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Unlocking the Historical Secrets of Northbrook

This week's Patch Portraits also features Wilmette's barber family and Morton Grove's bookworm nurturer.

This week's Patch Portraits also feature Wilmette's barber family and .

Every old wooden sign, rusty metal tool, faded document and black and white photo in the holds a story inside.

As president of the society, it is Judy Hughes’ job to unlock that tale.

Step into the building, pick up an object, and Hughes can tell you its story. The thermostat that says “Reiland & Bree” came from a now defunct truck manufacturer that opened in the 1920s at Walters and Waukegan Avenue. A sign that reads “Bartelme’s” advertises the inn where the Historical Society is now located, which served travelers all you can eat chicken dinners for $1 in the 1900s. A painting depicts Northbrook back when it was a farming town with little more than a train station.

Earlier: .

“It’s very hard letting people know that history has a meaning to them in their busy lives,” says Hughes. “We just try to be here.”

So when someone comes in looking for a little more information about an ancestor, or wants to find out who owned their house before them, Hughes can pull out an old real estate brochure or do some genealogical research. 

“When an old person dies, a library dies with them,” she said. “And the history of a community dies with them.”

Fittingly, the Historical Society has deemed itself “the keeper of the stories,” and Hughes is making an effort to preserve the stories of the town via research, archiving and the simple act of telling a tale to anyone who visits.

Click on the video at left to hear Hughes guide you through the Historical Society. Photos by Philip Downie.

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