman, Moline, president of the Sac-Fox Council of Boy Scouts, will be honored for his 50 years in scouting by members of the council at a dinner Thursday evening. 1989 -- 25 years ago: The Quad-Cities has what is believed to be the area's first elite-class gymnast. It's the stuff upon which Olympic competitors are made. Tiffany Chapman, of Rock Island, not only has earned the highest possible gymnast ranking, she won the honor at age 11.