Downers Grove Historical Society - Newsletter Winter Edition 2021
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Liz Chalberg Steps Down as President

When Liz Chalberg walked into the Downers Grove Historical Society board meeting in the fall of 2016 she had no idea that she’d be leaving that same meeting as the newly appointed president. At this meeting, the current president, Tom Casey, announced that he would be stepping down from his position and the board quickly and unanimously concluded that Liz was the right choice. She graciously accepted the role and during her five-year tenure led the Historical Society to some of its greatest accomplishments.

Under Liz's leadership, the Historical Society's accomplishments include: the Ground Penetrating Radar Survey of the Main Street Cemetery which ultimately revealed additional burial sites; the History on Tap pub crawl which attracted over 225 revelers and included a historical trivia contest at six downtown locations; the Main Street Cemetery Web app ( which was launched as a way to show information for each burial location. In addition, the Honorary Historic Home Program had more than 25 homes recognized, the society saw its membership more than double and there's been a sharp increase in volunteers.
Liz always made herself available to the board, volunteers, and the public alike. She spoke eloquently when representing the Historical Society thanks to her theater background. And her positive, upbeat personality motivated the board members and volunteers to help make the Historical Society the best it could be. We thank Liz for her years of service and leadership. Former Vice President Amy Gassen has been appointed to the president position.

Amy Gassen Steps Up as New President

We are pleased to announce that Amy Gassen has been named president of the Downers Grove Historical Society, replacing Liz Chalberg who has stepped down to pursue a long-delayed extended travel plan. A Downers Grove resident since 2007, Amy joined the board in 2015 and has been vice president for the past three years. She is a licensed architect with Whitney Architects and also teaches architecture at the College of DuPage. She is chairperson of the Historic Preservation and Design Review Board for the Village of Downers Grove, and previously served on the Village’s Plan Commission. We thank Amy for her continued dedication to the Downers Grove Historical Society.

Overpass Never Came to Pass

Did You Know that in 1948 there was serious consideration for creating a Burlington (then CB&Q) overpass at Main Street? The Village Council at the time had several professional renderings created of what it might look like, but it never came to pass.

Historic Home Program

The honorary Historic Home Program is a partnership program between the Historical Society and the Downers Grove Museum. Its goal is to capture and preserve the available information about our historic homes for future generations to appreciate.  To learn more about this honorary program and to get the research started on your house, go to Contact the Historical Society or the Museum for assistance.
The George H. Bunge House
Built circa 1911, the home at 4800 Oakwood is considered an example of prairie style architecture. The structure has a stucco exterior, strong horizontal lines, and a somewhat open concept for the first floor. It flows well from the inside to the outside with simple lines. It has been approved as an historic home under the category of ‘Significant Person’ and is named after the fifth owner, George H. Bunge. George graduated from Downers Grove High School (then located in Lincoln School) in 1921 and was the one who named the yearbook, The Cauldron, which Downers Grove North still uses today. He went on to receive his law degree from Northwestern University Law School. Together he and his father, Gustav Bunge, built the Tivoli Theater in Downers Grove in 1928. His family lived at 4800 Oakwood from August 1944 to April 1962. Mr. Bunge was an attorney and practiced law in Downers Grove and eventually went on to become a small claims court judge. 
Researched and written by C. Holtzen 2021
The Stefan and Elizabeth Budzik House
Built circa 1891, the home at 623 Gierz is considered an example of a gable front vernacular house. This home was built by Stefan and Elizabeth Budzik. They came from the Poland-Czech-Slovak area of Europe and settled in Downers Grove in then what was known as the Gostyn Subdivision. Many Eastern-European immigrants settled in the Gostyn area, bringing with them highly developed skills in the building trades which were put to great use in the growing Village of Downers Grove and the surrounding area. Listed in the 1900 census as ‘carpenter’, Mr. Budzik and his wife built this home, raising a family and living there for 49 years.

Researched and written by C. Holtzen 2021

The Herricks of Downers Grove

William and Ella HerrickWilliam Herrick came to Downers Grove in 1900. Born on November 7, 1863, in Rockford, Illinois, he was raised learning all things about farms and growing things. His first job was working for the Uhlhorn Dairy, but by 1905, he purchased the Akon greenhouse on Washington Street and began his career as a florist. He was soon known for having a real "green thumb" producing beautiful sweet peas, peonies, roses, sweet corn, and cucumbers. Each autumn, stores on Main Street had beautiful displays of his produce.

In 1907, William married Ella Bartle (pictured above) who was the granddaughter of John and Lucy Peet Richards, one of the early families to settle in Downers Grove. The Herricks raised two boys, Bartle and Elmer.

Starting in 1920, children would become a big part of William’s life when he was elected to the grade school Board of Education and then the high school Board of Education in 1923. He served until 1950 just a few years before he died in November of 1952. Because of his long and dedicated service, the junior high school built in 1953 was named for him.
Son Elmer Dwight Herrick was born in 1910. He became a music teacher, served in World War II, and owned El Rey Music Center in Chicago. For a time, he was president of the American Guild of Music.

Bartle HerrickThe Herrick’s son, Bartle Richards Herrick (right), was born in 1913.  He took over the operation of the Herrick Floral Shop that operated until 1980.  He was active in the village serving on the Park District Board, Chamber of Commerce, and teaching floral arranging at LaGrange Junior College. Bartle served in World War II. One of Bartle’s loves was local history. In 1982, he wrote a booklet that included historical facts, anecdotes, and happenings about village history calling it What You Didn’t Know About Downers Grove and Didn’t Know Who to Ask. At the end of the booklet, Bartle encouraged the reader to write a booklet of their own treasured memories in Downers Grove’s history. Bartle's booklet is now available on the Research Guide page on the Downers Grove Historical Society website.  

They Drank. They Crawled. It’s History! 

Back after a year off, the History on Tap pub crawl was a resounding success. Two hundred twenty five participants visited six historic buildings collecting trivia answers and beverages along the way. The final stop at the Tivoli Bowl saw members of the Historical Society and Cadence owner, Todd Davies, giving out gift certificates to participating restaurants. "I really enjoyed learning about these buildings here in our town. I reckon I'll attend this event again next year!", said pub crawler Dave Rutkowski. Another round of History on Tap is in the works for next year so be sure to watch our website or Facebook page for updates!

Interpretive Sign Arrives at 
Downer Burial Site

A new interpretive sign (commissioned by the Historical Society and installed in partnership with the Downers Grove Park District) has been installed at the Downer Burial Ground at 4520 Linscott. It presents information about the Downer family members who are buried there, so visitors can better understand their relationships and history. A short program was conducted with a dedication by board member Lois Sterba who has done extensive research on the Downer Family. Matt Slusser, a 5th generation grandson of Pierce Downer, was present at the dedication.

The public is welcome to visit this site. Just look for the marker at the street side and walk up the driveway to the fenced area.

Gold Star Mothers
Honoring Veteran’s Day

When an active-duty service member dies, his or her mother automatically becomes a Gold Star Mother.  It’s a distinction that no mother wants, but it’s one worn proudly.  War would create several Gold Star Mothers in Downers Grove.
According to the book, A Star for Mrs. Blake, by April Smith, families whose son or daughter died in Europe in WWI were given the choice by the government of having their loved one returned or buried in Europe. About 30% of the families decided to leave their sons buried in Europe where they had fought bravely.  The Gold Star Mothers formed a national organization in 1928 to honor and help the families of WWI. Because of their activities, President Calvin Coolidge signed legislation in March of 1929 to allocate funds to provide trips for mothers to see the graves of their sons in Europe. Five million dollars was approved for trips from May of 1930 to August 1933.  Each trip to France would last two weeks and cost approximately $840. There were about 14,000 mothers eligible but only 6,693 decided to go. Many of the mothers were in their 60s and chose not to make the trip.
Gold Star Mothers' Badge
Each mother who decided to go received a seven-page mailing with all the regulations related to the trip. The mothers were told to bring only two pieces of luggage that should include two pairs of comfortable shoes, galoshes, an umbrella, a full-length coat, a sweater, underwear, and clothes to last two weeks as no laundry facilities would be available in Europe. Every mother was also issued a Gold Star Mothers pilgrimage badge to be worn at all times.  These mothers were treated with great care having all expenses paid from their city of departure to the graves of their sons and home again.
Marine Corporal John Pozdol

One mother who wanted to go was Mrs. Martin Pozdol of Downers Grove. She was 68 years old and was born in Poland and immigrating to America in 1880.  Her son, Marine Corporal John J. Pozdol, died on June 6, 1918, in France. John was born on Christmas Day 1895 in Chicago and moved to Downers Grove with his family at the age of eight. One of ten children, he attended St. Joseph School, and after graduating went to work in his father’s paint store. At the age of 23, John enlisted, and in December of 1917, he was on a ship headed to France. On June 6, 1918, John died in a battle. The Pozdol Family decided to have John buried in France where he died.  (He was one of 30,000 buried in Europe.)  In July of 1930, Mrs. Pozdol left for New York from Chicago on the Pennsylvania Railroad with eight Chicago area Gold Star Mothers.  There they boarded a ship to France and were then escorted to the graves of their sons. Mrs. Pozdol went to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in Picardie, France - one of many cemeteries where American soldiers were buried.  This 42-acre memorial park where 2,289 war dead are buried is located at the foot of the Belleau Woods, 45 miles northeast of Paris.  The graves are arranged row upon row in this beautifully kept cemetery. Mrs. Pozdol, like many other mothers, returned home knowing her son’s grave was being respectfully honored.
Researched and written by Lois Sterba

More Historical Resources Now Available Online


In the past few months, the Historical Society has been busy updating the website with more information about the history of Downers Grove. Some of the highlights include:

  • Downers Grove (1832-1982) by Pauline Wandschneider and Montrew Dunham is now available for reading on our website. This is the most comprehensive book about the history of Downers Grove and is now available online for the first time.
  • A new Research Guide page with information to help visitors research the history of Downers Grove has been launched recently. This new part of our website honors Carol Wandschneider, who spent decades researching and preserving the history of Downers Grove.
  • What You Didn't Know About Downers Grove and Didn't Know Who to Ask by Bartle Herrick provides an easy-to-read question-and-answer style of writing. This book is also available online for the first time. 
  • A new Recognition and Honors page includes expanded biographies for the recipients of the Historian of the Year, the Founder of the Year, and the Montrew Dunham Award.
  • Our YouTube Channel has a new look and new content from 2021 events. It can now be accessed directly from the Historical Society's website.

Dues Will Be Due Soon!

Watch for your Historical Society membership dues notice which will be coming out in the next few weeks. Our annual membership rates remain the same and are used solely to support the preservation of, education about, and promotion of Downers Grove history. For more information, or to renew your membership online, please visit our website's Membership page.

Coming Up...

  • May 7: Founders Day – Join us for various events focused on celebrating our community's history
  • October 22: Living Cemetery 
  • Still to Come with Date to be Determined: History on Tap Pub Crawl, Montrew Dunham Award Ceremony, Historian of the Year Award Ceremony

Can you tell a story? Can you write it down?

Perfect. We need some help with communications. Someone that can write an article or help with some social content. It's a great way to volunteer without feeling like you have a second job. Send us an email and let's see how you can help. 
All vintage photos courtesy of The Downers Grove Historical Society and Downers Grove Museum.


Copyright © 2021 Downers Grove Historical Society, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
P.O. Box 663
Downers Grove, IL 60515

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Downers Grove History · P.O. Box 663 · Downers Grove, Il 60515 · USA

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