Brookfield officials are nailing down the final details for Founder’s Day, an event marking the official 125th birthday of Brookfield’s incorporation in 1893.
While a couple of loose ends remain, the event is scheduled to be held on Saturday, Nov. 3 from noon to 3 p.m., with much of the festivities centered, fittingly, at the site of the Grossdale Station, 8820½ Brookfield Ave.
Founder’s Day will kick off with a ribbon cutting at Grossdale Station, the village’s National Historic Landmark, which will also mark the grand re-opening of the Brookfield Historical Museum housed in the station.
The ribbon-cutting will be followed by remarks from officials and tours of the museum. There will be a tent in the front yard of the station where there will be live entertainment.
Over at Brookfield Village Hall, across the river at 8820 Brookfield Avenue, the Brookfield Public Library will be conducting oral history interviews. Other activities and events may be added to the itinerary.
The museum inside the Grossdale Station has been closed to the public for the past two years. With Brookfield Historical Society membership dropping to just a handful of people and the museum obtaining a large collection of artifacts and photos from the estate of local historian Chris Stach, it’s taken some time to wade through all of the material.
But with a renewed interest in village history with the 125th anniversary celebration and the Brookfield Public Library’s photo digitization effort, volunteers have been helping clear out the train station’s main room. Historical Society President Kit Ketchmark, who is also village president, said the main floor of the station is being repainted for the first time since 1981, and they are also working to get the bathroom operating again.
The historical society will be selling souvenirs and books they have collected over the years, but exhibits will be unchanged for now.
“I’d like us to get to a point where we open up,” said Ketchmark. “Then we can decide what we want to do with things. We’re not at that point.”
Prior to November, said Ketchmark, the society will replace four more windows – bringing the total to 12 – at the station. The custom-made wood windows are replicas of the originals, which have deteriorated over time. The glass panes from the original 19th-century windows were saved for the reproductions.
When village residents voted to incorporate on Nov. 7, 1893, they did so as Grossdale, named after Chicago real estate speculator and developer Samuel Eberly Gross, who in 1888 bought the land bounded by Salt Creek and what now are Washington, Maple and Southview avenues.
The Grossdale Station was a train depot that once stood on the south side of the railroad tracks just east of the present day Prairie Avenue Metra station.
The train station and the Grossdale Pavilion were the first two buildings erected by Gross, according to the book “Brookfield, Illinois: A History,” published to mark the village’s centennial in 1993.
Falling apart and threatened with demolition, the Grossdale Station was saved by a group of local residents who would go on to form the Brookfield Historical Society. The volunteers raised funds and moved the station across the tracks to its present location in 1981. Two other ornate Victorian train depots at Hollywood and Congress Park were demolished in 1978 and 1979, respectively, according to the history book.
The Grossdale Pavilion, which served as a combination village hall, school and real estate office, was located at the corner of Prairie and Brookfield avenues. It burned to the ground in 1897.