A Brief History of the Museum
The 1950s Park Forest House Museum began as a joint project of the 50th Anniversary Committee, the Park Forest Historical Society, the League of Women Voters of the Park Forest Area and Thorn Creek Townhouses. Called the 50th Anniversary House Museum, it was intended to be a temporary, two month exhibit during the 50th Anniversary of Park Forest, celebrated from 1998-1999. Furnished as it might have looked from 1948-1953, it interprets the life of the pioneer citizens in the first five years of the village. It had all come together so nicely that the 50th Anniversary Committee continued to ask for extensions. After the 50th Anniversary, the Park Forest Historical Society took over operation of the museum, and asked to continue using the rental unit at 397 Forest Blvd. Thorn Creek Townhouses generously loaned the townhouse, rent and utilities-free for this project for nine years. From October 2005 through May 2007, ThornCreek allowed the Society to use the unit at 395 Forest as well, for an office, additional furniture and rotating displays. In May 2007, ThornCreek's owners asked to have the units back for tenant use. Volunteers packed up the two units and the Society hired professional movers to pack the contents into PODS. In October, 2007, AIMCO, owners of Central Park Townhomes in rental Area F, generously offered us the use of one townhouse for a modest rent, with the society paying for utilities. The second unit of furniture and our office remained in storage. Volunteers helped unpack the basic museum from one PODS container, and we were set up, decorated for Christmas, and open by the first weekend in December 2007. Our Grand Re-opening was held on February 2, 2008. The bulk of the photograph collection was moved to the museum.
By May 2010, AIMCO had sold Area F to Andrew Brown and Kinzie Real Estate, who renamed the area Park Forest Apartments. Our rent doubled to $300, then grew to almost $600 by June 2014, and full price of over $1000 for two months before we moved out May 19, 2015.
Unable to purchase a cooperative due to covenants or a condo due to cost, the Socity moved the museum to two adjoining classrooms in St. Mary's Catholic Church, 227 Monee Road where we continue to interpret an early Park Forest home, life for its residents, and tell the story of Park Forest. It re-opened, August 1, 2015. It is now open Wednesday and Saturday 1-3:30 p.m; or by appointment at other times.
Although we are not happy to have lost our original rental townhome, visitors are appreciating accessibility of being on one level and increased space within the museum, with an accessible entrance, and accessible bathrooms located down the hall. All are amazed that the layout so closely resembles the original, including the actual kitchen cabinets from 141 Forest and part of the original bathroom fixtures (bathroom not mounted in 4-2016).
In January 2012, the Society moved the Archive Collection and their office and digital lab into St. Mary's Catholic Church, 227 Monee Road, where it is open to the public Fridays 10-12; or by appointment.
In April 2016, the Park Forest File cabinets, Park Forest Scrapbooks, and oral history transcript copies were moved into the museum.
Check other articles on the website and our newsletters for stories of the move and photographs as we put them up.