Answer Man: Were state troopers once based in French Village/Fairview Heights?

News-DemocratJuly 12, 2014 

Please settle a bet: I told a friend that the Illinois State Police once had their district headquarters at that brownish building that used to stand near where the Fairview Heights MetroLink station is now. He said I was dreaming. There's a six-pack at stake, and I'm thirsty. -- H.B., of Cahokia

If you're a smooth talker, maybe you can convince him to split those suds three and three.

That former building near the old Illinois 161 and St. Clair Avenue in French Village/Fairview Heights did indeed house state offices. But it was the Illinois Department of Transportation, not the state troopers, says News-Democrat Multimedia Editor Brad Weisenstein, whose dad worked there for many years.

It was an era that started to end in November 1985, when construction began on an $11.3 million state office complex on Eastgate Drive in Collinsville.

The new site was designed to settle a couple of major problems. In February 1983, the Illinois State Police had to abandon their Maryville headquarters because the building was sinking into an old mine shaft. They made do temporarily at an old Collinsville bank building at 101 W. Main, but it was never meant to house a major law enforcement agency.

So plans were made to build a new complex that would house not only the police and Illinois Division of Criminal Investigation, but IDOT and Central Management Services as well. On Dec. 5, 1987, the new offices were dedicated.

"This complex will give three major state agencies a central location to meet and will mean better service for area citizens," then Gov. James Thompson said during the ceremonies. "This is an example of how government should work -- contributing positively to the local economy, building on time and under budget." The final cost was some $1.3 million under budget.

In a lighter moment, Bernard Birger, a former IDOT employee, said he had been at the dedication at the building in French Village/Fairview Heights 50 years before. So when he left his cap on the podium after speaking, they threw it in a time capsule prepared during the ceremony.

In 1988, the state proposed turning the empty building into a minimum-security correctional center but talks stalled. The Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center eventually wound up a couple of miles down the road at the site of the old Assumption High School at U.S. 50 and Illinois 111.

After being used briefly as a Hoods Discount Home Center, the old IDOT building eventually was razed to make way for a reroute of 161 and the new MetroLink station.

Prost.

When I was a boy in the 1960s, I seem to remember going with my mom to a beauty parlor where the Belleville Labor & Industry Museum is today. I also recall a TV repair shop being there as well. Can you confirm these old memories? -- Gary Simmons, of Fairview Heights

Now here's a mental image for you: Let's say you were zapped when you stuck your finger into one of the TVs that Everette Sakosko was repairing, making your hair stand on end. Well, his wife, Geraldine, would have been right there to smooth it over again.

That's what could have happened for nearly a quarter century at 123 N. Church St. What had been the site of Charles Beck's cigar business for 40 years turned into the home of Ed's TV and Radio in the late '50s. Then, in the late 1960s, his wife joined him by opening the Lady Orchid Beauty Salon.

The salon closed in about 1990 and the last listing for Ed's was in the 1994 city directory, shortly before Everette's death in August 1995 at age 79. His wife died 10 years later at 82.

The city bought the historic street house shortly before Christmas 1995. The action saved a landmark built in 1837 by 20-year-old Conrad Bornman, who is believed to be the first German immigrant to Belleville. After six years of work and planning, the museum held its grand opening Aug. 10, 2002.

Today's trivia

From what fruit did DC Comics' Elongated Man derive his inhuman stretching ability?

Answer to Saturday's trivia: Imagine having in-laws who could boast that they helped discover the New World! That's the situation King Henry VIII found himself in when, as a 17-year-old, he married 23-year-old Catherine of Aragon on June 11, 1509. Catherine was the daughter of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella, who famously sponsored the first voyage of Christopher Columbus. But after failing to give Henry any surviving sons, she was replaced by Anne Boleyn in 1533 and died three years later.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service