Constructing History Historical Society Pushes for More Space
Holmes, Erin, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Erin Holmes Daily Herald Staff Writer
A blockbuster plan by the Arlington Heights Historical Museum to cul-de-sac Fremont Street and build a $1.1 million visitor center got cautious support - but no promise of money - from both the park district board and the village president Wednesday.
Arlington Heights park board President Tom Drake said commissioners want to help the Historical Society but are unsure how much money they can contribute.
Village President Arlene Mulder was more cautious, saying only that she supports in general the museum's need for more space to exhibit its collection of Arlington Heights history. She stopped well short of endorsing the Fremont Street plan.
Museum administrator Susan English was hopeful - "so far they haven't said we're crazy," she said.
The museum is proposing a project that will cost about $2 million total - to close Fremont Street about a half block west of Vail Avenue, build a two-story, $1.1 million visitor center and do general improvements to the museum campus.
The visitor's center also would chew up about 20 parking spaces in the village parking lot, south of the museum campus.
Historical Society President Kathy Balcom said the museum does not have any of the $2 million it needs.
What it has, she says, is a growing collection of Arlington Heights history that cannot be displayed to the public because there is no place to do it. Instead, the artifacts are tucked away in museum buildings on the campus.
The center would have about 11,000 square feet of space to house the museum store, private offices and traveling exhibits.
It would also display maps, brochures and some of the tens of thousands of artifacts it currently has in storage.
"We maintain our love of heritage by sharing it and showing it," Balcom said. "Right now we have no appropriate exhibit space. Our space is beyond inadequate."
Balcom said the museum's research library is hardly large enough for one person, and many displays - including a lawn mower collection, and an old post office window set-up - are in storage and never seen by the community.
Mulder said she supports the museum's efforts to find room to display its collections and agreed it will be a "challenge" to find the money.
"I really applaud them in looking at the next level," Mulder said. "They do have a space crunch. As we come into the turn of the century, history becomes even more important to us."
But the society's solution - blocking a street, eliminating some parking spaces - could prove to offer even more challenges.
"Parking is very critical to the success of the downtown construction," Mulder said.
Museum representatives met recently with a group of residents in the vicinity. Many residents said they would like it better if the visitor center took up more of the parking lot and less of Fremont Street, Balcom said. …