Pictures spark memories and reminiscences… and speak to us when words are inadequate.
Waukegan Historical Society are full of pictures, many of unique artistry. Photographs, postcards, maps, ephemera—all donated to the society—captured life in our city through the decades. The Waukegan Historical Society selected some of their favorites and, where needed, digitally retouched or restored them. The final images are gallery quality and sold by the society as framed prints. The restoration work is careful, bringing out the details seen long ago by the original artist and removing the accumulated wear. Scratches and fingerprints are delicately eliminated. Areas with nicks, crimps, or tears are reconstructed. Faded tones are gently brightened. The work is done primarily by volunteers with years of photographic experience. This program is part of the Society’s mission to collect, preserve and display materials representing the city’s pioneers, residents, businesses, and organizations, and to enrich public knowledge. Another facet of the mission is their publishing program. They have two books:
- Waukegan, Illinois, a 128 page photo book that is part of the popular Images of America series from Arcadia Publishing; and
- Waukegan: A History, a 192 page, heavily illustrated account of our town’s growth by local historian and member Ed Link.
The Waukegan Historical Society also provided images for Waukegan Main Street’s Vintage Postcard set, available at Main Street’s office.
Formed in 1968, the Society is known for the Waukegan History Museum at the Haines house and the John L. Raymond Library at Lilac Cottage—both in Bowen Park—which are maintain jointly with the Waukegan Park District. The park district’s support of cultural arts is unique in the nation and the Waukegan Historical Society is extremely proud and grateful to be associated with this gold-medal-winning organization.
The Museum is the former home of John C. Haines, a past mayor of Chicago, Illinois. The Haines House was built about 1843, making it one of the oldest surviving buildings in Lake County. It was enlarged to its present size in the 1870s. Today, the Museum portrays life of the late Victorian period in 1870s Waukegan through the use of carefully researched wallpapers, carpets, drapes, light fixtures, and period furnishings from prominent Waukegan families. The rich history of Waukegan is found throughout the Museum in the form of rotating exhibits on a wide variety of Waukegan themes and connections, photographs, and artifacts. Highlights include a trunk that a young comedian Jack Benny used during his early Vaudeville days, the bed that Abraham Lincoln slept on while visiting the city, and the charred clock face from the second Lake County Courthouse.
The Society’s research collections are housed in the John L. Raymond Research Library, located on the second floor of Lilac Cottage in Bowen Park. The library is named for the man who first appreciated the importance of collecting the photographic and archival history of Waukegan. Family historians, genealogists, new residents looking for information on their historic homes, and students find data, articles, and accounts in the collections. Each January and February the library is packed with Waukegan High School students immersed in research for their projects for the Chicago Metro History Fair, part of the National History Day Competition. The students have won area, state, and national acclaim. The Society is proud to assist them.
The Society reaches further into the schools and community with some two dozen outreach programs and walking tours. These forty-five minute presentations cover local topics and national subjects with a Waukegan connection: Native American history, the Civil War, influential women, baseball, the Underground Railroad, immigration, and more. The full list of programs and exhibits is in the Waukegan Park District’s Recreation Connection booklet.
The Tour of Homes is their best known program. Each year, Waukegan residents generously open their period homes for self-guided tours. The tour is an annual event that began in 1969 and is the Society’s main fundraiser.
The funds raised from the tour, as well as from sales of framed pictures and books, support the long-term care of the historical collections. The Waukegan Historical Society’s greatest need now is space and they have begun a campaign with the park district to build an addition to the museum. Help the Waukegan Historical Society to continue to tell the story of Waukegan. Join as a member, a participant in one of their activities, or a donor!