Updated: March 21, 2014 9:08AM
Jim O’Donnell squinted into the sunlight as the arm of a monstrous, telescoping crane swivelled into place alongside Andersonville’s blue-and-yellow beacon of welcome Thursday morning.
“They’re disappearing,” said O’Donnell, a Chicago fire battalion chief. “Along Ravenswood Avenue, it was all factories, and every rooftop had one. As kids, we used to climb them. Maybe that’s why I became a fireman.”
Wistful words from a fireman and many others, as they watched crews prepare to take down the octogenarian water tower above the Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark St.
A casualty of the city’s punishing winter, the tower’s wooden floor partly collapsed under the weight of thousands of pounds of ice. Late last week, museum staff noticed water dripping onto the museum roof.
“We’re all sad about it, but safety comes first,” said Karin Moen Abercrombie, executive director of the museum.
After a full day of heating the ice stuck inside the tower, it was removed and placed on a flatbed truck on Clark Street about 7 p.m., according to Ald. Harry Osterman’s office. Crews will store it in the museum’s parking lot for the time being, in the hopes it can be restored.
“It’s really become a great symbol for our community,” Osterman said.
The museum sits in Osterman’s 48th Ward. He said there’s been an “outpouring” from people saying they wanted the water tower saved.
“It’s tricky,” Jay Mooncotch, crane operations manager, said earlier, as he and his team grappled with taking down what is, essentially, a giant wooden barrel packed with 11,000 pound of ice.
On North Clark, where the faded colors of Swedish pride jostle for space among fashionable stores selling everything from organic fennel to designer doggy coats, Charlie Yates stood with a cigar poking out of his mouth, watching the removal efforts.
Yates, a 30-year Andersonville resident and retired CTA worker, is one of the many nearby residents who hoped the tower could be saved.
“It’s a neighborhood icon,” he said. “It’s just nice to look at. But is the world going to end if they take it down and don’t put it back up? No.”
Contributing: Tina Sfondeles