After a two-week hiatus for a general sprucing up, the Riverside Historical Museum will be open again on Saturday, Nov. 7.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., visitors will be able to drop by the museum, which is in the northeast well house (that’s one of the two small cylindrical buildings that flank the historic water tower in Centennial Park at Longcommon Road and Forest Avenue).
While the museum won’t have an exhibit on display on Saturday, residents can get a look at the refurbished interior, which includes new fabric covering the wall panels that enclose the museum’s files.
In addition, a work crew from the Riverside Department of Public Works spent a week and a half repairing, patching and painting the ceiling of the well house. Suspended from the ceiling previously was a large wood bracket that held the Prairie-style chandelier from the demolished Babson estate.
The chandelier, which is now in the refurbished southwest well house, was removed from the museum’s ceiling last year. In addition, the dark green fabric and foam backing that had covered the museum’s wall panels for many years were disintegrating.
The village’s historical commission purchased new fabric for the panels in 2008, but the ceiling had to be repaired before being installed.
“We wanted to restore the museum to the look it had when it first opened,” said Constance Guardi, a member of the Historical Commission who is also on the exhibit committee. “We didn’t want the dark green cover. It was shot and sagging off the walls. It looked terrible.”
The commission sought bids for the ceiling work and to re-cover the wood panels. One bid came in at $2,250, before the commission received word from Village President Michael Gorman that public works could handle the ceiling. Meanwhile, Guardi received a letter from local upholstery business owner Chuck Soumar, who had been asked to submit a bid. Instead, he said he would donate his services to re-cover the panels and install them.
“The residents of Riverside have treated me well for 30 years,” Soumar said on Thursday as he and Juan Ramirez prepared to install the wall panels at the museum. “People have been good to me here, so I’ll give something back. In this case, it’s not about the money; it’s about Riverside, the town.”
In a few weeks, in time for the Dec. 4 Holiday Stroll, the Riverside Historical Commission hopes to have a new exhibit up on those reupholstered panels, a page-by-page re-creation of the book Riverside 1896, which is chock full of historic photos of late 19th-century Riverside.
Guardi added that the commission would like to have an additional exhibit in the southwest well house by next summer. The commission has submitted an application for a $500 grant from the Illinois Association of Museums to help purchase such items as frames and a system for hanging items in the new exhibit space.
The commission will also be sending out another fundraising letter in January or February to raise money for the purchase of additional exhibit cases.