History of Kendall County housed in new museum
By Steve Lord firstname.lastname@example.org October 13, 2011 1:26PM
Kendall County Historical Society board president Jack Jenkins stands in the library housing family histories and other artifacts in the new building at Lyon Farm in Yorkville housing the society's reorganized collection. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Lyon Farm at 7935 Route 71, east of Yorkville, is operated by the Kendall County Historical Society. It is open for special events, with the next event a Halloween celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 23 and 30. Parade at 3 p.m. Admission $3. Group visits can be accommodated by appointment. For information, visit www.kchs.us, or call 630-554-3064 or 630-553-6777.
Updated: November 20, 2011 8:33AM
The newest museum in Kendall County actually holds one of its oldest collections.
The artifacts of county history the Kendall County Historical Society has collected for more than 40 years are now on display in a brand new building at the Lyon Farm and Village, on Route 71 between Van Emmon Road and Route 126.
“We’re pretty proud of the building,” said Jack Jenkins, Historical Society president. “It’s new, it’s climate-controlled, it’s protected from the elements, it’s handicap-accessible.”
Those were many of the concerns people had a year ago, when the Historical Society moved the artifacts from the Chapel on the Green on Town Square in Yorkville. Those against the move said the items, many of which were donated by Yorkville families down through the years, could be damaged by weather and climate if stored improperly at Lyon Farm.
But Jenkins said historical society board members decided they would be better off in a new building instead of the old church. It cost less to build the new metal structure, completely finished inside, on a concrete slab than to continue to pay for upkeep of the church, he said. Plus, he said, it makes more sense to have the museum in the same place as the farm museum and village, which features old, restored buildings from the county’s past. “This way, it’s all here, in one place,” Jenkins said.
The new building has many more items on display than were showcased at the Chapel on the Green, and the archives, including such things as newspaper clippings, photographs, graveyard records and other written material, are in a more temperature-controlled atmosphere now. The library, for instance, has five different temperature zones, depending on how it’s adjusted. Also, the concrete slab in the library and throughout the building is heated during the winter.
Lincoln slept here
When people tour the museum, they will see a full array of military uniforms worn by Kendall County residents going as far back as World War I, and other military artifacts as far back as the Civil War.
There are also many sports uniforms, worn by teams that played in the county, as well as by students during gym classes.
In one corner of the room there is a bed on which Abraham Lincoln slept, which was donated by a family in Oswego, along with a poster done by a ladies society advertising a Lincoln speech. Above that is a full array of wedding dresses and other women’s clothing worn by mannequins situated for the occasion.
“We just tried to fit in as many of our nice things as we could,” said Jan Wheeler, a historical society member who put together the museum’s displays. “We wanted people to be able to see as much of what we have as possible.”
Jenkins said at the church, “a lot of these things were boxed up. Nobody could see them.”
Another item of interest is a painting of Lewis Steward, who was a businessman in the early 20th century. Society members did not know exactly what the significance of the painting was until they unpacked and found a certificate saying it was registered with the Inventory of American Paintings, an organization connected with The Smithsonian Society in Washington, D.C., for being painted before 1914.
Piecing collection together
Unpacking turned out to be like historical research in and of itself, Wheeler said, as society members kept finding things they didn’t know they had in their collection. Sometimes, they had to piece things together.
That was the case with an item in a display of children’s toys from the early 20th century and even before, called a Talkie-Jeckter. It is a wooden box with a lens designed to emulate a projector. It plays “films” — actually still images, one after the other — cranked through the box and across the lens to create a moving image. On top of the wooden box is a small record player that played sounds to go with the moving images.
The box was sitting on a big table with other unpacked items marked “unknown” for a long time.
“We knew there had to be some kind of projector because we found the films and the records in another spot,” Wheeler said. “Then we finally put it together with the projector, sitting on the ‘unknown’ table. It took a while to put all the pieces together, but that was the fun part, figuring everything out.”
There are many photographs from Kendall County’s past on display, enough to keep a history buff studying for hours. The include everything from a photo of World War I veterans from Kendall County on the day they returned home, posed in front of the Historic Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville, to photos of the Lyon family itself through several generations.
It was Frances Lyon who donated the more than 30 acres for the working farm and museum to the Kendall Historical Society. She also donated land for Lyon Forest Preserve, just behind Lyon Farm.
The new museum opened to good reviews at the Lyon Farm annual Fall Festival last month. Wheeler said several families spent hours in the museum, then went home and found items of their own in basements or attics to donate. The building also has a kitchen and a small stage. It is available to rent for meetings or parties, Jenkins said. He said historical society members are hoping the new museum attracts even more visitors from near and far. Right now, it is open only for its regular events, and by appointment. But they are hoping to have the library and museum open two or three days a week, eventually.
“You’d be surprised how many people live right around here, and don’t even know we’re here,” Jenkins said.