By the time the last twinkling carnival light faded to dark Sunday night, signaling the end of the 2013 Lincolnwood Fest, hundreds of people had visited Proesel Park to celebrate summer during four days of live music, games, rides and family-focused fun.
But for many fest-goers, the highlight of this year’s festival was the Purple Hotel’s brick sale.
The opportunity to take home a brick from the iconic Lincolnwood hotel had hundreds of people lined up for several hours both Thursday and Sunday hoping take home their own piece of history before the massive building is torn down later this year.
Some people stood in line for more than two hours Thursday afternoon to secure a pastel piece of concrete, and by the end of the weekend more than 2,100 bricks had been handed out — each for a $5 suggested donation that went to the Lincolnwood Public Library.
By the end of the weekend, $4,800 had been raised for the library, which director Su Bochenski said would be used to buy new electronic materials, including downloadable e-books.
While in line waiting for a brick, people shared memories about the Purple Hotel, many reminiscing about weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and bar mitzvahs of days long ago.
Some said they planned to surprise loved ones with the bricks, and others said they wanted to display them in their homes as keepsakes marking a special memory made at the hotel, which is awaiting demolition at Lincoln and Touhy avenues.
Deb Kosiba and her husband, who goes only by the name Phoenix, met during a science fiction convention at the Purple Hotel in the early 1990s, and were first in line Thursday to get a brick.
To claim the couple’s spot in the line, Phoenix showed up at 4 p.m., two hours before Neal Stein — Principal of North Capital Group, the company that acquired the Purple Hotel — rolled into the fest with a truckload of bricks to please the crowd, which seemed to be growing impatient after the truck was more than 30 minutes late.
Kosiba and Phoenix, who now live in Evanston, remember the hotel as a social hot spot.
Phoenix said he and Kosiba planned to take home at least 10 bricks, or as many as they could carry to their car.
“(The Purple Hotel) holds a prominent place in people’s minds — it has worked its way into our hearts,” Phoenix said, adding that he planned to use the bricks to build a fire pit in the couple’s backyard.
Further back in the line, Olivia Ludwig of Des Plaines waited patiently for her chance to get a brick, which she said would serve as a reminder of the night she met her husband Rick Ludwig at a singles dance in 1995.
The Ludwigs married a year later and held their reception at the Purple Hotel.
“I’m getting two bricks — one for the night we met and the other for our reception,” Ludwig said.
Ivee Klein, who lives in Buffalo Grove and grew up in Lincolnwood, said the Purple Hotel serves as a memory of her late parents, Hy and Phyllis Klein, and she planned to adorn their gravestones with the bricks.
“So many family memories were made there,” Klein said. “It also became the hangout place for my mom and her girlfriends after my father died — she didn’t cook a lot, so we dined at the hotel weekly.”
The hotel at 4500 Touhy Ave. was built in 1963 and opened as the Lincolnwood Hyatt House. Over the years, before it was shuttered in 2007, it changed names several times, but was always known as the Purple Hotel.
Stein — who at first planned to spare the hotel by including the original buildings as part of a massive $20 million reuse plan for the property — announced new plans this spring to demolish the site and instead start fresh.
Stein said he came up with the brick giveaway plan after a large number of people started calling his office to reserve a brick.
When he arrived on the fest grounds Thursday with the bricks, he was taken aback when he saw the winding line of more than 200 people.
“It’s shocking to see everyone standing here waiting for a piece of this hotel,” Stein said. “It’s clear the hotel played a significant role in this community for many years, so this is really bittersweet.”
Stein hired workers to remove 4,000 bricks during a one-week period late last month, and those bricks were sent in truckloads to the Lincolnwood Fest, where fest-goers were handed a their very own rectangular piece of purple concrete inside a purple reusable bag printed with North Capital Group’s logo above the words, “History was Made with this Brick from the Purple Hotel.”
While waiting in line in the comfortable late-afternoon sun, people let their minds drift to times from long ago as they happily chatted about memories made at the hotel, from high school proms to business conventions to everyday family dinners.
Reggie and Susan Codell waited in line for more than 90 minutes with their 5-year-old daughter Mya to get a brick for Reggie’s parents Barry and Betty Codell, who were married in the Purple Hotel in 1967.
“They were high school sweethearts at Niles West,” Reggie Codell said. “While I was growing up, they’d always talk about their wedding, so this is a sentimental place for them.”