Street Address
in St. Mary's Catholic Church
227 Monee Road
Park Forest, IL 60466
Mailing Address
Park Forest Historical Society
400 lakewood Blvd
Park Forest, IL 60466
Hours
Hours of Operation
Recently moved to this new location, we are just re-opening and re-establishing our volunteer program. Currently we are open by appointment, or post open hours on our Facebook page, "1950s Park Forest House Museum." Regular hours should be established soon, but will be changed from those in our previous location. One tour is free with each purchase of a Marshall Field's Park Forest Store brick, 1 for $15; 2 for $25.
Currently open by appointment, or when we have a volunteer scheduled. Tours for schools and larger groups can be arranged. Special pricing may apply. Closed January, except by appointment. Call, email through the website or see Facebook.
Admissions
Donation of $5 for adults; ages 12 and under free with a paying adult. December donation is $3-adults. One tour is free for each Marshall Field's Park Forest Store brick purchased at the museum.
Adults: $5
[children 12 and under free with paying adult]: Free
Services
Gift Shop
Online Gift Shop
Group Tours
Staff
Jane Nicoll, Museum Director, Archivist
phone: 708-481-4252
Michael Gans, President, PFHS
phone: 708-305-3308

Description

Exterior of an original rental townhome. We are now in a former school attached to St. Mary's Catholic Church.

Why show the 1950s?

The 1950s Park Forest House Museum commemorates the pioneers of Park Forest--the residents who moved here during the first five years. Representing an original townhome, one of 3010 built by American Community Builders between October 1947 and October 1949, rooms are furnished as they might have been from 1948-1953. Park Forest was the first fully-planned, post-World War II suburb, called "America's Original GI Town," studied around the world. Now with convenient parking in front of the former school building it is housed in. The collection is now accessible--all on one floor, with a handicap accessible bathroom down the hall.

Some of the nostalgic toys and books on display at the 1950s Park Forest House Museum.

What will we see?

Contents of the museum include artwork by Park Forest artists, books, records, toys, dolls, clothes, dishes and glassware, appliances and furniture. Visiting the house museum is a trip down Memory Lane, with special appeal for Baby Boomers, their parents and families--but people of all ages enjoy seeing it and reminiscing. It is a hands-on museum, with surprises in every drawer. Seasonal and holiday touches are added with a tree and period decorations during December. Photographs and original sales brochures are on display.

Classroom decorated for Valentines Day. (Photo is of the classroom in our former location.)

How is the museum set up?

The museum is in two adjoining former classrooms, decorated as a home, with one room featuring a classroom similar to those of the rental unit schools, Forest Boulevard School and Juniper School, which were set up by the developers before the actual schools were built and then used for extra classroom space. All rooms are now on the same floor. Visitors enter through the outer classroom door, where there is a very slight step. If necessary, knock and tell the volunteer that someone in your party can not do that step. You will be met at the larger entrance, then will have to walk down a long hall to the museum rooms. There are handicap accessible bathrooms down the hall.

Is there a tour guide?

A tour guide is available to tell how the Village of Park Forest was planned and built by American Community Builders and to describe the contents of the collection, along with social and fashion trends in the early 1950s. Either the volunteer will provide this talk, or you may ask for one of the scripts to walk around with.

Comments by others.

Don Snider of Star Publications, has described the museum as "A well-planned blast to the past"..."authentic" and he also said, "the museum has become a repository of Park Forest history, and one of the best examples of 1950s era furnishings and memorabilia."

Online Gift Shop

Books on Park Forest history, postcards, and bricks from the Marshall Field's Park Forest Store, demolished in Fall 2010, can be purchased in the museum or online. We also offer a vibrant color print of a painting by Annabelle Gould, showing the Holiday Theatre and shopping center with mothers and children for $15 per print.

Mission

Park Forest Historical Society Mission

To preserve, interpret, and celebrate the unique history, diversity and achievements of the Village of Park Forest, Illinois through exhibits, publications, and special programs; To educate residents, students and visitors, in all aspects of the village history; To promote and support historical research; To encourage donations, and enlist volunteers, for the Park Forest Local History Collection and Archive and the 1950s Park Forest House Museum; To honor those who have contributed to our community over a long period of time.

History

The museum began in Fall 1998 as part of the 50th Anniversary of Park Forest--hence its original name, the 50th Anniversary House Museum. Intended to be open only for two months, it was included in the League of Woman Voters' annual House Walk in October 1998. It was set up by the 50th Anniversary Committee, the League and was provided rent and utilities free by David Clapper and Atlantic Associates who owned ThornCreek Townhomes development. Residents provided a number of the furnishings, but some wonderful period pieces were bought from used furniture stores. When the 50th Anniversary Committee was dissolved in 1999, the Park Forest Historical Society assumed responsibility for the museum. The society has been in existence since 1985 and re-opened the museum in December 2007 at 141 Forest Blvd under the sponsorship of AIMCO, owners of Central Park Townhomes. In 2010, Andrew Brown and Central Park Apartments became the museum sponsors. In May 2015, the museum was moved to two adjoining classrooms in the former St. Mary's Catholic School, attached to St. Mary's Catholic Church, 227 Monee Road. Now the museum is down the hall from the Local History Collection and Archive, and is more accessible.

Artifacts Collections

The museum is full of furniture and household items common to homes in the early 1950s that our residents would have owned. There is artwork, books, records, toys, clothes--including golashes, aprons, and cloth diapers--dishes and glassware, appliances and furniture. There are examples of Russell Wright, Fiesta Ware, Boontonware, Tupperware, Mirro Aluminum, hammered aluminum decorative and functional pieces, Homer Laughlin dishes, cookie cutters, cleaning products, dollhouses with furniture and a toy metal barn with farm animals, anodized aluminum tumblers, pitcher and bowls, a 1947 GE Refrigerator, a bathinette, and more.

Research Collections

Authentic research materials at the museum include original sales brochures and maps of the early rental courts and "homes for sale" area, along with photographs showing the construction of the village, and the architects, planners and developers. In the classroom, copies of school district scrapbooks are available, containing not only school news, but also copies of many of the early magazine stories written on Park Forest. Materials for more in-depth study are available at the Archive Office, 227 Monee Road, and at the Park Forest Public Library, 400 Lakewood Blvd. It is wise to call the archivist or library before visiting with a local history research question. The archivist is available to meet with researchers by phone, email or by appointment. See more on the research collection under "Library." Microfilm of the local newspapers is now held at Governors State University.

Educational Programs

  • The museum can be open for tours, including school tours by appointment. A tour of the Village can be arranged with the archivist. One educator's guide is available through the Illinois Digital Archives. It may be possible to do a teacher training session--one was put together in the past. The society has a slide show on Park Forest history which is available with a speaker, for a fee. All fees are arranged on a case by case basis.

Governance

Operated by the Park Forest Historical Society; sponsored by St. Mary's Catholic Church and the Park Forest Public Library.

Library

Park Forest Local History Collection and Archive

The Local History Collection and Archive are available for research. The Archive Office is in St. Mary's Catholic Church, 227 Monee Road, Room 2, open Friday 10-12; or by appointment. Call Jane Nicoll, Archivist, 708-481-4252. See www.parkforesthistory.org for contacts, details and updates. Local History files (over 270 subject files), circulating copies of "OH! Park Forest" oral history transcripts, catalogued books on Park Forest and some scrapbooks are available at the Park Forest Public Library, 400 Lakewood Blvd, 708-748-3731, www.pfpl.org. Microfilm of the Park Forest Reporter and Park Forest Star are now housed at Governors State University. Always contact the Society archivist before coming to either location to do research. The public library has no one who works with the collection there.

Access: General Public, Students, Scholars, Members

Appointment required: No

Publications

Newsletter

The society issues a quarterly newsletter, "The Spirit." This began in 2006. "The Spirit" is also available as an email by contacting the Society through the website. Previously there had been two or three issues of a newsletter called, "Prologue." Recent issues of "The Spirit" are available on the Society website at parkforesthistory.org.

    ADA

    Accessibility

    The Colllection is now displayed in two rooms on one floor. Accessible washrooms are available in the building, but not adjacent to the museum rooms.

    Wheelchair Accessible

    Parking

    Restrooms

    Services

    Gift Shop

    Online Gift Shop

    Group Tours