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Plainfield's 'Opera House' Building Could Become Local Landmark

Plainfield's Opera House building as it looks today. Credit: Google Streetview
Plainfield's Opera House building as it looks today. Credit: Google Streetview
More than a century ago, it rose like a phoenix from the ashes. Last year, it become one of numerous downtown businesses to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Now, Plainfield's Opera House Block building, 24027 W. Lockport St., could become a local landmark.

The Plainfield village board will vote Monday on whether to direct the village attorney to draft an ordinance bestowing the honorary designation.

The building was resurrected by Chicago-based shoe wholesaler Clarence W. Marks after it burned in February 1898. It reopened in January 1899, according to architect and historian Michael Lambert, who in recent years worked to renovate the building.


Also known as the "Clock Tower" building for the restaurant that it housed in the late 1950s, the structure had fallen into disrepair by the 2000s. In 2010, it was purchased by developer Bill Habiger.

"Mr. Habiger and his wife did a remarkable job of rehabbing the building," Historic Preservation Commissioner Chairman Michael Bortel said. "If you want to know what it looked like in 1899, just go out and look at it today."

"I think the amazing thing about [the building] was the history of Mr. Marks," Lambert said of the shoe wholesaler and prolific horse racer, who was a close friend to A. Montgomery Ward.

Marks went to Plainfield College, today known as North Central College.

"He was a multi-millionaire, but he never lost affection for the people of Plainfield," Lambert said. When the previous owner of the Opera House was unable to rebuild, "He came to the rescue of Plainfield," Lambert added,

Today, the Opera House Block building houses Acorn Portraits, Me Tu Boutique and Sharp Designs hair salon.

The village board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at Village Hall, 24401 W. Lockport St.
joan husarik March 03, 2014 at 07:56 AM
Wonderful beautiful history there- Thanks to the Habingers.
Vicky Polito March 03, 2014 at 09:26 AM
It's definitely a fascinating structure with really deep historical roots for Plainfield. Hope it continues to be moved into the future for us all in ways that really honor that past and make it shine.
Tina Beaird March 03, 2014 at 10:01 AM
There is a great exhibit at the Plainfield Historical Society about C.W. Marks and the Opera House. If you haven't been to the Historical Society in awhile, now is your chance to stop by for a visit. The Main Street Museum is open on Saturdays between 1-4.
Melissa N Daryl Weppner March 03, 2014 at 09:08 PM
Where is the museum? And is there a fee for entrance?
Tina Beaird March 03, 2014 at 09:19 PM
Melissa, The Main Street Museum is in the former Plainfield Grain Co. office located at 23836 West Main Street 1 block east of Route 59 on Route 126. There is no admission fee, but donations (and volunteers) are always welcome. For more information visit the Society's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/plainfieldhistoricalsociety

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