Situated in Centennial Park in the center of Riverside, the Riverside Historical Museum, though small, contains myriad information pertinent to the history of the village.
The museum is operated by the Riverside Historical Commission, whose members are appointed by the village president with approval of the village board. It differs from a historical society, which has open membership.
The commission is in charge of the contents of the building, assembling displays and making sure it’s available to the public, among other duties.
The building is a former well house, and at one time the small round space was bare inside without any storage space. The village tasked the commission – I was a member if the commission at the time — to make the building a viable museum to showcase Riverside’s history.
Fortunately, one of the commission members at that time was Mike Wimmer, a Riverside resident and an architect. With input from commission members and the village, Wimmer set about designing the interior of the building.
For those of us who had never worked with an architect before, it was interesting to watch as Wimmer brought us his ideas. Because of the building’s shape, it was not easy. Storage was one of the priorities as well as the need to have space for displays. The building also had to be temperature-controlled to preserve all of the artifacts stored there.
While work was being completed on the structure, other commission members were sorting and categorizing what was to be housed in the museum. There were some artifacts and many pictures. Decisions were made on when displays would be set up and what they would be. Finances for the commission were very slim at the time, so members got creative with solutions.
When the museum opened, commission members took turns manning the museum on Saturdays to greet visitors and answer questions.
So that is part of the story behind the small building next to Riverside’s iconic water tower and how the small building became the Riverside Historical Museum.