A large and powerful storm passed through the western suburbs of Chicago on July 1, 2012, leaving behind a trail of destruction. Reed Keppler Park, located in West Chicago, was hit hard. Reed Keppler Park lost nearly 200 trees making up approximately one-third of their tree population. Most of these trees were red and white oaks, many more than 100 years old. The West Chicago Park District, Ron Meyers (a local woodworker and sawmill owner/operator), local architect Jeff Perkis and architecture students from Illinois Institute of Technology have been working since January to turn tragedy into opportunity through the Out of the Woods project.
Students in IIT College of Architecture Studio Associate Professor Paul Pettigrew’s Architecture and Furniture course have designed and fabricated rings, tables, benches, lamps and more using wood from the storm-damaged trees. More than 50 functional object and furniture pieces will be on display, for sale and raffled off at West Chicago’s annual Railroad Days festival July 11–14, marking the one-year anniversary of the storm. Proceeds from the raffled and sold furniture pieces will go to both Reed Keppler Park and The Conservation Foundation.
The IIT students and West Chicago community members hope to demonstrate to festival visitors that although the trees of Reed Keppler Park are gone, their ability to contribute to the community is very much alive and well.