WTTW historian Geoffrey Baer appreciates Will County history
September 22, 2012 10:12PM
A Will County historical preservationist and Joliet Area Historical Museum Board Member, Virginia Ferry joined more than 100 guests for a presentation by WTTW Host/Producer Geoffrey Baer at the Museum on Sept. 9.
Updated: October 24, 2012 6:16AM
JOLIET — Even the most avid historians from Will County found themselves learning something new from Geoffrey Baer during his visit to the area.
The acclaimed WTTW-TV (Channel 11) producer and host lived up to his reputation as an informed, engaging and entertaining speaker to the crowd of more than 100 guests at the Joliet Area Historical Museum during the program co-sponsored by the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Having participated in the Cathedral Area Preservation Association Housewalk earlier in the day, Baer praised those who have worked hard to restore and revitalize the architecture and history of the greater Joliet region.
Throughout his presentation, Baer shared little-known facts about the Illinois & Michigan Canal, expressed his love for the limestone and the rolling lift bridges unique to the region, and gave the audience an interactive quiz on the region’s history. Baer shared dozens of details on the development that came from the I&M Canal, which he said “gave birth to Chicago.”
He told stories of former Joliet Prison Warden Joe Ragen and shared his first-hand experiences visiting the prison’s original quarters, as well as taking a tugboat ride down the canal.
Baer closed his comments by applauding those who have worked to restore and revitalize the greater Joliet area, referring to it as an “open air outdoor art museum” with its sculptures, architecture and historic homes.
Virginia Ferry, a museum board member and Will County Historic Preservation commissioner,
was delighted with Baer’s depth of knowledge on the region.
“It’s fascinating to learn from someone who is so genuinely interested in our area’s history and working so hard to preserve it through his great storytelling,” said Ferry, herself a local history expert.
Mark Kroll, a museum member who serves on the JT Central Archives Committee and JT Alumni Association, said he came to see Baer, whose shows on public television he never misses.
Mary Kelley of Plainfield walked through every house on the CAPA tour before coming to Baer’s presentation.
“It’s really quite exciting to see how homeowners are restoring and preserving and caring for their homes,” said Kelley. “I’ve always had an avid interest in historic architecture and appreciate the sponsors working to bring him to the area to provide even more interesting information for us.”
Baer, who is working on a national PBS prime-time special to be aired next spring, is a multiple Emmy Award-winning producer and program host for WTTW in Chicago.
Speaking to Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau President Bob Navarro and Joliet Area Historical Museum Director Tony Contos and others, Baer said he truly enjoyed being able to spend the afternoon at the housewalk and with so many interesting and interested residents of the area.
“This has been a great day, and everyone made me feel so very welcome, I really appreciated it,” Baer said.