Worth Museum doors are open while village searches for new home

Photo by Sharon L. Filkins

Summer has arrived, school is out and parents are faced with their annual dilemma; what is there to do? The deciding factor for this question is generally something close to home and free of cost.

For Worth residents, at least for the time being, the answer can be a visit to the Worth Historical Museum, located in the Worth Park District’s Terrace Centre at 11500 S. Beloit Ave. The museum is currently open five days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and there is no charge for admission. However, it may soon be looking for a new home.

Visitors need to be advised that their visit will be a walk-through on their own as there is no longer a museum curator on hand to explain the various historical exhibits on display.

According to Robert O’Shaughnessy, director of Worth’s Parks and Recreation Department, the curator position was eliminated last year in order for the park district to channel funding to its new priority, upgrading the Veteran’s Memorial Park at the intersection of 111th Street and Harlem Avenue.

“The museum is still intact with everything in place, just as it was and we are taking care of it. But we would like to get out of the management of it and move it to another location. The park district is really not in the museum business,” he said. “We want it to stay in the community but the park district is not the best group to be running it. Ideally, we would love for a school, or library or a civic organization which might have room for it, to take it over,”

He added that times have changed and the park district has grown. “We could really use the space more productively.”

O’Shaughnessy said if anyone is interested in housing the museum and its contents for the public to visit, call him at the park district office at (708) 448-7080.

The Worth Historical Museum was first opened in 1995 at the Terrace Centre by the Worth Historical Society. In 2004, the museum was expanded with funding from the Department of Natural Resources Illinois State Museum’s Public Museum Capital Grant.

For six years prior to last July, Colleen McElroy, a former village trustee, served as curator for the museum and successfully increased the collection of historical objects, photos and historical documents. She also interviewed many descendants of families who helped found the Village of Worth. In 2012, she authored the book “History of Worth,” which is still available at the Worth Public Library. All the photos used in the book are stored in the archives of the museum.

Even though museum visitors are not given a guided tour, the written history of Worth and many photos are displayed in large frames along the wall of the hallway leading to the museum at the Terrace Centre, providing an introduction to the museum.

Inside the museum, a visitor’s gaze is drawn to a large reproduction of The Bishop Store and Post Office, a major focal point of the early days in Worth. The store was located on the northeast corner of 111th Street and Depot.

According to information in the museum, the store was built by Edward Payson Bishop in 1881. He sold items like candy, groceries, lunch meats and candles. Items like coffee, tea, spices, rice, beans, flour, sugar, salt, cornmeal and molasses were also sold in the store. Those items were stored in large bins and bags, crowding the shelves and floor of the store.

A potbelly stove was one of the trademarks of Bishop’s Store. Residents of Worth would gather at the store, sit by the stove and discuss politics, current events and memories of “Old Worth.” The actual stove is on display in the reproduction. It was donated to the museum by the Zuidema family.

The museum is filled with information such as the history of the Bishop Store. Individuals or families can stop by the Terrace Centre during park district hours and ask if they can tour the museum while it is still at its current location.

If anyone has any suggestions on where the museum can be moved to, contact the Worth Park District’s Terrace Centre at the above number.

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