1950s Museum Remembers 1948 Tent Meeting; Open Nov. 29

House Museum Open Saturday, 1-3 p.m.

For those of you who have family in town for the weekend, or who have not yet visited the 1950s Museum, it will be open from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday November 29.  The museum is decorated with 1950s Thanksgiving Gurley candles, a cornucpoia and seasonal decorations.  The society invites you and your family to Step Back into the 1950s with us.  A visit to the museum is a perfect way to share memories of the past with other generations, creating a very special time for families.

Donation for adults is only $5: children 12 and under are free with a paying adult. The museum is located at 141 Forest Blvd, at the corner of Forest and Fir, one block north of the Park Forest Police Department.

The Park Forest Historical Society hopes you will also plan to visit the museum in December.  By December 6, we hope to be decorated for a 1950s Christmas, including having an aluminum tree decorated with a light wheel and 1950s atomic ornaments.  Decorations appear throughout the house, with presents under the tree.

A visit to the museum this weekend is a perfect way to learn about the Tent Meeting of November 27, 1948, which marked a turning point in the development of the village 60 years ago this week.  American Community Builders, developers of Park Forest erected a tent where Sears parking lot later stood, just north of Main Street across from where Victory Center is now.  They served barbeque and invited residents and those who held leases.  Philip Klutznick made one of his inspiring speeches, asking the citizens to decide whether to vote for incorporating as a village.  They had to decide before the population–which was growing in leaps and bounds–was too large.  ACB wanted them to incorporate as a village so they could form the kind of Village Manager/Board of Trustees government we appreciate so much today.  Everyone decided they wanted to avoid the Mayor and aldermanic system in Chicago.  There were advantages to incorporation for the builders, which later became advantages for the village, like becoming eligible for tax money for street lights, street paving and I believe, for schools.

Other real estate developers thought American Community Builders was crazy for taking this step.  In effect, ACB put themselves under the control of their own tenants while they still had about 15 more years of development left on the village. What ACB never anticipated was that these highly educated GI’s, who had won the world for Democracy, would dedicate themselves to building the very best village they could for their families.  Mr. Klutznick was a New Deal man, having served for many years under FDR, and he viewed this as an experiment in Democracy.  In later years, he often spoke of how much more ACB took on than they bargained for by incorporating, but the move on ACB’s part is one of the historically unique things about Park Forest.

In the classroom of the museum hangs one of the large articles which appeared in area papers about the meeting.  In the dining room there is a photo album from the meeting. Accounts can be found in Carroll F. Sweet, Jr.’s book, and in Gregoroy Randall’s book, America’s Original GI Town.  Accounts can also be found online in oral history transcripts in the digital project, "Park Forest:  An Illinois Planned Community," which can be accessed through the society’s home page at www.parkforesthistory.org. 

Civic involvement in Park Forest began at this seminal meeting.  Future movers and shakers who became involved that day included Dennis O’Harrow, the future first Village President, whose wife volunteered him in absentia because he was with the American Planning Association and she thought he would be interested in helping.  Others who volunteered and entered a lifetime of service to the village were Henry X. Dietch, second Village President and later Village Attorney; and Robert Dinerstein who joined the Committe for Municipal Incorporation, and went on to join the group that formed the school boards, the Human Relations commission, and became the third Village President.  Many others stepped forward at this meeting and began service to the village that lasted for as long as they lived here.

For more information on the Tent Meeting of November 27, 1948 you can use the Local History Files in the Adult Services Department of the Park Forest Public Library.  The Park Forest Photograph File, available for viewing there, also has photos of the meeting.  If you have further questions, contact the society at [email protected], or the Adult Services staff will refer you to the archivist or a society board member.

We hope to see you at the museum this weekend and in December.   Just a reminder that the museum closes for the month of January.  We plan to re-open in February decorated for a 1950s Valentine’s Day party.