Grossdale Station, the historic former train depot that now houses the Brookfield Historical Society, traditionally has been a place where kids visit with Santa Claus during the village’s annual kickoff celebration of the holiday season.
But that won’t be the case this year, because the main floor of the station is presently jammed with items that formerly belonged to Chris Stach, the village’s unofficial historian who died Aug. 10 at the age of 64. Stach was also a long-time columnist for the Landmark.
“There’s a tremendous amount of stuff,” said Kit Ketchmark, president of the historical society as well as the village of Brookfield. “We’re trying to figure out a plan of attack.”
Since September, Ketchmark has met about 10 times with members of Stach’s family at Stach’s former apartment to collect items related to Brookfield and local history that he once owned. Each time, Ketchmark said, he left with his Ford Explorer packed window to window.
According to Ketchmark, the historical society has hundreds of photos, boxes of old newspapers, historic village maps, books containing official village records and more.
There are also one-of-a-kind items related to the village – from architectural drawings done in the 1960s when the south side neighborhoods around Ehlert Park were developed to a post top with the words “Portia Manor,” the original name of a north side subdivision, engraved on it to part of a business sign that used to adorn the exterior of what is now Irish Times to what appear to be railroad ties for the trolley line that used to run along Broadway Avenue to a piece of black marble believed to be part of the tellers’ counter of First National Bank of Brookfield when it was located in the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard.
There are also door plates from the now-demolished original village hall (where Grossdale Station is now located), including the door plate for the village manager and council room, Ketchmark said.
But Ketchmark said that’s just a start. Much of what the historical society now owns remains a mystery. Many of the items, like the many items related to Brookfield’s centennial and Brookfield Zoo, are self-explanatory. Others are not so obvious, since there’s no notation on most items.
“We’ve got to get a few people together who have knowledge of the village’s history and start sorting,” Ketchmark said. “We have no idea what’s in here. This is a tremendous project.”
Asked if the historical society obtained the hundreds of photo negatives Stach had acquired that once belonged to Elmer Johnson, the former publisher of the Brookfield Enterprise, Ketchmark said he wasn’t sure.
“They may be mixed in with the photos,” Ketchmark said. “I’m not sure.”
Library to host Stach estate sale
Meanwhile, the Brookfield Public Library, 3609 Grand Blvd., will host an estate sale of many of the other items Stach collected throughout his life on Sunday, Nov. 13 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
It’s not your average estate sale, said Louann Drew of Enchanted Attic Custom estate Sales, which is overseeing the one-day event.
“It’s almost all collectibles,” she said.
The collection includes boxes and boxes of vintage books, some of which were still being sorted on Monday afternoon, toys, Disney memorabilia, printing plates from newspaper comic strips, Girl Scout collectibles, comic books, magazines, post cards and more.
Photos are available online at by visiting enchantedatticsales.com and clicking the “Upcoming Sales” link. But that will just give a taste of what will be at the sale, Drew said.
“Not even a dent of it is shown online yet,” Drew said.
The sale will be held in the lower level of the library and people can begin signing up to enter the sale at 10:45 a.m., Drew said.
“I’ve never done a sale in a library,” Drew said. “I have no idea what to expect.”
Sandra Baumgardner of the Friends of the Brookfield Public Library was instrumental in working with Stach’s family to collect and organize the sale at the library.
“We all know what a contributor he was to the community,” Baumgardner said. “We’re delighted to be supportive of the family.”