|  | 


Hidden Gems


T he story of the History Center starts in the 1960s. “We were founded in 1967 as the Des Plaines Historical Society,” Siobhan Heraty, the curator of col-lections at the History Center said. “We were part of that national trend of historical societies being founded. Our first few years we didn’t have a set first home, but it was in the late sixties early seventies that we were able to acquire the Kinder House.” Starting out in the Kinder House, a building already considered a historical site by the City of Des Plaines in 1969, the historical society began collecting and exhibiting local history. “For many years that was just the one building that we had, where we had our exhibits and programs, and all of our stuff stored,” Heraty said. But this situation wouldn’t last forever as the historical society expanded its operations by purchasing the neighboring building at 781 Pear-son Street. “It was about 20 or so years ago that we were able to acquire this building so we were able to expand a bit and have the Kinder House just be devoted to being a house that was depicting what life was like in 1907 when the house was built and the Kinder family lived there.” With the new building, the historical society is able to set up exhibits of Des Plaines history and keep the Kinder House as a snapshot of life in the early 20th century as well as a model of Queen Anne architecture, continuing their goal of serving as both a resource and a teacher about the history of Des Plaines. “We hope that our visitors, regardless of whether they are students or any age, really take away an under-standing of how this community developed, what the community began as, how it’s moved through history and how we got to the Des Plaines that we have here today,” Heraty said. “We hope that they walk away, not just learning something about their community that they didn’t know but feeling a sense of pride in their com-munity as well.” T he Kinder house, the staple of the Des Plaines History Center, wasn’t originally where it sits now at 789 Pearson Street. Originally, the building was located at 777 Lee Street. It was in the mid 60s that, “that area was changing from a residential area to an extension of the down-town business district, and so there was a bank that wound up building on the property right next door to where the Kinder House was. They were interested in the land that Kinder House was on,” Heraty said. Although the bank did end up purchasing the land, the Des Plaines Historical Society was able to operate out of the Kinder House, “using it as our museum, and we were there on Lee street until 1978 when the bank decided they wanted to turn that land into a parking lot,” Heraty said. Through the efforts of multiple community agencies, the Kinder House was not bulldozed, and instead a momentous effort was made to relocate it. The city and park district stepped in to help with the move. “That took the best part of a day to move the house, it was a long slow process to get it the two blocks it had to move,” Heraty said. “It was a huge local event. I’ve given tours to people who had grown up in Des Plaines, and some of them said that they went to Central School. They were there in 1978 when the whole school just came out for the afternoon and just lined the sidewalks to watch the house rolling down the street,” Heraty said. Although mundane at first glance, this bicycle and many like it played a pivotal role in women’s history. “This is an 1890s safety bicycle, and bicycles are a really, really huge thing for women’s history,” Heraty said. “Bicycles were something that really gave them a lot more freedom of mobility than what women had ever had before. It got them out of the house.” Instead of being limited to where they could travel with a male chaperone, women could now “go wherever they wanted. They didn’t need anyone to help them hitch a horse to a wagon,” Heraty said. Women could join clubs and meet with friends on their own. Invented in the 1880s, the safety bicycle became very popular, earning its name for being safer than the already existing high-wheeled bicycle that had the large front tire. Not only did this bicycle change the norm for bicycles, it also changed the norm for culture. “It wound up changing women’s fashion as they couldn’t wear corsets as tight if they were going to ride a bicycle. They wouldn’t be able to breathe well enough as they are trying to travel, and their dresses also stopped being quite as long as they could get stuck in the bi-cycle chain or wheels,” Heraty said. Painted pink and covered with gems, this eye catching marimba once belonged to a famous musician hailing from Des Plaines: Doris Stockton. “She grew up in Des Plaines in the 30s and 40s and she went to Maine Township High School and went on to have a really successful career as a professional percussionist. This was the marimba that she used when she traveled to perform,” Heraty said. After graduating from Maine Township, now named Maine East, Stockton started her musical career traveling across the country, “She was a really interesting woman. She traveled all over for her music career; she played with some of the popular big bands of the 1940s but she also played with more classical groups like the New York Field Harmonic Orchestra, so she had a really successful career,” Heraty said. As part of what made her an Iconic music figure, Stockton played the marimba, with hers specifically designed “with all these pink rhinestones on it so that they would catch the stage lights and really sparkle while she was performing.” “She had quite a career and this is one of the more interesting, very eye-catching pieces,” Heraty said.




Leave a Reply