For over 125 years, there has been a library in Downers Grove, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago in DuPage County. The Downers Grove Public Library (D.G.P.L.) is located at 1050 Curtiss Street in downtown Downers Grove. The Downers Grove Public Library’s motto is “The place to go when you need to know.” One can read the Downers Grove Public Library Bylaws, Policies, and Guidelines online here.
Located twenty-one miles west of the Chicago Loop, Downers Grove is a large suburb with certain elements of a (small) city. It has a real downtown, three Metra stops, two high schools, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, and The Avery Coonley School (A.C.S.) for gifted students. It began as a farm town and is only a few decades younger than Chicago, if one counts from when the first settlers arrived rather than from incorporation.
Downers Grove is probably best known outside Chicagoland as the hometown of model-turned actress-turned “reality” TV star Denise Richards. It should be better known as the hometown of three hockey players: Tony and Cammi Granato (former N.H.L. player and Colorado Avalanche head coach Tony Granato and his younger sister, Cammi Granato, who was captain of the American women’s hockey team that won the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics) and current N.H.L. player Matt S. Jones. It is also the hometown of comedian Emo Philips.
The most historically significant resident of Downers Grove is unquestionably Major-General Arthur Charles Ducat, Sr. (1830-1896). A Scotch-Irish immigrant, he helped professionalize the Chicago Fire Department, served as Inspector General of the Army of the Cumberland during the American Civil War, and was the first commander of the Illinois National Guard. Born in Dublin County, Ireland, he arrived in Illinois in 1852 and supported himself before the Civil War as a civil engineer and insurance agent. In February of 1864, Ducat resigned to recover his health and returned to Chicago, where he resumed his antebellum roles in insurance and fire-fighting. He represented the Home Insurance Company of New York. It was Ducat who called for William Le Baron Jenney (1832-1907) to design the ten-story Home Insurance Building in downtown Chicago, a brick-clad building with a steel skeleton that became the first skyscraper. The two men had met during the war, while Jenney was designing a fort at Cairo Point, Illinois, as Jenney recounted in a letter in 1897. Ducat was one of the founders of the Illinois National Guard. On April 7, 1875, Governor John Lourie Beveridge appointed Ducat commander of the Illinois Militia with the rank of brigadier general. On May 18, 1877, Governor Shelby M. Cullom appointed him first commander of the newly-created Illinois National Guard with the rank of major-general, a position he resigned in 1879. Ducat, who owned vacation homes in the resort community of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, founded the yacht club there. He was a member of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland and the Grand Army of the Republic. Ducat created the Lindenwald estate in western Downers Grove. [Presumably, he named it after President Martin Van Buren’s Lindenwald estate.] This began with an investment with a group of friends in the Linden Heights Association, which purchased 800 acres of farmland and woodland, but he ultimately bought out his partners and turned the property into an estate.
Bret Easton Ellis adapted Michael Hornburg’s 1999 Bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel)-cum-horror novel Downers Grove as a screenplay. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker reported on November 9, 2012 that the town would not directly benefit from the production, which would star Hayden Panettiere (from Heroes) and Nikki Reed (from Twilight), because it was going to be filmed in Louisiana in 2013. Ultimately, The Curse of Downers Grove (2015) starred Australian actresses Bella Heathcote, who had starred as Victoria Winters and Josette du Pres in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows (2015), and Penelope Mitchell, who had a starring role in Season 1 of the Netflix series Hemlock Grove and a supporting role in Season 6 of The Vampire Diaries. The Curse of Downers Grove was filmed in Ponoma, California. It had a limited theatrical release before it was released on D.V.D. and Blu-ray. The choice to shoot the film somewhere else shows the filmmakers knew nothing about Downers Grove because it has a thriving downtown and several neighborhoods with picturesque homes in sylvan landscapes. As lovely as Ponoma, California is, it does not resemble Downers Grove.
The Village of Downers Grove and Pierce Downer Elementary School preserve the name of the community’s first landowner, Vermont native Pierce Downer. His son Stephen Downer was a mason working on Chicago’s first lighthouse. Stephen Downer had informed his father about rich lands to the west of Chicago. Pierce Downer acquired 160 acres of woodland and prairie for $1.25 per acre. The site to which he laid claim was at the fork of two American Indian trails. Downer was not threatened during the Black Hawk War (1832). He counted the Potawatomi Chief Waubonsee amongst his friends. More settlers arrived after the conclusion of the Black Hawk War.
In 1835, Edwin Bush, an eighteen-year-old New York native, laid claim to 122 acres near the site of what is now Metra’s Belmont Station. That same year, Dexter and Nancy Stanley moved into a log cabin with their nine children, one of whom, Nancy, wed Bush. Many families who have resided in Downers Grove for generations can trace their ancestry back to Dexter and Nancy Stanley.
Israel Blodgett left a homestead he had already established in the Naper Settlement (now Naperville) to create a new homestead that would consist of a blacksmith workshop as well as a farm to the south of what is now Maple Avenue. He purchased the new homestead from Joel Wells, whom Pierce Downer had once run off with a hickory rod when he found Wells and another man hacking at trees on his property. Blodgett’s first customers included Indians who needed their firearms repaired. Subsequently, Samuel Curtiss established a homestead north of the Blodgett homestead.
Blodgett and Curtiss hitched a log to six oxen to flatten and widen a trail between their properties that connected to the trail between Chicago and Naper Settlement. They planed maple trees along the route. This is the origin of Maple Avenue.
Blodgett was an abolitionist. His house was a stop along the “Underground Railway” for runaway slaves. He hid them in his basement before they moved on to the next stop on their way to Canada.
Settlement of the area was stimulated by construction of the Illinois-Michigan Canal, which began in 1836. Henry Carpenter opened the first store and post office in 1842. It was on Maple Avenue west of what is now Main Street. In that decade, Downers Grove had two blacksmith workshops in operation. Carpenter subdivided his land to draw new residents to the area near his store. By the end of the decade, European immigrants from England, Ireland, German states, and Alsace-Lorraine (then part of France) had settled in the area. Some of them had helped build the Illinois-Michigan Canal.
The Bush Hill committee that petitioned the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad to build a railroad from Chicago to Aurora included representation of Downers Grove. The first train arrived in Downers Grove in 1864. Originally, one train in each direction arrived in Downers Grove per day. The growing hamlet was platted for the first time. Union Street (now Main Street) opened north of the railroad tracks.
Meanwhile, in 1860, DuPage County Sherriff Theodore S. Rogers, a Downers Grove resident, led the “Plow Boys” who campaigned for Abraham Lincoln in resplendent red-and-white uniforms, as related by Virginia A. Stehney. They campaigned with a large American flag on a flagpole in a wagon pulled by eight black horses. A blue silk banner the hamlet’s ladies produced for the Plow Boys is now in the Smithsonian Institution.
Sherriff Rogers received a commission as the captain of the first company of Union Army soldiers contributed by DuPage County. Captain Walter Blanchard, who commanded another company of men from Illinois, died in the war. He and a number of other Union Army veterans are buried in Main Street Cemetery.
The Main Street Cemetery started out in 1856 as part of a sheep pasture owned by Samuel Curtiss. Two children were already buried there when Henry Carpenter suggested that the site be designated a cemetery so the children would not be there alone. In 1866, Curtiss received compensation in the form of $15 when a burial association formed. Family plots went for $5. In 1902, the burial of Sergeant Israel Blackburn, a freedman, Civil War veteran, and village blacksmith, was a cause of contention, as the Chicago Tribune’s Brian Slodysko recounted. His friends wanted Sgt. Blackburn buried in Main Street Cemetery, but others opposed the idea because he would be the first Black African-American to be buried in a cemetery where all the other decedents were White. As a compromise, he was buried in a corner, as Jim Dohren, a Downers Grove Historical Society member and former middle school teacher, explained to Slodysko. The last burial in the Main Street Cemetery took place in 1938, after which it fell into disrepair. In 1982, the Downers Grove Historical Society began to restore the Main Street Cemetery. Some marble headstones had deteriorated because of exposure to acid rain. Others had been vandalized. The Downers Grove Historical Society replaced these weathered or damaged marble headstones with granite headstones. They also drove out a vagrant camp. One unidentified body was discovered outside the cemetery walls.
The Oak Hill and Oak Crest cemeteries are situated between Maple Avenue and Howard Street in unincorporated Downers Grove and Lisle Township. Oak Hill Cemetery was originally called Westside Cemetery. In 1835, Dexter Stanley purchased a large property and later set aside part of it as a cemetery because the flooding of the St. Joseph Creek made it difficult to bury the dead in Main Street Cemetery. His neighbors had appealed him for help because his land included heights. Family names of prominent early settlers represented in the Oak Hill Cemetery include Downer, Stanley, Dixon, Carpenter, and Rogers. The Oak Crest Cemetery was originally called Blodgett Cemetery and was privately owned. It is located between Howard Street and Elmore Avenue in unincorporated Downers Grove. Part of it is in Lisle Township. This is confusing, but during his lifetime, William Blodgett sold lots in his cemetery, but he never actually owned the land. In August of 1936. Florence L. Kester and her husband Reg. Ekstrom, Jr., owned the land and on December 5, 1936, they conveyed the property to Edith G. Blodgett. William Blodgett died on February 8, 1933. Edith Blodgett conveyed part of the land to Olive M. Carlson, and she conveyed it to William and Harriet Prince Parrish on May 15, 1945. On July 17, 1945, Edith Blodgett conveyed the rest of the property to William and Harriet Parish. Before he died in 1960, William Parish sold the land to Fred and Mae Marvin for $10. They already owned the Oak Hill Cemetery. Since 1985, the Township of Downers Grove has been steward of the two cemeteries. The Township of Downers Grove began a headstone restoration project in 2016. One can donate by making a check out to the Oak Hill and Oak Crest Foundation and mailing it to 4340 Prince Street, Downers Grove, Illinois 60515.
Pierce Downer and his wife Lucy Ann died one day apart in March of 1863. They are buried in a grove on a knoll on their property on what is now Linscott Avenue. Pierce and Lucy Ann Downer had intended to be buried in the Main Street Cemetery with the Blodgetts and other neighbors, but rains had caused the St. Joseph Creek to flood, which made the Main Street Cemetery inaccessible. Several of their relatives are buried on the site of the Downer homestead. The last member of the family to be buried there was Earl Downer in 1978. A few years ago, Chris Salman of Stature Custom Homes, who was in the process of building a new home on the adjacent property, arranged with the customers to transfer land that fronted on the grave site to the Downers Grove Park District.
In 1873, hamlet residents voted 49-38 to incorporate. Theodore S. Rogers became the first village board president, and served in office for sixteen years. By 1885, Downers Grove was truly a village, with 500 residents. Three years later, the Village of Downers Grove built sewers.
In 1892, Charles Blodgett. Israel Blodgett’s son, erected a house at 831 Maple Avenue. This became the Downers Grove Historical Museum.
Marshall Field I and other Chicago businessmen built the first purpose-built nine-hole golf course west of the Appalachian Mountains just west of Downers Grove in 1892. The Chicago businessmen backed C.B. Macdonald, who had studied at Saint Andrews University in the 1870s, as Andy Johnson recounted. They purchased the farm of Haddow Smith to convert into a golf course. The farm was located in what was then Belmont, Illinois, an unincorporated community in Lisle Township. This became the Links at Belmont. The Chicago Golf Club formed and soon decided the golf course should be expanded to eighteen holes. The Chicago Golf Club purchased land in Wheaton and moved in 1895. The Golf Club of Illinois took over the old golf course in Belmont. After that organization struggled financially, Howard Tweedie, who had helped Macdonald build the golf course, acquired it and formed the Belmont Golf Club. In 1968, the Downers Grove Park District purchased the Belmont Golf Course from the Belmont Golf Club. It was the Downers Grove Park District that removed nine of the holes. This is now the Downers Grove Park District’s Downers Grove Golf Club.
Meanwhile, Polish families had begun to settle north of the East Grove train station. These homeowners were from Gotsyn, Poland. This was the village’s first ethnically homogenous neighborhood. Polish priests from Chicago would come out to Downers Grove to perform Masses in private homes. In 1891, they petitioned the Archbishop of Chicago for permission to build a Polish National Church. Concerned there were not enough Polish families to support an all-Polish parish, he declined. There were no Roman Catholic parishes then between LaGrange and Naperville. After a local resident donated land for a parish church, rectory, and convent, the Archbishop of Chicago gave permission for the establishment of Saint Mary of Gostyn Parish, the oldest Roman Catholic parish in Downers Grove, with the provision it welcome non-Polish Catholics. It opened with thirteen pews to seats to accommodate twenty-five families. The first rectory was erected on Douglas Street in 1895. Two years later, the parish built a one-room wooden schoolhouse. It was the first parochial school in Downers Grove, and the only one between LaGrange and Naperville. In 1916, two Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Help arrived in the parish. They were followed, two years later, by two Felician sisters. In 1920, the parish built a mixed-use parochial school and convent at the southeast corner of Douglas and Prairie. Dedicated in 1948, a brick church that could accommodate 220 people was built at the northeast corner of Douglas Street and Wilson Street. The next year, St. Mary of Gostyn moved to the new Diocese of Joliet. At that time, there were 400 parishioners from 130 families. In 1953, it became a territorial parish for Catholics from surrounding communities. The next year, a three-story school was built at the northeast corner of Prairie and Douglas. That same year, in 1954, a new rectory, house for the parish priest(s), was built. In 1957, a new convent was built across the street from the school to house the sisters who taught at the school. This is now the Parish Center. In 1962, the parish church migrated from Wilson and Douglas to the southeast corner of Prairie and Douglas, the site of the present church. The new church was built between 1963 and ’64. The first Mass was celebrated there on December 20, 1964, but it was not dedicated by Bishop Martin McNamara until March of 1966. It was underwent renovations in 2002.
In 1889, German immigrant Casper Dicke started the Dicke Tool Company to manufacture tools electrical linemen needed to raise telegraph poles. In 1889, he moved his company from Chicago to Downers Grove. That same year, his products received a prize at the World’s Fair in Paris, the Exposition Universelle.
In 1898, a volunteer fire department formed. In 1906, the Dicke Tool Company factory was destroyed in a fire. The family rebuilt the factory and all seven of Casper Dicke’s son became involved in the volunteer fire department. Two of them served as fire chiefs. Grant Dicke, served as Fire Chief for thirty-six years. A third brother, Elmer Dicke, served as Assistant Chief.
Between 1908 and 1940, Chicago-based Sears, Roebuck & Company sold 70,000 Sears Modern Homes in North America, as many as 200 of which were built in Downers Grove. This is one of the largest concentrations of Sears Modern Homes in North America. It was close proximity of Downers Grove to Chicago and the village’s large railroad siding that allowed so many residents to build Sears Modern Homes. Typically, the new homeowner would order the homebuilding kit through the Sears catalog (although later it was also possible to order it at a Sears department store) and it would arrive in town on a railroad boxcar with most of the materials he would need. He would then build the home and his friends and relatives would help him build it, much like the way Amish families continue to gather for a barn-raising. Other homeowners brought in carpenters and other contractors to build their homes. The Downers Grove Historical Society has a map of the identified Sears Catalog Homes in Downers Grove.
The Spanish Flu pandemic hit Downers Grove hard. Lucile Bush, the daughter of a former state legislator and great-granddaughter of Edwin Bush, was lucky to merely be bedridden for several months.
With three train stations, perhaps it was inevitable that Downers Grove would be the site of a train accident. At 10:41 p.m. on Thursday, April 3, 1947, a Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Zephyr train, Train of the Goddesses, one of two Twin Cities Zephyr trains, en route from Minneapolis to Chicago, partially derailed and damaged what is now the Main Street Metra Station because it struck a fourteen-ton International Harvester caterpillar tractor that had fallen off of a westbound freight train. The flaming diesel locomotive wrenched free of the passenger cars and slid past the train station on its side. It alone splintered railroad ties, ripped up rails, wrecked an iron fence between the middle track and north track, and damaged 300 yards of right-of-way. The seven cars continued to move forward on the tracks, adding further damage to the right-of-way. The first two cars jackknifed into the north side of the train station. This event occurred on Maundy Thursday. Many of the passengers were college students headed home to celebrate Easter Sunday (April 6, 1947) with their families or were tourists who had intended to spend their Easter weekend vacations in Chicago. The station was partially demolished by the wreck. Station Agent Charles Draper and his wife said they may only have lived because they closed the station one hour early “for no reason at all.” Normally, they would have kept the Burlington Depot open until 11:00 p.m., but they had decided to close at 10:00 p.m. Two passengers died immediately and over thirty were injured, while the engineer, Clarence Thurston, received mortal injuries that resulted in his death three days later at 12:30 a.m. on Easter Monday (April 7, 1947) at Copley Hospital (now RUSH Copley Medical Center) in Aurora. Lloyd W. Wright of Oak Park, Illinois died right away. Both feet of Mrs. Edith Helland of South Minneapolis were pinned and Dr. Glenn G. Ehrler had to perform an emergency amputation of her left foot, but she died at a hospital in Hinsdale. Dr. Ehrler also treated eleven people at his office at 1111 Burlington Avenue while sixty-five others registered their survival were given first aid, if necessary, in the lobby of the Tivoli Theater. Two police officers, Elmer Hogrefe and Russell Tholin, were amongst the first rescuers to arrive on the scene. The Downers Grove Fire Department extinguished the locomotive fire. The firemen then proceeded to search the passenger cars for survivors. The Illinois State Highway Maintenance Police, DuPage County Sherriff’s deputies, and municipal police from Naperville, Hinsdale, Westmont, Glen Ellyn, Maywood, Forest Park, Western Springs, LaGrange, and Elmhurst arrived on the scene to offer aid. Chicago Police Commissioner John C. Prendergast called Downers Grove Police Chief James Dwyer to offer the help of police and nurses. The Downers Grove Village Council later passed resolutions to thank Prendergast and the Chicago Police Department, as well as the other police agencies that rendered assistance. Mrs. Robert Carpenter, who resided at Lindenwald and was the local Red Cross chairman, rallied Red Cross volunteers to help the injured. Several boys from Explorer Post 80 rushed to the scene to render first aid. Jack Kidwell, an employee of G.M.’s Electro-Motive Division in LaGrange, which made the Zephyr diesel-electric engines, was in the Masonic temple in downtown Downers Grove, where he saw the flash of fire, expediently drove to the train station, and turned off the train’s electric motor. Paul O. Bentley, a resident of Downers Grove and student of St. Mary’s College in Winona, Wisconsin, got off the train at the Aurora station and drove home. He was relieved when he arrived in Downers Grove that friends who had remained on the train were amongst the survivors and he was able to drive them into Chicago. Kidwell, the Boy Scouts, and Fire Chief Grant Dicke and the Downers Grove Fire Department received certificates of merit at a ceremony in July of 1947. Former Police Chief Dwyer was asked to accept the certificate on behalf of the Downers Grove Police Department because he was chief at the time of the disaster. Loyal Order of the Moose Chapter 1535 received a certificate for having thrown open its lodge doors for two days so policemen and reporters could gather there and having provided gallons of coffee and hundreds of sandwiches for free. Home Lite received a certificate for having installed flood lights on top of the train station to enable nighttime operations.
The expressway system built in World War II stimulated the development of Downers Grove in the second half of the 20th Century and early 21st Century, much as the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad had done back in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, as Mark S. Harmon observed in The Encyclopedia of Chicago. The construction of the East-West Tollway (later renamed the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway), which connects the inner-ring suburbs to the Fox Valley city of Aurora and beyond to Dixon, Illinois as part of the longer Interstate 88, made Downers Grove a relatively short car ride from Chicago and the inner suburbs.
Downers Grove also benefitted from the construction of the Argonne National Laboratory in southern DuPage County in the 1940s. It brought an influx of middle-class and upper-middle-class homeowners with scientific educations and technical skills. In 1966, George Williams College moved from Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago to a twenty-acre campus in Downers Grove. It later became affiliated with Aurora University and moved to a new campus on the shores of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin.
The Village of Downers Grove annexed adjacent unincorporated lands. By the end of the century, Downers Grove had a population of 48,724 people and encompassed thirteen square miles.
The Downers Grove Public Library building is just off Main Street in downtown Downers Grove. Main Street is lined by restaurants, shops, and banks, some of them representative of big national chains, and others smaller local chains, but many of them small mom-and-pop operations. The library lot is bounded by Burlington Avenue on the north, an alley on the east, Curtiss Street on the south, and Forest Avenue on the west. Burlington and Curtiss are both one-way streets, Burlington being west-bound and Curtiss being east-bound. There are a tea shop, a bookshop, two banks, a coffee shop, a pet shop, a bakery, and other small businesses on a strip east of the alley that wraps along Burlington Avenue, Main Street, and Curtiss Street. Pinecone Cottage Tea House & Catering is on Burlington Avenue west of Main Street. Peet’s Coffee & Tea shop is at the corner of Main Street and Burlington Avenue, where there was formerly a popular Caribou Coffee. When I visited the place on Thursday, July 27, 2017, there were two people sitting in the café writing on laptops scattered amongst a few other customers on a quiet evening while a couple of mothers with small children in strollers visited to pick up drinks whilst out for a walk. There is a U.S. Bank on Main Street near the corner with Burlington. Taking advantage of the alley east of the library, there is a U.S. Bank drive-through between U.S. Bank and Anderson’s Bookshop Downers Grove. Anderson’s Bookshop Downers Grove has a large entrance on Main Street (the east side of the building) and a small entrance on the alley (the west side of the building) that faces the library parking lot as well as the alley. At the corner of Main Street and Curtiss Street is a Citibank. Between Anderson’s Bookshop Downers Grove and Citibank are a Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Jeans & a Cute Top shop, Happy Dog Barkery, KW (Keller Williams) Realty Downers Grove / Hinsdale, Dream Interiors, Francia Bridal & Formalwear Boutique, Wells Street Popcorn, Ingram’s Busy Bee Bakery, Babylon Technology, and Paradise Café. Smokey Tomato Café & Catering is on Curtiss Street between Citibank and the alley. RTT Cycle Shop faces the alley and the library parking lot. It is separated from the west entrance of Anderson’s Bookshop Downers Grove by the courtyard of a building that seems to have second-floor office or apartments.
Other points of interest along Main Street include Gatto’s Italian Restaurant & Bar, My Specialty Toy Store, Ballydoyle Irish Pub & Restaurant, and Alfredo’s Taqueria on the east side of the street. Cellar Door Wine Shop & Bistro; Emmett’s Brewing Company; Music Masters Worldwide; Timberline Train Shop, Ltd., and Main Street Barber Shop are on the west side of the street. Unfortunately, the Lemon Tree café and grocery store closed last year to undergo remodeling and reorganization, as Annemarie Mannion reported in the Chicago Tribune.
Tivoli Theatre is an old 1,012-seat movie palace at the northeast corner of Warren Avenue and Highland Avenue that is visible from the Downers Grove Metra Station. The Chicago-based architectural firm of Van Gunten and Van Gunten designed the movie palace, and Downers Grove-based construction firm J.T. Schless Company built it. The auditorium had 1,390 seats when it opened in 1928, but has had 1,012 since the 1950s. In 1978, it became the first cinema in the Johnson family’s Classic Cinemas chain of fourteen theaters and it remains the flagship theater. In 2003, Classic Cinemas celebrated the 75th anniversary of Tivoli Theatre. Nine years later, Classic Cinemas updated the Tivoli Theater (and all the other theaters in the chain) with Enhanced 4K Digital Projection and Datasat Sound Processors. The Tivoli Building is also home to Tivoli Bowl.
The Downers Grove Public Library is within walking distance of Downers Grove North High School, Herrick Middle School, and St. Joseph’s School, all of which are north of the railroad tracks and south of Ogden Avenue, as well as Downers Grove Christian School on Maple Avenue. Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church are all clustered near Main Street north of the tracks and south of Ogden, while First Congregational Church, First United Methodist Church, and Immanuel Lutheran Church are clustered around Main Street south of the tracks and north of Maple Avenue. New Manna Community Church and First Baptist Church of Downers Grove are also nearby on Maple, east of Main Street.
The Downers Grove Public Library, Part I: 1891-1934
The antecedents of the current Downers Grove Public Library were a private library operated by local women for public benefit like the Riverside Public Library and the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, and a building paid for by Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) like the Highland Park Public Library. In 1891, a group of women in the village who desired a circulating library founded the Ladies’ Library Association (also identified as the Women’s Library Association) at a meeting hosted by Mrs. Charles Caldwell and Mrs. Alice Heckman. The meeting had been called by Mrs. Brookins and Mrs. L.P. Narramore. The latter served as secretary of the organization for years. Her husband, L.P. Narramore of the Farmers’ & Merchants’ Bank, offered to provide a Library Room in his new bank building at the corner of Main Street and Curtiss Street. The ladies charged individual library patrons a quarterly use fee of 25 cents, and accepted donations of books. The first librarian was Mable Blanchard Carnahan.
In 1893, the ladies obtained a state charter for their organization. They would continue to operate the library for twenty-one years. In 1895, the Ladies’ Library Association opened a new library building on West Curtiss Street erected by John Stanley. In Downers Grove, 1832-1982, authors Montrew Goetz Dunham and Pauline Wendell Wandschneider quote a contemporary description of that first library building as “cozy, convenient, and finely furnished.” The library then had somewhere between 600 and 700 volumes. The President of the Library Association was Mrs. Emma J. Miller, who served in office for seven years. Thanks to her efforts, landlord John Stanley did not charge rent. Women other than those above-named who served in the organization included Stanley’s own wife, Miss Gertrude Gibbs, and Mesdames Downer, Curtiss, Blanchard, Miller, Marsh, Clifford, Cole, Thomas, Burns, Daniels, Atwood, Cross, Bunge, S.C. Stanley, Hughes, Dietz, Northrup, Sacksetter, Lancaster, Huling, and Stanger.
In March of 1904, an editorial ran in the Reporter that called on residents to vote in favor of the establishment of a free (tax-supported) public library. “The Ladies’ Library Association has fought bravely to maintain a public library and by their own unaided efforts have secured a collection of books which will be the nucleus of an excellent library…The association stands ready and willing to turn over the $2000 bequest of the late John Oldfield to the village for the purpose of a library building site, and this, with the authorization of a tax for maintenance, will be all that is necessary to secure an adequate donation of funds from Andrew Carnegie to erect a building.”
After John Oldfield made his $2,000 bequest to acquire land for a public library and the ladies ascertained that the Trustees of the Carnegie Fund would be willing to fund the construction of a library building provided there was tax support for its maintenance, Mrs. L.B. Wells and Mrs. Mary Stewart Burns pushed for a referendum to approve a library tax. Unfortunately, the first two times it came up for referendum, the voters rejected the proposed tax.
Finally, on the third attempt, the library tax referendum passed in June of 1911. That year, a small frame library building was erected on a site at the southwest corner of Curtiss Street and Forest Avenue purchased with money from Oldfield. By November of 1912, circulation had reached 1,520. That was nearly twice the size of the collection.
In 1915, a new library building was erected with money from Carnegie on the site of the original frame building. It cost $11,250. This brick building was designed by Chicago architect Frederick Lundquist. A subscription raised $900 for the acquisition of furnishings and fixtures. The main entrance was on Curtiss Street and the entrance for the lecture hall was on Forest Avenue. On the main floor, book stacks with more than 3,000 volumes lined three walls of one room. Visitors would sit in this room and read at six fumed oak tables. The Downers Grove Artists’ Guild decorated the children’s room.
The Downers Grove Public Library opened on October 14, 1915, six months after ground was broken. At the time, Downers Grove had a village form of government, under which residents voted directly for members of the library board. L.B. Wells, whose wife had pushed for the library tax referendum, was the first President of the Downers Grove Library Board. It was he who completed the negotiations with the Carnegie Foundation. The other original members of the Library Board were John Graves, Henry E. Tank, Arthur Bordwell, William B. Towsley, and Howard P. Jones.
Two years later, in May of 1917, the village form of government was replaced with the commission form of government, under which the mayor would appoint the members of the Downers Grove Public Library Board, and his appointments would be confirmed by the Village of Downers Grove Board of Commissioners. Mayor J.F. Kidwell appointed I.B. Wells, F. G. Lancaster, W.B. Towsley, Stanley J. Brown, T.H. Slusser, and Mrs. Nelson Perron.
The first librarians were Miss Madeline Hughes and Miss Ruth Lancaster. Miss Hughes served as head librarian for seven years and was succeeded by her assistant, Jessie Bryce, who retired in 1942.
Dr. James Breasted of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute showed his film The Human Adventure at the Methodist Church and donated copies of all his books to the Downers Grove Public Library in 1934. Although Dr. Breasted had been born in Rockford, he had spent part of his childhood in Downers Grove.
The Downers Grove Public Library, Part II (1942-1983)
In 1942, Jessie Bryce retired and was succeeded by her assistant, Frieda Rawcliff Humphris (1907-2001), who led the library until 1971. It was obvious in the early 1950s that the library required more space. However, since the growing village’s tax rate was already rising to meet the greater needs of the village’s schools, government, library, and other taxing bodies, it was far from a sure thing that voters would approve library building referendum. A coordinated public relations effort by the Village of Downers Grove, Downers Grove Library staff, and the Friends of the Library, which had been founded in 1953, persuaded voters to pass a $165,000 bond referendum in December of 1954. Consequently, local architect George Steckmesser, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), designed an addition to the small Carnegie library building called the “wraparound.” The new rooms were supposed to be integrated with the old structure in what Mesdames Dunham and Wandschneider described as an “ingenious expansion.” However, if the photo “Wrap-around” by Robert Dunham in their book is any indication, the expansion was hideous. In any case, the expanded building reopened to the public on July 1, 1956.
The reopening was sponsored by the Friends of the Library and the Downers Grove Artists Guild. Mayor Ben Groves and former Mayor Clyde Absher cut ribbons for the reopening ceremony. Library Board President Emerson Pugh delivered opening remarks. The Downers Grove Garden Club decorated the building with flowers. The Chicago Tribune noted that when the Downers Grove Public Library opened in 1915, Downers Grove had a population of 3,100 people, of whom 740 were library cardholders, and in 1954, when the referendum passed, Downers Grove had a population of 15,000 people, of whom 8,500 were library cardholders. The head librarian, Mrs. Frieda Humphris, told the Chicago Tribune the D.G.P.L. then had a collection of 27,000 volumes.
In the 1970s, a new public library building was erected on the site of the former library, which was razed while the Village Hall was renovated and a new Police Department was In the 1970s, a new public library building was erected on the site of the former also erected. There were two turnovers of the post of head librarian in the 1970s. Frieda Rawcliff Humphris was succeeded in 1971 by Joseph Quaidy, who resigned on June 1, 1979. His successor was Kathleen Meahhey Balcom. The new 40,000-square-foot-library was designed by Loebl, Schlossman, Dart & Hackl-John Wilson Associated Architects. It opened in the autumn of 1977. Library Board members Philip Rinaldo, John Clark, Roger Tea, and John Mochel, Jr. were involved in the early stages of planning the construction of a new library building. At the time the final stages of planning were undertaken, a referendum was passed, and the building was actually constructed, the Library Board was comprised of Mochel, Carol Doty, Jean Dale, Rebecca Mays, and James Wadsworth. The passage of the referendum was thanks in no small part to the work of the Friends of the Library, the president of which was Robert Konikow. In 1983, the second floor underwent a redesign and the reference department moved upstairs.
The Downers Grove Public Library, Part III (1984-2016)
Christopher Bowen had joined the staff of the Downers Grove Public Library in 1984 as Assistant Director and subsequently served as Library Director from 1989 until his retirement in 2011. He oversaw the remodeling of the Downers Grove Public Library in 1999 and the creation of the Downers Grove Public Library Foundation in 2002. The Downers Grove Public Library received, in January of 2002, a check for $153,703.52 as its share in the estate of Lillian Culbertson. The trustees voted to have Bowen give the money to the Library Community Foundation to be deposited in the D.G.P.L.’s foundation fund. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to create “a foundation to benefit the Downers Grove Public Library.”
In 1996, Downers Grove residents approved an $8,200,000 referendum to construct a new 67,738-square-foot library building. This was achieved not by tearing down the existent building and replacing it with something bigger, but by reconstructing and expanding the existent library building. It re-opened in February of 1999. The architectural firm Phillips Swager Associates designed the 1999 renovation and expansion of the library building. The general contractor was Walsh Construction Company of Downers Grove. This project was funded by the citizens of Downers Grove and an Illinois Library Construction Grant from the Secretary of State and State Librarian.
In 2010, the D.G.P.L. had 237,672 volumes, and circulated 931,971 items per year. It served a population of 48,724 residents, of whom about 30,000 were library cardholders. Elaine Johnston reported on October 4, 2010 on Downers Grove Patch (then AOL’s DownersGrovePatch) that Stephen Daniels resigned as President of the Downers Grove Public Library Board of Trustees effective August 31, 2010. Daniels had served on the board for twenty-four years. Daniels was known to sit in the library vestibule on Saturday mornings to greet visitors. Board Secretary Kathy DiCola, was elected interim president. According to Library Director Christopher Bowen’s blog, she was also President of the Downers Grove Public Library Foundation. On the 6th of October, Ms. Johnson reported that on the previous day Mayor Ron Sandack appointed Dan Loftus to the Board of Trustees to fill the vacancy left by Daniels. Loftus is a former Chairman of the Downers Grove Downtown Management Corp. and President of the District 99 Educational Foundation. At the same board meeting, Mayor Sandack reappointed the appropriately-named Tom Read, former headmaster of the Avery Coonley School.
When Bowen retired, Dan Bradbury of Kansas City, Missouri-based Bradbury Associates/Gossage Sager Associates met with the Library Board to help the trustees choose a new director, as Wendy Foster reported for Downers Grove Patch in February of 2011. Bowen had the aid of Jolene Carlson, who was Assistant Library Director from 2004 to 2012.
In a remarkable turn of events, Rick Ashton, who had been City Librarian at the Denver Public Library from 1985 to 2006, succeeded Christopher Bowen as Library Director in 2011. Ashton came to Illinois to become Chief Operating Officer of the Chicago-based Urban Libraries Council and teach at Dominican University as an adjunct faculty member at the School of Library and Information Science. Library Board President Kathy DiCola explained that Ashton wanted to “get back in the game” but “for his next public library experience he was not interested in dealing with the bureaucracy of a large library system, but wanted a smaller library where he could have a more immediate impact,” as Elaine Johnston reported for Downers Grove Patch in July of 2011. Ashton’s tenure as Library Director of the Downers Grove Public Library started on Wednesday, September 6, 2011 and lasted until his retirement on Wednesday, March 30, 2016.
By 2012, the D.G.P.L. reported to the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services it had a collection of 279,569 volumes. It served a population of 47,833 people, and had an annual circulation of 902,512 transactions. The D.G.P.L. expended $3,862,197, of which it expended $293,370 on books and another $170,796 on eBooks, as Marshall Breeding reported. It had twenty-five full-time employees and ninety part-time employees.
The 2014 renovation of the 67,738-square-foot library was a $2,400,000 project that included the creation of small-group meeting spaces and small-group study rooms; a teen center; a new science, technology, engineering, and math (S.T.E.M.) center; renovated restrooms; a remodeled café; a remodeled story-hour room; better Wi-Fi; the installation of new lights; the installation of new carpets; and new paint. Product Architecture + Design was the project architect. Elgin, Illinois-based Shales McNutt Construction was the construction management firm and reported that the interior renovation project cost $2,170,000. The firm stated, “This project included a complete interior renovation including new finishes and casework.” Northbrook, Illinois-based Library Furniture International, Inc. made a photo gallery and a video in which it used the Downers Grove Public Library as a showplace to promote the chairs, sofas, tables, and shelving units it sold to the D.G.P.L. Ashton’s proudest achievement (at the Downers Grove Public Library) was oversight of the aforementioned $2,600,000 construction project completed in October of 2014, as Ms. Mannion reported on November 15, 2015. Ashton said one of the reasons he wanted to retire was so a new director could develop a new plan for the library.
The Downers Grove Public Library, Part IV: The Physical Plant
The present building is the fourth iteration of the Downers Grove Public Library on the same site. A two-story red-brick-and-black-glass structure, it does not resemble a temple or palace like the Chicago Public Library building (now the Chicago Cultural Center) or the Harold Washington Library Center or The Newberry Library. Nor does it look like a manor house like the Riverside Public Library or the Geneva Public Library. Looking at it either from the north façade or the south façade, the front and back, it appears to be comprised of four contiguous pavilions oriented along a north-south axis, each with a different shape, as if the architect was inspired by the way a child working with LEGO® bricks or other construction toys might mix the pieces in highly unconventional ways. Instead of a roof line, it has four roof lines. The jumble of shapes may suggest a creative and multifaceted organization is housed within to some onlookers.
The north façade of the Downers Grove Public Library faces the parking lot. There are two plazas on the north façade. A ramp with a gentle downward slope runs from the sidewalk along the west façade of the Downers Grove Public Library (bounded by Forest Avenue) to the main entrance, which is at the center of the north façade. The ramp leads to the small, lower plaza, which is beneath the grade of the parking lot. The ramp runs perpendicular to the hallway that projects out from the north façade to the main entrance. [A second gently sloping ramp leads diagonally from the sidewalk on the west side of the building into the southwest corner of the parking lot.] The lower plaza has two return boxes, one for books and the other for audio-visual materials, and two benches. There is a sliding glass door with an electric eye that opens from the lower plaza onto a ground floor hallway. Exterior stairs lead up from the lower plaza to the upper plaza, west of the main entrance, which is at the grade of the parking lot. There are trees in both the upper and lower plazas. A person walking through the main entrance at the grade of the parking lot would enter a hallway lobby, descend stairs, passing two meeting rooms (Meeting Room North and Meeting Room South) on the east side of the hallway. Each one can accommodate fifty people. Combined, they can accommodate 100 people. Renting one costs $20 and renting both rooms costs $40. One would also pass on the right the side entrance (and the lower plaza beyond) on the west side of the hallway.
Formerly, when one entered the library lobby from the parking lot, as one descended the stairs, one passed beneath an abstract artwork mounted on the wall above the stairs. This colorful 4’x7’ painted wooden sculpture by Jonas Gerard is called Earth Dance, and is an example of Gerard’s “wall relief constructions of bent wood.” The Library Foundation acquired Earth Dance in 2002 for $9,500 and donated it to the Downers Grove Public Library. In early April of 2014, it was placed in storage with the D.G.P.L.’s other artworks while a $2,400,000 renovation project got underway. On April 29, 2014, the staff noticed Earth Dance was missing, as Ed McMenamin reported in Suburban Life. They notified the police, consolidated all the remaining artworks in one place until the construction project ended, and changed the locks. The Library Foundation raised money for security cameras to be installed at the library entrances.
Figure 1 This 4’x7’ painted wooden sculpture by Jonas Gerard is called Earth Dance. The Library Foundation acquired Earth Dance in 2002 for $9,500 and donated it to the Downers Grove Public Library (D.G.P.L.). In early April of 2014, it was placed in storage with the D.G.P.L.’s other artworks while a renovation project got underway. On April 29, 2014, the staff noticed Earth Dance was missing.
There are three display cases in the hallway on the east side of the hallway, north of the North Meeting Room’s door. The artworks adorning the walls on the south end of the hall changes during the course of the year. Washrooms are to the left after the hallway leads into the main building. To the right are the Info Desk, stairs, and elevator. To the left are the Holds and Return area, the Circulation office, and then three self-checkout kiosks. The Holds and Returns area includes two automated return slots where returned items are scanned before traveling on conveyor belts into the Circulation office. Two Y-shaped bookcases with new books are between the Service Desk to the left (on the east side of the building) and the Kid’s Room (on the west side of the building). Bookshelves also line the west wall between the stairs and the Kid’s Room. The Café is in the southeast corner of the building. This is not a full-service sandwich shop like at the Schaumburg Township District Library’s Central Library. Rather, the Café has two vending machines for snack food, a dollar-operated Keurig machine, and seven tables. Administrative staff offices are behind (east of) the Service Desk and Café. The Tech Service Workroom and Staff Lounge take up adjacent spaces north of the Kid’s Room and west of the stairs.
There are display cases along the southern wall outside the Kid’s Room. The name of the Kid’s Room is an understatement. It is a full-service children’s library that takes up a substantial share of space on the ground floor. The Kid’s Room includes Picture Books, Nonfiction, Fiction, audio-visual materials, a Storytime room, the Activity Area, the Mouse Café play area, and the S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and math) Room. The S.T.E.M. Room is a circular space tucked in the front of the children’s library, along the eastern wall. Upon entering the larger Kid’s Room, one would have to turn left and walk back about ten feet to enter it. If one walked past the S.T.E.M. Room, one would encounter several tables before one reached the Comics area is in the southeast corner, along the southern wall. The Checkout/children’s reference desk is front and center. Beyond, Nonfiction, Movies, and Music are in the central area, with the audio-visual shelves north of the Checkout Desk. Study Rooms are tucked into the eastern wall (like the S.T.E.M. Room), but they are in the northeast corner of the children’s library, so one would have to turn right upon entering the children’s library to reach them. Fiction shelves are grouped between the Checkout Desk and the southern wall. The Storytime program room is along the southern wall, west of Fiction. The Activity Area is a large open space in the southwest corner of the children’s library (and the building as a whole). There are a couple of dollhouses in the Activity Area, along the southern wall that might interest very young girls. The Mouse Café playhouse, which attracts wee tots of both sexes, is in the southwest corner of the building, within the Activity Area. It is well-stocked with toy food. Toddlers and their mommies enjoy playing with the speaking tubes that extend from one corner of the Mouse Café to the other. There are several tables and adult-size chairs for parents and other caregivers to sit in along the western wall, within the Activity Area. Picture Books are on shelves in the northwest corner of the children’s library, north of the Activity Area. They have an east-west alignment, like the audio-visual shelves, whereas the Fiction and Nonfiction shelves have a north-south alignment. This arrangement lends variety and visual interest to the display of books and helps the visitor comprehend from a distance that these are different collections.
Figure 5 Credit: Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The cone hanging from the ceiling in the South Atrium of the Downers Grove Public Library is part of Walter Gordinier’s sculpture Journey to Janus.
The central hallway axis of the building terminates in the two-story South Atrium. Portland, Oregon-based sculptor Walter Gordinier produced the sculpture Journey to Janus, which hangs in the South Atrium. Acquired in 2000, it is a work of abstract art that is named after the Roman god Janus and makes two allusions to the journey of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey. The cone and tubes represent a boat while the sphere and articulated line represent a compass. A chalkboard on the west side of the South Atrium lets visitors know what’s new. There are internal windows on the second floor on the north and east sides of the South Atrium.
The southwest corner of the building has a cloister. Past the building, the southwest corner of the block – the northeast corner of Curtiss Street and Forest Avenue – has a plaza that is across from the street from First Congregational United Church of Christ. The plaza is home to the garden Walk, a copy of the bronze statue Children of Peace by Gary Lee Price; four benches, and some trees, bushes, and flowering plants. The Garden Walk has one brick dedicated to the Avery Coonley School, but most of the bricks are memorials or dedications to loved ones. A $100 donation is good for a 4” x 8” Garden Walk brick inscribed with someone’s name, favorite saying, or message; and a $250 donation is good for an 8” x 8” Garden Walk brick. One can pay by cash or check in the Administration Office or online here. Checks can be made out to the Downers Grove Public Library Foundation.
Figure 2 Credit: Sean M. O’Connor Caption: The Garden Walk outside the Downers Grove Public Library takes one past a copy of Gary Lee Price’s bronze sculpture Children of Peace.
Figure 3 Credit: Sean M. O’Connor Caption: A copy of American sculptor Gary Lee Price’s Children of Peace graces the plaza southwest of the Downers Grove Public Library.
Figure 4 Credit: Sean M. O’Connor Caption: On his Web site, sculptor Gary Lee Price stated, “I really enjoyed creating this piece because of its message. Children are the hope of the future and if anything represents peace it is children releasing doves into the air.”
Returning to the center of the building, one can ascend stairs or via elevator to the second floor, which has the open stacks and Reference Desk.
Figure 6 Credit: Sean M. O’Connor Caption: Dallas Cole’s The Story of Gilgamesh adorns the lower landing of the (interior) stairs at the Downers Grove Public Library.
Figure 7 Credit: Sean M. O’Connor Caption: Dallas Cole’s The Story of Gilgamesh was a gift from the Friends of the Library in honor of Frieda Humphris, who worked at the Downers Grove Public Library from 1925 to 1972.
On the lower landing of the stairs leading up the second floor is a base-relief sculpture that depicts what the sculptor considers to be the highlights from The Epic of Gilgamesh. [The Second Floor can also be accessed via elevator.] The artist was Dallas Cole and the artwork is entitled The Story of Gilgamesh. It was a gift from the Friends of the Library in honor of Frieda Humphris in 1977. According to the statement inscribed there, she worked at the Downers Grove Public Library from 1925 to 1972. On the upper landing, one will find My Memory, Travel Europe by the Zhou Brothers, acquired in 2001. The Board of Trustees spent $7,000 from the Art Fund to purchase the two giclee prints.
On the Second Floor, one will find Literature, Reference, Nonfiction, Biographies, Movies & Music, Magazines, the Computer Room, photocopiers, the teen area, and the Quiet Study Room. Ascending the stairs, one will face the Adult & Teen Services reference desk, which is called the Ask Us Desk. There are two check-out kiosks facing the Ask Us Desk with their backs to the windows that overlook the stairs. The elevator is to the right (west of the desk). There is a set of three Burmese Teaching Panels on the second floor near the elevator. Acquired in 1999, these dioramas were made in the Burmese city of Mandalay on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy River (also called the Ayeyarwady River in English) in central Upper Burma in the 19th Century. Nearby, one will find two paintings. F.G.’s Bridge, acquired in 2001, is by local artist Pamela J. Hart. Renee’s Landscape, acquired in 2006, is an oil painting dedicated to Russian artist Sergey Cherep’s wife, Renee.
Restrooms are in this area. One will also find four tables, a Quiet Study Room with seven tables, Romance, and Spanish. Near Reference, one will now find the Downers Grove Legacy Seed Library, which was previously housed at the Downers Grove Museum. First-time seed borrowers need to fill out a Membership Record Form at the Ask Us Desk. Learn how to save seeds. “Borrow” some seeds, plant them, grow them, and then collect new seeds to return to the Downers Grove Legacy Seed Library. The D.G.P.L. accepts open-pollinated seeds and heirloom seeds, but not genetically-modified seeds or hybrid seeds.
Nonfiction, Local History, Local Documents, and Poetry run from the north wall to a sitting area in the southwest corner. Newspapers and Magazines are in the far corner. Microfilm cabinets with Downers Grove Reporter, Chicago Tribune, and Sun-Downers Grove, as well as census documents and maps, and two microfilm readers are located along the south wall. Fiction lines the south wall.
The Second Floor Fiction Area is adorned by four artworks by local artist Robin Faulkner that depict four buildings that housed the Downers Grove Public Library. Executed in gouache, pencil, and watercolors, they represent the Carnegie library building that housed the D.G.P.L. from 1915 to 1956, the larger Wrap-around building that housed the D.G.P.L. from 1956 to 1976, the current building as it looked in 1977, as well as the remodeled and expanded building as it looked in 1999. The first three images were commissioned by the Friends of the Library in the 1980s, while the fourth was a gift from Owner Services, Inc. when the building was dedicated in 1999.
The windows that look out on the South Atrium are part of the open Teen Center area in the southeast corner of the Second Floor. Compact discs are on display north of Teen Central.
Computers are in the northeast corner with a Computer Help Desk along a west wall. The Media Lab is in the northeast corner. The desktop computers are outside it in groups of six. The Media Lab equipment available for on-site use include a Funai VHS to DVD Converter, a Sprint Mobile Hotspot, cameras, a keyboard, guitars, and a microphone. The Media Lab can be booked two days in advance for up to four hours at a time. Its Video Room can accommodate six people and Audio Room can accommodate two people. The Media Lab does have a table, chairs, and a Mac computer. If one wants to use one of the 3D printers, one needs to submit one’s plan on a flash drive in .STL format at the Computer Held Desk.
Bruce Heinrich, a local artist, took the picture Navy Pier Aerial View, by hanging out a helicopter. Acquired in 1999, the photograph hangs in the second floor computer area. There are three other photographs in this area. Acquired in 1999, Harold Washington Library is a black-and-white photograph of the Winter Garden and one of the owls from the roof of the Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center. DeBuffet Sculpture, acquired in 1999, is a black-and-white photograph that depicts the curves of Jean Dubuffet’s sculpture Monument with Standing Beast in front of a skyscraper, the top of which seems to disappear in clouds. It is an eerie image, all the more so because in real life the sculpture stands in front of the James R. Thompson Center, a famous office building that resembles a spaceship which Helmut Jahn designed for the State of Illinois, not the skyscraper from the photograph. Franklin Street Bridge, acquired in 1999, is a black-and-white photograph that depicts the drawbridge over the Chicago River at Franklin Street during wintertime. There is a stark beauty to the photograph Frozen Orchard no. 2 by Patricia McGrady. She lives in Evanston, but as she grew up she spent her summers on her grandparents’ farm in West Virginia and is drawn to rural landscapes. She donated Frozen Orchard no. 2 in 2001. It depicts an orchard in Suttons Bay, Michigan in wintertime.
Conference Room A is on the north wall. It has both northern and western views of the main entrance overhang as well as the parking lot. Conference rooms can be booked twice per month for up to four hours per day. There are printers outside Conference Room A that are parallel with the Computer Help Desk.
The Downers Grove Public Library, Part V: The Downers Grove Public Library Today
In 2016, the Downers Grove Public Library celebrated its 125th anniversary, as the Chicago Tribune’s Annemarie Mannion reported. Celebrations were held all year-long, but a “birthday” party was held on Sunday, October 16, 2016. The gate count that day was 1,628, so the D.G.P.L. received more than twice as many visitors that day as it would normally receive on a Sunday in October.
That year, 1,036,494 items were borrowed, a 4.6% increase over the previous year. There were 542,008 visitors, or, rather, people visited 542,009 times. In 2016, the D.G.P.L. had 321,709 items, which included books, C.D.s, D.V.D.s, e-readers, e-magazines, and video games. The D.G.P.L. had $5,172,364 in income, 93% of which came from taxes, 2% of which came from fines, 1% of which came from state grants, 1% of which came from gifts, and 3% of which came from other sources. It spent $4,985,771, 70% on personnel, 14% on materials, 3% on building maintenance, and 13% on other expenses. The D.G.P.L. served a population of 49,213 people.
Sharon Hrycewicz, Children’s Reference and Technology Coordinator at the Downers Grove Public Library, won the 2016 Davis Cup Award from the Illinois Library Association Youth Services Forum. She had been nominated by former children’s services department manager Sara Pemberton. Ms. Hrycewicz joined the D.G.P.L. staff in January of 1997 and previously worked at the Helen M. Plum Memorial Library in Lombard from September of 1995 to January of ‘97. She earned her M.L.I.S. degree at the Rosary College of Library and Information Science (now Dominican University’s School of Information Studies).
Melissa Doornbos Fischer, the Public Relations Manager since 2010, told Suburban Life’s Shonda Dudlicek about the many changes she had seen at the D.G.P.L. between 2010 and 2016. “We’ve introduced Blu-Ray, videogames, e-books and e-magazines and even so many more items and equipment. You can use a laptop and bring it around the library instead of looking up information on our database on our computers. We have cameras to check out; we provide training on how to use them. Since 2015 we’ve added VHS-to-DVD recorders that you can check out and take home and convert your tapes to DVD. More music equipment, like software, for your computer. You can also check out a keyboard or guitar. That might be expensive for one person to buy, but when you can check it out at the library – and lots of people can do this – it’s a great value.”
After a national search, at the meeting of the D.G.P.L. Board of Trustees on May 5, 2016, Library Board President Wendee Greene and the other trustees voted unanimously to have Dan Bradbury offer the position of Library Director of the D.G.P.L. to Julie M. Milavec, the Library Director of the Plainfield Public Library. Ms. Milavec had earned a Master of Science in Library and Information Science degree at Florida State University in 1992. She served as Head of Adult Services at the Lemont Public Library District in Lemont, Illinois, from November of 1992 to August of 1995; Library Director of the Worth Public Library District in Worth, Illinois, from August of 1995 to January of 1998; Library Director of the West Chicago Public Library District in West Chicago, Illinois, from January of 1998 to October of 2000; and Library Director of the Plainfield Public Library District in Plainfield, Illinois, from November of 2000 to July of 2016. Ms. Milavec is a third-generation librarian, as Morgan Searles reported for Downers Grove Patch in August of 2016. Inspired by her father and grandfather’s careers, she became a library volunteer as a youngster, Ms. Searlies explained. In an interview with Suburban Life Magazine’s Shonda Dudlicek published in August of 2016, Ms. Mikavec’s father was director of the Joliet Public Library and her grandfather was director of the Illinois State Library.
“As director, Milavec is responsible for creating and carrying out a plan that provides 21st century library services, replenishes capital funds, and maintains the physical building,” Ms. Searles noted. “My first responsibility will be creating this plan. I’ll help the Board of Trustees, residents, and staff determine what their vision is. And then I will help make this vison a reality,” Ms. Searles quoted Ms. Milavec as saying.
Julie M. Milavec is the Downers Grove Public Library’s Freedom of Information Act Officer as well as being the Library Director and has a base annual salary of $125,000. She has two assistant directors, each of whom has a base annual salary is $99,358.45.
Bonnie Reid is the Assistant Director of Public Services. She has worked at the D.G.P.L. for more than thirty years. Ms. Reid has been Reference Librarian and Manager of the Reference Department.
Susan O’Brien is the Assistant Director for Support Services and A.D.A. Coordinator. She has been Reference Librarian, Literature and Audio Services Librarian, and was a department head before she became an assistant director.
Jen Fredericks, who joined the staff in December of 2013, is the Technical Services Manager. She previously worked at the Lisle Library, as head cataloger and Assistant Director of Reference Services. She has a base annual salary is $74,252.10.
Christine Lees is the Circulation Services Manager. Her base annual salary is $70,000.
Nicole Wilhelms is the Adult & Teen Services Manager. Her base annual salary is $72,621.90.
Allyson Renell, who joined the staff in 2015, is the Children’s Services Manager. Her base annual salary is $68,953.95.
The aforementioned Melissa Doornbos Fischer is the Public Relations Manager and Adult Program Coordinator. As mentioned above, she joined the staff in 2010. Her base annual salary is $68,673.15.
Paul Regis is the Information Technology Manager. He has held various I.T. positions since he joined the staff in 2006 and was Assistant Information Technology Manager before he was promoted to the top I.T. position in 2016. His base annual salary is $62,000.
Library Board President Wendee Greene has a term that expires on Thursday, August 31, 2017. There are five other trustees. Ed Earl has a term that expires on Monday, August 31, 2020. Susan Eblen has a term that expires on Friday, August 31, 2018. David Humphreys has a term that expires on Saturday, August 31, 2019. Arthur Jasros has a term that expires on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.
In addition to donating money by sponsoring a Garden Walk Brick, one can also donate money to the D.G.P.L. through the Downers Grove Public Library Foundation by way of sponsoring an honor book. One can also donate books, D.V.D.s, and C.D.s that will be sold in the lobby.
The Friends of the Library (F.O.L.) raises money to purchase items and operate programs at the Downers Grove Public Library like books-on-CD and operate the Junior Room’s summer reading clubs. To join, make out a check for $15 (or more) to the Downers Grove Friends of the Library and mail it to the Administration Office, 1050 Curtiss Street, Downers Grove, Illinois 60515 or join online here. For more information, call Joni Hansen at (630) 969-5477 or Kevin Deany at (630) 515-0230.
The library is open 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. The phone number there is (630) 960-1200 and the fax number is (630) 960-9374.
 This is an extensive revision of an article I posted on Examiner.com Chicago on November 12, 2010 and updated on May 9, 2012.
 A supporter of Fire Department Chief Silas McBride, he advocated the replacement of the volunteer fire brigades with a professional force and the acquisition of new steam fire engines, which was an unpopular idea until the Great Chicago Fire of 1857, as David A. Powell recounted. He joined the Highland Guards, a ceremonial militia group comprised entirely of Scotsmen, and followed its leader, John McArthur, into the 12th Illinois Infantry Regiment. Ducat rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel before the Battle of Shiloh. Shortly after the Union Army’s victory in the Battle of Corinth (1862), Col. Ducat came to the attention of Brigadier General E.O.C. Ord. Within a month, he was a staff officer for Major-General William Stark Rosencrans (1819-1898), who shared a background as a civil engineer. Ducat became Chief of Staff and subsequently Inspector-General of the Army of the Ohio after Rosencrans assumed command. It later became the Army of the Cumberland. During the Battle of Chickamauga, when the Confederates broke through Union lines, Ducat and most of the other staff officers were separated from Rosencrans, who fell back to Chattanooga. Ducat accompanied Sheridan’s army to Rossville. Major-General (and later President) U.S. Grant (1822-1885) sacked Rosencrans and Ducat remained in the Army of the Cumberland when it came under the command of Major-George H. Thomas (1816-1870). Ducat purchased land on a hill in San Diego where other rich men had built villas and planned to build one for his family but died at Lindenwald before he could achieve that objective. His son, Colonel Arthur C. Ducat, Jr. (1858-1913), is buried at Arlington Cemetery.
 Within the Kingdom of Poland and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, this city was in the province of Greater Poland. After the Russians, Austrians, and Prussians conquered and annexed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Kingdom of Prussia turned this province into the Grand Duchy of Posen and after the Uprising of 1848 the Province of Posen.
 There were also builders (real estate developers) who would purchase Sears Modern Homes to use as model homes or to build homes on speculation (“on spec”). Further, there were companies that purchased Sears Modern Homes to build as employee housing.
 The two Twin Cities Zephyr trainsets were the second and third of the CB&Q’s famed Zephyr trains, similar to the CB&Q’s first Zephyr train, the Pioneer Zephyr, which is now at the Museum of Science and Industry. All the cars on the Train of the Goddesses were named after Roman goddesses: Ceres, Diana, Juno, Minerva, Psyche, Venus, and Vesta. Also known as the Nebraska Zephyr, the Train of the Goddesses has been at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois since 1968.
 The Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway passes Tampico, Illinois, the birthplace of President Reagan, and connects with Dixon, Illinois, which has his boyhood home.
 Anderson’s Bookshops is an independent bookstore chain with three locations – Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville, Anderson’s Bookshop Downers Grove, and Anderson’s Bookshop LaGrange – as well as Anderson’s Toyshop.
 I would be highly surprised if this restaurant’s name was not an allusion to J.R.R. Tolkien, who felt the phrase “cellar door” was the most beautiful in the English language.
 The decision to replace one form of municipal government with another had been decided in a referendum held in September of 1915.
 A Senior Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation and an adjunct political science professor and adjunct professor of law at Northwestern University, Daniels had accepted an offer from the University of Denver to become Director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System and an adjunct teaching position at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.
 Mr. Ashton had shocked the library world in 2005 when he announced he would retire early, effective Tuesday, February 28, 2006. Library Journal interviewed him at that time.
 The artist, who has a gallery in Ashville, North Carolina was born in Casablanca, Morocco in 1941, and is of French and Brazilian ancestry.
 Twelve of Gary Lee Price’s sculptures adorn the Hong Kong Central Library.