That the Grossdale Station, the only structure in the village that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, exists today is a minor miracle.
It was moved to its present location back in 1981, long enough ago that we’d be willing to bet a large majority of people living in the village right now never saw the station in its former home, south of the tracks and slightly east of the Prairie Avenue depot, which took its place.
In 2014, the late Chris Stach wrote an article in this paper about that move. It was in that year the station, one of the first two buildings constructed in the fledgling real estate subdivision of Grossdale, celebrated its 125th birthday.
You can find it online by typing the headline (“Grossdale Station marks 125 years”) into the search feature at www.RBLandmark.com.
Next year, the village of Brookfield, which was incorporated in 1893 (the name change came in 1905), will celebrate its 125th birthday. Plans are being outlined as of this writing, by village officials.
We’re sure there will be an appropriate party marking the occasion. The July 4 parade might be an event you’ll want to circle on your calendar. Just a guess.
But after the party, what happens to Grossdale Station, which has become the repository of the village’s history?
The Brookfield Historical Society formed back in the late 1970s as a direct response to the threat of Grossdale Station’s demolition. The grassroots effort did just that, but as the years passed, the core membership of the society — those involved in saving the station — aged or moved.
Now the Brookfield Historical Society only has a handful of active members. Kit Ketchmark has been director of the society since the mid-1990s. Because he’s also been involved in village government since 2001, and president of the village since 2013, we get the feeling that many in Brookfield may believe the historical society and village government are somehow connected.
But apart from a grant to restore the exterior of the station, which the village supported more than a decade ago, the village really doesn’t have any involvement in the society or the maintenance of the soon-to-be 129-year-old station.
Maybe you didn’t know much about the society or that it has so few members or even what’s inside the building — it hasn’t been open to the public for more than a year.
But Grossdale Station is the history of Brookfield. It’s the village’s time capsule, and it needs the help of volunteers, maybe someone who has some knowledge of how museums ought to work, how historic photos and other artifacts should be handled and stored, or someone with an interest in the preservation of historic buildings.
History doesn’t write itself; someone has to be interested enough to do it. In the past, that was people like Stella Abrams and Chris Stach, now both gone, and Joe Stejskal, who remains the last self-styled historian of the village.
Brookfield has a vibrant history and a showcase of a building in which to display it. Here’s hoping the village’s 125th anniversary stirs some local pride in that history and ushers in a new, active era for the Brookfield Historical Society.