A Message from Our President

The safety of our volunteers and visitors is a top priority for the Northbrook Historical Society. Therefore, the Museum, Heritage Center and the Artisans at the Inn Shop are closed, and will remain so, during the rapidly changing situation surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

We are doing this solely out of an abundance of caution and recommendations of social distancing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

We will reassess the situation in 30 days and will reopen at a future date.

If you have a research question, please call (847) 498-3404 or send us an e-mail.

Judy Hughes
President, Northbrook Historical Society

Addressing Shermerfest 2019 Concerns

In light of the venue change for Northbrook Days, the Northbrook Historical Society has received many questions about the 2019 Shermerfest. First and foremost, we can assure you that the 41st Shermerfest will proceed on schedule in the Village Green.

Shermerfest – Sunday September 15, 2019

The Northbrook Park District and Northbrook Historical Society have worked collaboratively on many endeavors over the years including Shermerfest. While the Park District always will make the final decision on whether an activity will proceed in one of its parks, or an area is off limits, the Society is used to working with and setting up around areas deemed by the Park District as off limits.

Historically, Shermerfest and Northbrook Days have several things in common: Both are family-oriented festivals, both are indelible parts of the Village fabric and history, and for decades, both have shared a home in Village Green Park.

But differences also are apparent, including major ones in the size, scope, and environmental impact of the two festivals. Those differences are:

  • Shermerfest’s overall impact on Village Green Park is really very little compared to that of Northbrook Days.
  • Most important for the trees and grounds of Village Green Park, Northbrook Days requires many large vehicles to travel through various parts of the park to deliver tents and rides. The fenced off overflow area for the creek located east of the path passing in front of the gazebo is where the worker’s living quarters (trailers) are set up, and where their vehicles go in and out of the park multiple times a day before the carnival opens and after it closes.
  • Counting setup and takedown, Northbrook Days affects large areas of Village Green Park for over a week. Shermerfest is strictly a one-day event, including setup and takedown, with the actual festival operating for only four hours.
  • Shermerfest has the flexibility to move our small operation around to avoid off-limit areas. Northbrook Days does not have that flexibility due to the size and number of tents, booths and rides they need in order to have a successful event. Northbrook Days deals with a budget and profits in six figures. A successful Shermerfest usually nets from $10,000 to $13,000.
  • Shermerfest requires virtually no large vehicles. With the exception of the Sunset Popcorn Wagon, Calliope and Huckster Truck, no vehicles are allowed on the gazebo side of the path where many of the tree roots are located.
  • The classic cars at Shermerfest enter the park on asphalt paths, and most occupy areas that have little or no effect on the root systems of trees.  Though the classic vehicle show features a variety of entries, virtually all are cars. And . . . a Model A, for example, weights only about 2,500 pounds — no comparison to a large delivery truck for carnival rides or supplies.

Hope Union Heritage Center

The Northbrook Historical Society has recently been given the 1892 era church at the corner of Church Street and Chapel Court. There may be no other building in Northbrook that illustrates the history of the Village as completely as the 123-year-old church that remains tucked away just a block from the downtown area.

Once we complete the special permit process through the Village we plan on using this building as the Hope Union Heritage Center containing the Louis J. Werhane history library and archives, and the Northbrook Historical Society offices.

Preserved in 1974, the Northfield Inn located at 1776 Walters Avenue will remain as the Northbrook History Museum and the Inn Shop. Both buildings will be visible examples of the Village’s history and the Northbrook Historical Society’s mission:

To discover, collect, preserve and disseminate knowledge, which will establish or illustrate the history of the Village of Northbrook, its exploration, settlement, development and progress.

Please help us preserve this historical treasure for the community by making a tax-deductible donation to the Northbrook Historical Society. For more information please call 847-272-7567.

Donations may be sent to the following:

Hope Union Heritage Center Fund
1812 Chapel Court
Northbrook, IL 60062

Historic Church Donated to Northbrook Historical Society

Buildings with true historic value are a rarity in Northbrook. That is why the Northbrook Historical Society is excited about an amazing opportunity it recently received.

The church located at 1812 Chapel Court (corner of Chapel and Church Street) has been the home of the Christian Science Society since the late 1950s. The structure dates to 1892, when it was built by volunteers and named Hope Union Church.

In mid-January of this year, the Christian Science Society made a stunning offer: The congregation expressed a desire to donate the church to the Northbrook Historical Society for the purpose of preserving the historic building.

After receiving the offer, “I couldn’t sleep that entire night,” said Judy Hughes, President of the Northbrook Historical Society.

Since then, church and Historical Society representatives have been working out the details of an agreement to transfer ownership of the church. A thorough inspection of the 123-year-old building was important, because maintenance and upkeep will be key issues for the Historical Society — an all-volunteer organization with limited funds.

The building appears to be basically in good condition, though items such as a handicap-accessible ramp, rest-room upgrades, air-conditioning adjustments, and so on, are needed. After careful review by both the Historical Society and the Christian Science Society, a contract between the two was signed in early May. A closing date for the transfer will come later in the year.

The Historical Society envisions using the current Sunday School area as a home for its library and archives — a research center with space that is sorely lacking at the Historical Society’s only other building, the Northfield Inn at 1776 Walters Ave. The Inn will remain the home of the Northbrook History Museum and the Historical Society’s consignment store, the Inn Shop.

No major changes would be made to the church’s current sanctuary, which the Historical Society likely would try to rent to a small congregation for use on Sundays. The sanctuary also could be used as a site for weddings.
No zoning changes are needed for the Historical Society to assume ownership of the church. However, in order for the Historical Society to use even a portion of the building as a research area, a special permit from the Village would be required.

Church neighbors on Church Street and Chapel Court have received letters from the Historical Society telling them about an informal meeting at the church on Tuesday, May 19, at 7 p.m., to discuss the future of the church and answer any questions.

Like the Christian Science Society, the major goal of the Historical Society is to preserve the historic building. Perhaps no other current or past structure in Shermerville/Northbrook tells the story of the Village better than Hope Union Church, which was built by volunteers on donated land using donated materials.

The church — which was constructed nine years before the actual incorporation of the Shermerville in 1901 — received its original name because it was envisioned to be the ‘hope’ of the small community and also serve as a “union” of congregations without regard for religious denominations.

Beginning in 1922, the building served as the home of the Presbyterian Church of Shermerville (and then Northbrook) until 1949, when the current Village Presbyterian Church was dedicated just a block north of Hope Union Church. Soon after, Hope Union became the home of St. Giles Episcopal Church for about a decade until St. Giles opened its current church on Walters Avenue just west of Pfingsten Road. The little church on Chapel was dedicated as the First Church of Christ, Scientist, on Dec. 6, 1959, and remained a Christian Science church until that congregation’s last service in the building on April 26, 2015.

Thoughts on the Historical Society

It was March, not quite winter, but not yet spring.  The winter winds had been brutal as they swept in across the open farm fields, but the sturdy log cabin had kept out all but the worst of it.  In spite of the dawning of the new season, all that lived in the home were not filled with the new hope associated with the first rays of warm sun because they had been standing watch as the family patriarch struggled with his last breaths as “lung fever” stole his life away from him.  He was only 56 years old.

His young wife and his children caringly dressed him in his best clothes and slipped him into the simple wooden coffin which they loaded into the farm wagon for the two mile ride to the German Evangelical Church where his friends would gather together to bury his body and pay homage to his spirit as it ascended into the great beyond.

They laid him into the untilled ground just feet away from his first wife and two of his infant children.  Without a minister they each took a turn to pay their individual respects before withdrawing and leaving the family to their own thoughts at the graveside.

Barely 17 years earlier, this man had brought his wife, eldest son and newborn daughter to this barely-tamed land where he literally worked himself to death to break the ground and establish a new home for his family.  His dream would be that his heirs would be able to live a life that, in the old world, would not have been any reality.  His dream had been that his family would be able to make their way in the world and not be tied to the rigid structures of the past.

That was 1860 and that man was Gottleib (George) Schoenleber (Schinleber) and that land was here in what we now refer to as Northbrook.  His farm is now reduced to a simple lot with a house built by his youngest son in the 1870’s and the graveyard he is buried in, which has lain unmarked and abandoned for over a hundred years.

In 1978 my mother passed away.  My father, struggling with the loss of my mother and the recent loss of both of his parents, sought out a way that succeeding generations would know them, even if they had never had them in their lives.  He joined the fledgling Northbrook Historical Society and made it his mission to do whatever he could to create a living history of my mother, his parents, his extended family and the community in which he and they had grown up in and helped to build into what it is today.

My father’s research has led to the Society’s photo collection and some of the early collections of both oral and written histories of families and of early happenings in the community.  Not happy with just that, he also helped as the Society building was moved to its current location, and was made into the building it is today.

I guess I was just born to be a part of the Historical Society.  The lives of my family are so intertwined with that of the Village, how could it be any other way?  While I may not be the collector of history like my father was, my contribution lives on with my willingness to become one of our community’s founders in the annual cemetery walks, living history presentations, and historical events put on by the Society.  I only hope that what I do is carried on by our following generations.

Ron Schinleber
12/7/2010