Historical Society Past Events

*The majority of the images below were taken by Connie Henderson-Damon (Historical Society Board Member) and Debby Preiser (Oak Park Public Library)*

October 16, 2016

"The Big Show"

25th Annual Tale of the Tombstones

October 18, 2015

"Music of the Dead"

24th Annual Tale of the Tombstones

Glen Braun and Lee Conte sing to tell the love story of Alfredo Jannotta and Stella Skiff.

Jan Dressel, a tour guide lead a group around the cemetery.

The History Singers preform a song about the Eastland Disaster.

Tour group walking around Forest Home Cemetery.

Photos from Forest Park Review

Click to read article about this year's Tale of the Tombstones.

February 25, 2015

From Harlem Avenue to Hollywood Boulevard:  An Evening with John Mahoney

A delightful evening of seeing clips of John Mahoney's movie, theater and TV career was shared by over 290 people on Wednesday evening, Feb. 25 at the Lake Theater in Oak Park. The audience watched 18 minutes of clips of movies, scenes from theater productions and TV episodes which was produced and edited by Tom Kline.   Then Mahoney talked about growing up in England during WWII, moving to the United States, teaching English and then becoming an actor.  The audience asked numerous questions about his career and awards.  After the event, Mahoney graciously signed posters for attendees. 

We would like to thank John Mahoney, our event co-chairs Kelli Kline and Connie Henderson-Damon, our Master of Ceremonies and interviewer Doug Deuchler, Lake Theatre owners Willis and Shirley Johnson and their staff, Jason Deuchler and Tom Kline for the video montage, artist Keith Taylor for the poster artwork, Scott Baehrend and his crew from Padufus Films, all our volunteers, and everyone who came to the Lake Theatre on a snowy Wednesday evening for making this event spectacular.  Due to popular demand, we will be planning future From Harlem Avenue to Hollywood Boulevard events.  Please continue to visit our website for updates and if you're not on our mailing list yet, please email us at
oprfhistorymatters@sbcglobal.net so you can get the latest news.


November 2014

2nd Annual Festival of Trees

The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest was one of the participants in the 2nd Annual Festival of Trees, presented by the Rotary Club of Oak Park and River Forest. Visitors had the opportunity to see handcrafted Christmas trees and wreaths from more than 20 non-profits from Oak Park and River Forest, while enjoying live holiday entertainment, raffles, seasonal refreshments, and a visit from Santa Claus.

Our entry into the 2nd Annual Festival of Trees was spearheaded by Historical Society Board Member Connie Henderson-Damon.  Hometown Legend celebrated photographer Philander Barclay, who took photographs in Oak Park while riding his bike.  Connie curated 93 different images from our Barclay Collection, including those of our churches, our first jail in 1903, and our future home at the Cicero Firehouse.  These images were chosen as a window to Oak Park's past, with the idea of bringing back memories of an earlier time.  

Our entry was awarded a blue ribbon in the People's Choice Category, and was purchased by Barclay's American Grille in the auction. A special thanks to Connie for all her hard work in making this happen!

October 25, 2014

A Hometown Safari

This cocktail party and fund-raiser for the Historical Society was held at the Oechslin Estate at 846 Ashland Avenue in River Forest.  Modeled after a Swiss chalet and sitting on almost an acre of land, this estate features 73 mounted and displayed big game animals, and miniature-scale working railroad train!

Images courtesy of Delilah Chan

October 19, 2014

Tale of the Tombstones

Our 23rd Annual Cemetery Walk at the Forest Home Cemetery paid tribute to the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.  Costumed reenactors told the stories of a widow in mourning, a man who managed to live 57 years after having been shot through his lung at the Battle of Vicksburg, and Lt. Anson Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway's grandfather, who led African American troops for the Union Army against the South.

Pictures alone cannot do justice to our actors' performances, so here are some links:

Lt. Anson Hemingway and Percy Hobbs

Union Soldiers Richard and Alexander Thain

Major Wilbur F. Crummer

A Woman in Mourning

Below are some links to press coverage of Tale of the Tombstones from The Forest Park Review and Oak Leaves

Slideshow: 23rd Annual Tale of the Tombstones Cemetery Walk in Forest Home Cemetery

Deb Takes You "Live" to the Forest Home Cemetery

June 26, 2014

2014 Annual Meeting

The annual meeting began with a 2013-14 year-in-review, installation of 2014-15 officers, and volunteer awards. The featured program focused on some of the treasures in our collection as we plan for the move to our new museum. Board members and volunteers did a "show-and-tell" of some of their favorite artifacts in the collection! 

Jan Dressel in front of crowd

Frank Lipo

Jan Dressel and Beth Loch

Kurt Etchingham volunteer award

Lee Conte volunteer award

Peggy Sinko and duck call

Kelli Kline

July 4, 2014

Oak Park Independence Day Parade

Historical Society volunteers and staff dressed in period costume or came as themselves to march in the parade. Connie Henderson-Damon and Fiona Fimmel dressed as suffragettes and Tom Holmes dressed as Uncle Sam.

May 26, 2014

River Forest Memorial Day Parade

Historical Society volunteers and staff dressed in period costume or came as themselves to march in the parade. Volunteers dressed as Uncle Sam and suffragettes; and Don Carter rode in his landmark Model T. 

May 9, 2014

Hometown Treasures

The Historical Society's benefit celebrating our Hometown Treasures was held on Friday, May 9th at Frank Lloyd Wright's Winslow House in River Forest. This event allowed attendees to tour a "Hometown Treasure" and meet a "Hometown Treasure." Scroll down for pictures of the Winslow House and the event.

Tour a "Hometown Treaure":

The Winslow House was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first independent commission and his first attempt at re-inventing the traditional home.  Wright uses elements that enhance the horizontal aspect of the large home including the wide roof, decorative brown tiles, Roman brick, and dramatic limestone base.  The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.  A special thank you to the Walker Family for taking loving care of it for 50 years and for graciously opening up this Hometown Treasure for this event.

Meet a "Hometown Treaure": 

Jeanette Fields has always been a positive problem-solver.  In her lifetime, she has been involved in so many cultural and architectural projects that one could write a book about them all!  In fact, there is one: Jeanette Fields, A Community Life, which summarizes in a mere 110 pages all the organizations she started or strengthened in the last 70 years.  Locally, Mrs. Fields has been a leader of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, and the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation.  She has been a loyal member of The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest for decades. 

Jeanette Fields pictured above.

May 4, 2014

Elegant Estates of Oak Park

The Historical Society's 11th annual spring housewalk event was held on Sunday, May 4th. Tour participants picked up their event programs at the Oak Park Art League before heading out to view 6 private homes in the "Elegant Estates" section of Oak Park. 

Scroll down to view photos of the houses featured on the 2014 housewalk.

February 8, 2014

Family Heirloom or Flea Market Find: What's it Worth?

The Historical Society's 4th annual aprraisal event was held on Saturday, Feb. 8th at the Nineteenth Century Club in Oak Park. Eight experienced appraisers, all certified members of the International Society of Appraisers, were available to examine and determine a current market value for items. The appraisers also provided information on items' provenance and material, and sometimes on the craftsman or artist who created it.

A variety of items were brought for appraisal including quilts, jewlery, paintings, violins, and even a set of swords. Below are photographs from the 2014
What's it Worth?

November 29 to December 1, 2013

Festival of Trees

The Rotary Club of Oak Park - River Forest presented its first annual Festival of Trees. Local organizations each decorated a Christmas tree for display at Holley Court Terrace on the 13th floor. The trees were judged before being auctioned to raise money for the charitable works, both local and international, of the Rotary Club of Oak Park - River Forest.

The decorated trees were on display Nov. 29 through Dec. 1st. before judging. The Historical Society's holiday tree won best theme, "Hometown Legends!" The tree was decorated with photos of local legends with their contributions or reason for fame on the back of the star. Ornaments were objects related the local legend. Scroll down to see pictures of the Historical Society's tree. The Historical Society wishes to thank Kelli Kline and Connie Henderson-Damon for decorating the tree.

The "Hometown Legends!" tree is currently on display at the Historical Society! Take one of the regularly scheduled tours of the Historical Society to see the tree, 
click here for tour information.

Hometown Legends tree

"Homefront Legends" tree

Tree topper
    Roy Kroc ornaments

Tree topper and Ray Kroc (McDonalds owner) ornaments

Charles Dawson Butler ornaments

  Paul Hamer ornaments

Paul Hamer ornaments

Warren Trezevant ornaments

Rosie the Riveter Presentation and Panel Discussion

This free event held in the Veterans Room at the Oak Park Public Library was presented by historian/actress Lynn Rymarz. She embodied and told the story of Geraldine Hoff Doyle, the real woman behind the iconic "Rosie the Riveter." The audience heard how this glamour girl went to work in a factory at the age of 17 to support the war effort. After Lynn Rymarz's presentation, the audience told stories and shared memories of the homefront during World War II.

This event was co-sponsored with the League of Women Voters and the Oak Park Public Library.

Lynn Rymarz with audience members

Lynn Rymarz with two audience members


Peg Zak shares her mother's WWII coupon books

An audience member shares her mom's work as a "Rosie"

Guests look at the table of "Rosie the Riveter" materials brought by Rymarz

September 25, 2013

Wild Women of Song Benefit at FitzGerald's

Pamela Rose presented Wild Women of Song, a captivating showpiece celebrating the lives, times and music of the women songwriters of the Tin Pan Alley era which included dramatic multi-media storytelling and a blues/jazz concert with a full band. This fall benefit for the Historical Society was held at FitzGerald's in Berwyn.

Pamela Rose and her band performs at FitzGerald's

August 10 and September 22, 2013

Women's History Walk: 100 Years of Voting and Activism

Costumed Historical Society guides told the stories of women in our community who broke down barriers in the fields of government and civic life, cultural affairs, and social services in this tour down Lake Street. The walking tour was presented in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in Illinois.

This walking tour was presented on both August 10th and September 22nd by Peggy Tuck Sinko, Connie Henderson Damon, and Mary Ann Porucznik. The tour was then turned into a presentation for Belmont Village residents in early October.

If you have a group of 10 or more people who would like to view a presentation of the Women's History Walk please contact the Historical Society at 708-848-6755 or
oprfhistorymatters@sbcglobal.net for more information.


Left to right: Peggy Tuck Sinko, Connie Henderson Damon, Mary Ann Porucznik, and group


Connie Henderson Damon, tour guide 


Peggy Tuck Sinko, tour guide

June 23, 2013

Sacred Spaces House of Worship Walk

The OPRF Community of Congregations and the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest presented the 2nd Annual Sacred Spaces House of Worship Walk. Everyone was invited to discover the rich architecture, history and faith traditions of seven Oak Park and River Forest houses of Worship.

The walk included houses of worship located near the corner of Harlem Avenue and Division Street. The religious buildings covered on the tour were Chapel of Our Lord at Concordia University, Christian Science Society of Oak Park and River Forest, Grace Lutheran Church and School, Living Sanctuary of Faith Church, Oak Park Temple B'nai Abraham Zion, Saint Thomas Aquinas Priory at Dominican University, and West Suburban Temple Har Zion.

Tour patrons picked up their tour pamphlets (which acted as their tickets) at the Historical Society's welcome table outside of Grace Lutheran. Guests could visit the houses of worship in any order they chose. At each location their pamphlets were marked by a Historical Society volunteer and they were given a guided tour of the religious building by a docent.

      Priory Chapel

Historical Society staff welcome guests                                          Saint Thomas Aquinas Priory interior


Jerry Bloom at West Suburban Temple Har Zion                         Rabbi Damski discusses faith traditions


        Robert at Living Sanctuary                                      A tour of Oak Park Temple B'nai Abraham Zion


Learning about the windows at  West Suburban Temple            Guests check out the organ at Living Sanctuary  

June 12, 2013

Annual Meeting and Volunteer Dinner

The 2013 Annual Meeting of The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest was held at the River Forest Public Library.  Before the meeting, anyone who had volunteered for the Historical Society in 2012-13 was invited to a picnic supper at the library. The dinner is one way the Historical Society acknowledges and thanks our dedicated volunteers.  

The meeting began with a 2012-13 year-in-review by Frank Lipo (Executive Director) discussing the past year's events, sales, programs, and visitors. Beth Loch (Administrative Assistant) then spoke of her first year working at the Historical Society. The 2013-14 officers were installed and volunteer awards given. The featured speaker of the evening was Tom Jozefowicz, a River Forest resident and senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School, who shared his story of what we are calling the "electronic plaque program."

This River Forest Historical Sites project was developed this year as the Eagle Scout Project by Jozefowicz, a Life Scout in River Forest's Boy Scout Troop 65.  The project is being done in association with The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest and is located on the Historical Society’s webpage www.oprfhistory.org  The Historical Society is proud to have partnered with this young leader and hopes this project will continue to be expanded to other local historic sites in the years to come.


Jozefowicz was searching for an easier way for local residents and tourists to learn more about various historical landmarks and historical structures without tracking down guidebooks or other less accessible sources.  Working with local historic sites, he arranged to place a QR (quick response) code plaque at each building that can be scanned by a smart phone.  This common technology allows the user to scan the QR code and travel to the web page to get more information about the site.


In essence, anyone standing in front of one of these buildings is a scan away from traveling to a web page to learn about the site.   Since the River Forest Public Library is one of the locations for the project, people in attendance brought their smart phone and tried it out for themselves!

Frank Lipo's year in review  Volunteer award 

Frank Lipo gives a year in review                                      Volunteer award is given for the Street File Project

            Volunteer award 

Volunteer award presented to Laurel McMahon                  Volunteer award to Tom Jozefowicz      


"Electronic Plaque" program presentation                      Tom's Powerpoint presentation

May 23, 2013

A Night with Wright and Ware

The Historical Society offered guests an exclusive tour of Frank Loyd Wright's masterpiece, the Arthur Heurtley House, built in 1902. The home is featured in Chris Ware's graphic poster he designed for the Historical Society. Chris Ware was available to sign posters and shared insights about his work. Guests wandered the spectacular house, took guided tours, savored wine, enjoyed hors d'oeuvres and mingled with Oak Parker Chris Ware. The fundraiser was an entertaining event!

Jan Dressel's welcome   Chris Ware signs posters  

Jan Dressel (Board Co-President) welcomes guests                   Chris Ware signs posters      

Guests enjoy the home     Chris Ware and guests    

Guests enjoy the house                                              Chris Ware meets guests     

Tour group in front of Heurtley House

Guests begin a guided tour of Heurtley House