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New exhibits premier Saturday at Plainfield Historical Museum

One of the many items on display beginning Saturday at the Plainfield Historical Museum

One of the many items on display beginning Saturday at the Plainfield Historical Museum

New exhibits premier Saturday at Plainfield Historical Museum
These are the sensations stuck in memory banks of people who survived the Plainfield tornado of Tues., Aug. 28, 1990 and memorialized in one of the new exhibits opening this weekend at the Plainfield Historical Museum.
“So many people coming through asked about the tornado that we knew we had to make a display about it,” said Mike Bortel, President of the Plainfield Historical Society. “It’s an event everyone remembers in Plainfield history.”
The tornado that hit Plainfield at 3:28 PM and was the only F5 tornado ever recorded in August and the only F5 tornado ever to hit the Chicagoland area, killing 29 people and injuring 353 people. The clock that stopped at 3:35 p.m. in Plainfield High School’s Room 203 when a tornado whipped through Plainfield that day is one of the treasures now on hand for public viewing in the exhibit, “Tornado Day.”
Upon first entering the Society's Museum, visitor's will be introduced to a timely new exhibit – "History & Restoration of Plainfield's Opera House Block." The original Opera House building was erected in 1889 by a local corporation of Plainfield business and civic leaders. That building was destroyed in a fire on Feb. 4, 1898 that began in the Hay & McCreery Hardware & Grocery store. The exhibit chronicles the life of Clarence Wesley (C.W.) Marks who established a wholesale boot and shoe business in Chicago in 1870 and his efforts to rebuild the Plainfield Opera House Block from the fire rubble in May 1898 to its completion by mid-January 1899. After viewing this new exhibit of Marks' creation, visitor's should take the time to view the current building's recent restoration at the southwest corner of Lockport and Illinois Streets.
A rubber horse shoe made to mute the clip clop of horse-drawn delivery trucks in the wee hours of the morning and poems grade-schoolers wrote to immortalize the talents of historically gifted Plainfield teachers Janet Elizabeth Brown and Bonnie McBeth are tributes to happier moments in local history. They are part of displays showcasing the community’s farming tradition and the early roots of public education.
“What farm child didn’t enjoy the pleasure of laying on the back of a draft horse on a sunny day and ambling through the fruit orchard? Both child and horse might be heard munching on an apple,” reads a placard that transports modern suburban visitors to a place in time when time and space were in plentiful supply.
The salute to farm traditions spotlights the Jim Culver family, a Plainfield family that has attracted national media attention as they reject modern farm technology to persist in farming with their Belgian horses as they have for generations. The exhibit also tells the saga of the museum building itself, a grain elevator office where farmers once cashed in their harvests since the early 1900’s. The artifacts include a collection of stamped feed sacks, which in eras predating Abercrombie and Fitch, families in the 1940s fashioned into dresses and aprons.”
“I remember seeing dresses and other clothes sewed out of feed sacks,” which was related by Harriet Glasgow, a lifetime member of the Plainfield Historical Society.
Janet Elizabeth Brown, who applied many of the most forward-thinking education principles while shaping Plainfield youngsters in a one-room school house and Bonnie McBeth, who later pioneered as Plainfield School Districts first kindergarten teacher in 1951 and introduced Reading Recovery program to the community in 1994, are the focus of new displays in the museum’s school room.

“It is not too often that we are able to honor people while they are still around to receive this honor," Bortel said about the McBeth tribute.
Coming later this spring are exhibits featuring baseball celebrity George Pierce, who retired to Plainfield after pitching for the Chicago Cubs from 1908 to 1916, and married Mary Hobol, the community’s first domestic science teacher. Also in the works is “Electric Park, the Swimsuit Edition,” showing off swimwear of the early 1900’s at the Plainfield resort of yesteryear.
The new exhibits will premier to the public Sat. March 17. The museum, at 23836 W. Main St., Plainfield is now open for the season 1-4 p.m. Saturdays.

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