As the village of Brookfield begins to cut the cake for its 125th birthday, it’s been heartening to know that there’s still a real interest in preserving the village’s past for future generations.
As we’ve chronicled previously, the Brookfield Historical Society, which operates the Grossdale Station museum, has been shedding members as they die and leave the area. The folks that made the historical society what it once was provided priceless gifts to the village.
In addition to saving the Grossdale Station itself – moving it across the tracks to its present location – that group of people produced the only official history of the village, a book that includes hundreds of photographs, many of which are likely irreplaceable.
That those photos didn’t simply disappear in the 25 years since that book was published is something of a miracle. But they were kept safe and sound, and in an organized fashion, by one of the principal authors, Stella Abrams.
The historical society obtained those photos upon Abrams’ death. After sitting in a box for two years, the Brookfield Public Library stepped up and started a campaign to digitize that collection. They’ve been able to attract more than 20 volunteers to research label and scan the photos for a database that could go live by the end of the month.
That’s just the tip of the photo iceberg. There are boxes of photos from the collection of the late Chris Stach to be dealt with, and, of course, we can only guess what photos longtime Brookfield families may have squirreled away, unseen for decades. The library database, however, has opened an avenue for those precious images to be saved for posterity.
In terms of helping reinvigorate the historical society itself, which by the looks of it is down to two dedicated volunteers, Brookfield resident Allen Goodcase took it upon himself to create a Facebook page for the society, posting historic photos to its timeline for the time being.
In time, Goodcase hopes, the page can be used to promote events, raise money and recruit new members. The Grossdale Station – one of the first buildings constructed for S.E. Gross’ real estate venture back in 1889, predates the incorporation of the village.
As you might imagine, it’s expensive to maintain and the displays are showing their age. It’s time for new life to be instilled in the museum, but as they say, it takes a village. And by that we don’t mean the government of the village of Brookfield. The society and museum are separate from the village and do not get funding from the village.
It’s the residents of Brookfield who are going to be the ones to make sure the village’s history and its historic assets are preserved.
A number of people have stepped up to help make sure that happens, but more hands on deck are needed.