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Braidwood Area Historical Society opens museum

Published: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 8:26 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 9:17 a.m. CDT
(Mary Baskerville for Shaw Media)
The Braidwood Area Historical Society opens a museum in Braidwood.

BRAIDWOOD – Braidwood’s early years were shaped by the men and women who came to the town to put down roots, farm, build businesses, and work in the mines or for the railroad.

The original Chicago and Alton Railroad Depot is home to the Braidwood Area Historical Society. The depot looks much the same today as years ago, with original wood floors. A desk displays many original artifacts, including timetables and the hot wax seal used to secure the payroll envelopes.

The depot building is owned by the city, and was leased to the Braidwood Area Historical Society following the building’s move to Main and Center Street.

The museum is a depository of local lore and legend.

“It is so much better than I visualized. I’m amazed at what we have acquired,” Society President Dee deGroh said.

The museum will mark its third anniversary in October. Area residents have donated or loaned treasured heirlooms, she said, noting most are delighted to offer the artifacts because they will be displayed and shared for future generations.

The Society is preserving the history of Braidwood, Custer Park and Godley, deGroh said. Volunteers like Norberta Lavicka, who is in her ’80s, bring a wealth of knowledge of early times, deGroh said. Lavicka often visits with others about her work in the Macaroni Factory.

Displayed in groups, the vignettes center on early retail shops, schools and churches, Route 66 and veterans.

Displays include the history of Rossi’s Dance Hall, including band leader Barney Faletti’s Italian accordion, and the desk and chair used by deGroh’s great aunt Mary Sheridan as Braidwood’s first telephone operator. She worked at the company from 1910 to 1939 at a time when very few people had phones. When she received word of an emergency, she had a “buzzer, or bell, to notify the volunteer departments,” deGroh said.

Meetings are at 10 a.m. the first Saturday of each month at the museum, which is at Main and Center streets in Braidwood. For information, send an email to The museum is open from 5 to 8 p.m., Wednesdays, May through September; from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays in the summer months; and noon to 3 p.m. during the winter.

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