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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published Oct 20, 2011                                               

Historical Society supporters share passion

Board members intrigued by stories of the past and desire to preserve them for the future

By Pamela Lannom 

   Shannon Weinberger, who grew up in an older home, has always been intrigued by old houses and the stories of people who occupied them long ago.
   “When we moved to Hinsdale, I approached the historical society for history on my house and that’s how I got involved with the society,” said Weinberger, who now is president of the Hinsdale Historical Society.
   Weinberger, who owns the 1889 Victorian at the corner of Elm and Walnut streets, soon become interested in another historic structure in Hinsdale: the home of architect R. Harold Zook at 327 S. Oak St. The home was slated for demolition when the historical society got involved, purchased the house and moved it to Katherine Legge Memorial Park.
   “I was new to the board when the whole Zook story came out, and I was like, ‘We can’t let this happen. We have to save it,’ and the other people were looking at me like, ‘We just finished this. We can’t do it again.’ ”
   The effort to save the Zook home and studio began in 2004 — just three years after the historical society had taken over ownership of Immanuel Hall, which also had faced the wrecking ball. In just a little more than a decade, the society increased the number of historic buildings it owns from one to three.
   “It’s pretty amazing what a group of passionate people can really accomplish,” Weinberger said.
   And some of the people who are involved in the Hinsdale Historical Society just might surprise you, she noted.
   “It’s not what you would expect when you say ‘historical society’ at all,” Weinberger said. “We’re all very young, passionate, smart, motivated.”
   Cindy Klima, one of the board’s two vice presidents, is motivated by her desire to preserve the history of the town where she spent most of her life.
   “I grew up in Hinsdale and, for me, it’s the history of the community and people’s passion about it,” she said. “Growing up here it was hard to see all the changes to the community. This was a way to stay connected to that history. People don’t know it. There are so many new people here. They have no idea what architectural gems there are and what rich history is here.”
   Preserving buildings like the history museum, Immanuel Hall and the Zook home help bring that history to life, Klima said.
   “It allows us to point to examples, to host events in physical properties that people can see, feel, touch, experience the history,” she said. “It just makes the story that we’re trying to tell tangible.”
   Owning three historic buildings does present challenges. The society has no full-time employees — only three part-time staff members who help run the history museum, Immanuel Hall and the Roger and Ruth Anderson Architecture Center housed there.
   “We don’t have an executive director,” Weinberger said. “A group of volunteers are running and maintaining three historic properties. I live in one and it’s a lot of work.”
   The historical society also is working to get out the message that the society encompasses all three sites.
   “Our struggle is to help everybody understand that the buildings are all the historical society,” Weinberger said.
   “We’re one organization with a variety of venues and programs and activities,” Klima added.
   The society is grateful for the support of the village and the donors who have funded these projects.
   “None of these buildings would have been saved,” Klima said.
   Volunteers also have been critical to the society’s success. A new women’s board formed four years ago to help with fundraising and awareness.
   “It was an evolution of existing volunteers,” Klima said. “It was a core group of women in the organization who saw a need to do fundraising and bring awareness to the historical society.”
   All the society’s volunteers are dedicated and work very hard, Weinberger said.
   “It’s an amazing group of people when you think about all we do,” she said.

Three in one

   The mission of the Hinsdale Historical Society is to “collect, preserve and promote the history of Hinsdale and to foster an awareness and appreciation of its history and architecture through education, programs, exhibits and the maintenance of historical resources and properties in the village.”
   These three sites help the society achieve that mission.

Hinsdale History Museum
15 S. Clay St.

   The centennial home that houses the museum originally was owned by Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 and located at 213 S. Lincoln St. It was moved to its current location in 1981 after the village made a one-quarter acre park site available to the society under a long-term lease.
   “I know that was a big deal to move it across the tracks, and I don’t think people realize that it has been moved,” society board President Shannon Weinberger said. “Really it’s an outstanding history museum. If you go and travel along the tracks and look at the other villages, what they’ve done with their history museums, we’ve really worked hard to replicate the true interior of an 1874 home.”
   Cindy Klima, one of the board’s vice presidents, said the museum is a great place for kids to get involved in the village’s history.
   “There is some fun programming that comes out of the museum that is very youth-driven,” she said.
   The museum also houses the society’s archives, where volunteers continue to work every week to clip and sort information.
   “It’s always fun to visit the museum on Wednesdays. You walk in and they’re always in the middle of a ‘Did you know?’ discussion,” Weinberger said.
   The museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

R. Harold Zook Home and Studio
Katherine Legge Memorial Park
5941 S. County Line Road

   Saving the Zook home was Weinberger’s first project with the historical society, and the home continues to fascinate her.
   “It’s a very well-known house, not just because it was a Zook,” she said. “Clearly the people who lived there throughout its history were very involved in the community. It definitely was an active building, so it’s got a lot of stories.”
   Being involved in the home’s move was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, she said.
   “It really was an amazing feat that we actually moved it,” she said. “It was an extremely heavy structure. Just orchestrating that move took about five to six months.
   “I think the neat thing about the Zook and moving it — that event caused not just Hinsdale but the Chicagoland area to start talking about Zook and who he is and what he has done.”
   The studio, which should be finished this spring, will be used to house the society’s Zook collection and give Zook homeowners a place to gather, do research and share information.
   “They are a very open group and they love their homes and they love to tell the stories of their homes. You won’t meet a more passionate group of people about a structure,” Klima said.
   The society would like to make the home available for community use, but it still needs about $1 million worth of work.

Immanuel Hall
302 S. Grant St.

   Immanuel Hall is a special place and an important piece of village history, Klima said.
   “It was a labor of love,” Klima said. “It was reclaimed from the possibility of destruction, and I think the people who really worked to make that happen, to save the building, felt very strongly about the chapel. It’s part of the neighborhood. It’s a significant piece of our history.”
   The carpenter-Gothic style church was built by German immigrant tradesman in 1900 to house the new Immanuel Evangelical congregation. The building continued to serve as a church until 1982, when it was sold to a private party and became a Montessori School for the next 18 years.
   The society got involved in 1999 after the school owners sold the property to another private party who planned to demolish the buildings.
   The building opened to the public in 2009. Weinberger, who attended a wedding there this summer, said it is a spectacular place to hold an event.
   “It’s beautiful, and anybody that ever walks in those front doors, it’s just breath-taking. To have an event there, especially if you’re in there right at twilight and the light comes through those windows, it’s just gorgeous,” Weinberger said.
   A $500,000 donation from the family of Roger and Ruth Anderson helped establish the Roger and Ruth Anderson Architecture Center, a long-planned preservation and construction resources service of the society. It is located in the lower level of Immanuel Hall.

Upcoming events

   • Hinsdale Drives ... An Oktoberfest will take place from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, at Katherine Legge Memorial Lodge, 5901 S. County Line Road.
   The women’s board is sponsoring the German-inspired fundraiser.

   • The voices of Hinsdale’s past will speak once more as the Hinsdale History Museum presents its annual walk featuring members of the Hinsdale Central High School Drama Club at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at Bronswood Cemetery, 3805 Madison St., Oak Brook. The cost is $5 per person, $10 per family.

   • Height of Fashion: Baroque and Rococo will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, at Immanuel Hall.
   This is the second of the Hinsdale Historical Society’s three-part Fashion Matters! series, exploring the origin, evolution and cultural relevance of western fashion with Efry Ayala of the College of DuPage’s fashion design and merchandising program. The cost is $10.

   • The Hinsdale History Museum will feature an exhibit on the Old Spinning Wheel Restaurant Fridays and Saturdays through Jan. 27.
   Take a trip back in time and see items from the restaurant, which was located near York Road and Ogden Avenue from 1935 until the late 1960s. Items include dinner menus, plates and many photos. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free.

  Making a Difference is a yearlong partnership between
The Hinsdalean and the Hinsdale Historical Society, which works to collect, preserve and promote the village’s history and its architecture.



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