Buildings are focus of photo tour, history quiz

DOWNERS GROVE – Businesses in downtown Downers Grove have changed in waves over the last century, but many of the original buildings still stand.

That wealth of turn-of-the century buildings will be the focus of the Downers Grove Historical Society’s photo tour and history quiz this August. The Downers Grove Park District Museum is also a sponsor.

Participating businesses will have old photos in their front windows of what their block used to look like. Inside the businesses, beginning Aug. 10, will be a post card with four “mystery photos” on the front and a history quiz on the back. Answers to the locations of the mystery photos and the questions will be available online at
downersgrovehistory.org.

Although old buildings remain, many have disappeared or transformed, creating the challenge of the mystery photo contest.

“Those are the fun things we remember,” Downers Grove Historical Society spokeswoman Carol Wandschneider said. “Even on our committee, we argue among ourselves where things were. It’s been fun for us to do all the research on this.”

Many of the photos date to the 1950s and were donated to the Historical Society when the Downers Grove Reporter moved from its previous location on Warren Avenue to its office on 31st Street. Many of the photos come from other collections and date back to about 1900, Wandschneider said.

The two-story brick building in the picture still stands intact today, about 110 years later.

Replaced are the assortment of businesses that filled the block including a meat market, drug store and Mochel Hardware, a downtown fixture until 1995.

Pictures through the decades show a downtown that changed from general stores and other shops offering essentials about 1900 to the bounty of clothing stores that populated downtowns mid-century.

“There used to be six or seven dress shops, and six or seven beauty shops,” she said. “This was pre-shopping centers, so people went downtown for everything.”

This is the first year the photo tour and quiz is sponsored by the Historical Society and the museum after three years of sponsorship by the Downtown Downers Grove Management Corp.