While Chicago is a city rich in history, the surrounding towns have interesting stories of their own. At the Hawthorne Works Museum, located at Morton College in Cicero, the history of one of the twentieth century's most famous and important factories is told, and serves as a lens into the community's rich industrial past.
"The Western Electric Hawthorne Works plant was the pride and joy of Cicero," explained Jim O'Connell, Student Development Liaison for Morton College. "It manufactured almost everything needed by the Bell System, most notably telephones and cable and telephone switching equipment."
The Hawthorn Works plant was a world center for industrial science. According to O'Connell, the pioneering Hawthorne Studies is still part of business management and psychology courses today. "The plant offered exceptional benefits to its employees, allowing their families a comfortable lifestyle," he said. "Many employees from the Berwyn-Cicero area worked their entire careers at Western Electric."
The plant extended over 200 acres, and employed 40,000 people at its peak. It was a self-sufficient city that included a hospital, a fire brigade, a gymnasium, and a staff of trained nurses who made house calls. "The museum's knowledgeable staff offers guided tours for individuals or for school/community groups," said O'Connell. "Presentations and handouts are available at the museum, including information about American and local history, Bell Labs inventions, history of immigrant life, the Eastland disaster, and the history of the telecommunications industry." Staff members also provide assistance incorporating museum topics into educational curriculum and research services.
"The adjoining Heritage Hall conveys information about the community's rich history through vivid wallpaper displays," added O'Connell. "Visitors can discover the stories behind the area's two horse racing tracks, the Illinois and Michigan Canal, the Burlington Northern Railroad, and the many varied churches."
Admission to the museum is free. For additional information and hours, call (708) 656-8000, extensions 2321 or 2429.
3801 S. Central Avenue
Cicero, IL 60804