For a village that’s registered as a National Landmark Historic District, you’d think there would be volumes and volumes of history books written about Riverside. Oddly enough, there are just a handful – and the last, a volume titled Riverside Then and Now, was published in 1936.
On July 9, however, a new history book about the village will become available for purchase at the Riverside Public Library and Riverside Historical Museum (if you buy it online or at another store, the proceeds won’t go to the museum).
Authored by residents Lonnie Sacchi and Constance Guardi, Riverside is the latest from Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series. Heavy on photos – the book features more than 200 from the collection of the Riverside Historical Museum – Riverside is a more or less a pictorial history of the village, with the narrative told in the photo captions and in brief chapter introductions.
“I had really never gone through that whole photo collection, and actually we didn’t go through every single one of them, because there were too many,” said Sacchi. “A lot of it was surprising, and kind of confirmed some of the things you read about over the years and learned about previously.”
Sacchi did the writing for the book, including the captions, chapter introductions and biographical portraits of Frederick Law Olmsted, Calvert Vaux and William LeBaron Jenney. The latter three Sacchi said he lobbied hard for.
Arcadia’s “Image of America” series are strictly formatted, Sacchi said, from the number of pages in each volume to guidelines on how captions are written.
Guardi and Sacchi sorted through the historical museum’s photo collection and chose the photos, while Guardi and historical commission member Kim Jacobs scanned the photos chosen for publication.
“The pictures drove the text, not the other way around,” said Sacchi, who is a village trustee and wrote historical articles for the Landmark prior to his election to the village board.
Guardi and Sacchi had been kicking around the idea of a Riverside history book for a couple of years, particularly after the historical commission, of which Guardi is a member, made such a book a goal in its strategic plan.
Sacchi was a natural to write the text, but he didn’t want to go it alone.
“I enjoyed local history and writing about it, and this is something we always talked about before,” said Sacchi. “I would kid with Connie and say, ‘I’ll do it, but you’re going to work with me on it or I’m not going to do it.'”
The book is not so much a linear narrative history of the village as much as it is snapshots of how the village grew. While the chapters are roughly chronological, the photos are grouped together – there is a series of photos about the village’s police and fire departments, another devoted to businesses, another to churches and schools and village celebrations, such as the Fourth of July.
Some actually illustrate local legends that seem hard to believe today – the Gypsy camp in Riverside Lawn and a hobo camp in North Riverside. Others, such as the aftermath of a 1911 train crash that wiped out a portion of the train platform, will be completely new to most readers.
Yet another photo, an aerial shot taken in the late 1920s, gives an idea of just how slowly the village grew. Looking to the northeast from downtown, the photo shows winding streets laid out in a prairie, with virtually no homes lining them.
The authors will celebrate the publication with a book-signing on Wednesday, July 11 at 7 p.m. at the Riverside Public Library, 1 Burling Road. Books ($20) can be purchased at the event or can be pre-ordered through the library by calling 708-442-6366. The proceeds of all books sold at the library or through the historical commission will benefit the historical commission.