In the 1970s, leaders of places like Chicago and its suburbs were trying to rid themselves of tattered Victorian relics that were difficult to maintain, tough to retrofit for contemporary business and residential uses, and, quite frankly, judged as ugly.
They also had a tendency, as in the case of Adler and Sullivan’s Chicago Stock Exchange Building in Chicago and Louis Sullivan’s Babson House in Riverside, to be situated on valuable real estate. There was money to be made.
In the case of the Burlington Northern Railroad, they had a trio of obsolete, poorly maintained train stations along their line in Brookfield. Two of them at Hollywood Avenue and Prairie Avenue, were built in 1889. A third, at Congress Park, was built in 1895.
The railroad wanted the maintenance nightmares gone. The stations at Hollywood and Congress Park were demolished. But a group of residents motivated by the impending loss of what was by that time the oldest building in the village — one of S.E. Gross’ original buildings to showcase his Grossdale suburb — somehow managed to raise the money and then move the old station to the site of the original village hall, itself a victim of the 1970s preference for modernization over preservation.
Grossdale Station looks probably as good now as it ever has, thanks in large part to a small but incredibly dedicated core of volunteers. Scores of people walked through the old station waiting room and the second-floor station master’s quarters on Nov. 3 during Founder’s Day, the village’s celebration of its 125th birthday as an officially incorporated municipality.
What percentage of those people had never seen the inside of that station before? We don’t know for sure, but we’re guessing it was an overwhelming majority. They got a chance to see how lucky Brookfield is to have such a museum — with remarkable artifacts, photos, documents and more from the village’s past.
The rededication of the museum doesn’t close the book on its need for more volunteers and donations to fund its continued operation. Don’t miss the opportunity to keep the history of your hometown alive.
If you didn’t get a chance to make it to Founder’s Day, you may have to wait a while to see the exhibits on display inside again — unless you volunteer. But when another chance comes around, be sure to take advantage.
Brookfield has a remarkable history. It needs to be cherished.