The famous Tinman atop King Heating & Air Conditioning prepares to permanently leave its perch atop the business – a position it has had for 35 years.

OAK FOREST, Ill. - For 35 years it was a recognizable symbol in this Illinois town. The six-foot Tinman stood tall on the roof of King Heating and Air Conditioning, acting like a beacon for travelers along the busy intersection of 159th and Cicero. But like all good things, this tradition came to an end, thanks to a ruling by the city of Oak Forest Building Department.

According to King’s owner Tim Willson, the venerable Tinman was originally placed on the roof to “signify the superior tin work done by the company, but it didn’t take long to become a reference point in travel. Everyone knew where they were when they saw the Tinman.”

Willson said that in the past, the Tinman has received letters from children, been dressed for the holidays, and even ‘hosted’ a golf tournament.

Willson removed the Tinman to perform some repairs on it and that is when the troubles began. Between the time the Tinman was placed on the roof and 2006, rules regulating the size and height of signage in Oak Forest had been changed or adopted. If Willson returned the refurbished Tinman to the roof, it had to meet the current rules, including a height restriction. But meeting the rules would have required changes to the Tinman that Willson was not willing to make. Yet he returned the Tinman to its former place atop the roof anyway.

The local building department cited the local signage code, which stated that once a sign (or in this case, the Tinman) had been removed, it must meet all current regulations if and when it is put back up. Failure to comply would result in fines of up to $500 for every day the violation existed. Willson fought city hall but eventually lost. He had accumulated over $150,000 in fines. The only solution was to remove the Tinman, which Willson did in early May. And the fines were waived.

In a local television report, resident Bruce Cassi lamented about the “passing” of Tinman. “After standing up there all this long, it just doesn’t seem right that they have it taken down because the village just all of a sudden up and decides ‘hey this don’t look right in our village anymore,’ ” he said.


The media attention on the removal of the Tinman has been a boon for King Heating & Air Conditioning. Willson said he has gotten several leads for work from out-of-town people who heard the story. Local citizens have lent a sympathetic ear, too. “We are getting phone calls from Oak Forest residents in support of us,” he said.

At first Willson put the Tinman in the small showroom, but local residents had other ideas for the famous landmark.

“The Tinman has been visiting different businesses in the area,” said Willson. “We went to a dance at one of the local schools and then attended a Relay for Life event to raise funds for cancer research. People were donating $5 each to have their pictures taken with the Tinman.

“There are people who are dropping off miniature versions of the Tinman so we can keep them in the showroom and on our desks.”

Through this entire ordeal, Willson has managed to maintain a sense of humor, especially when he draws comparisons between his Tinman and the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“In the past, his appearances have benefited various charities,” said Willson. “But above all he has been vigilant in his watch over the munchkins of Oak Forest.

“Now an era has come to an end and the powerful wizard has banished the Tinman from our Oz. Our silver friend has taken his final trip down the yellow brick road. Don’t cry Tinman, or you will rust. You will be inside our showroom because you know there is no place like home.”

Publication Date:07/09/2007