A picture of Worth

Museum curator pens book about village

(From April 19, 2012)

The Worth Historical Museum's curator is hopeful proceeds from a book of photographs she compiled will help fund new exhibits at the museum.

"Images of America: Worth," which features hundreds of photographs collected by museum curator Colleen McElroy, will be released Monday, April 23.

"All of the proceeds go to the museum," McElroy said. "We're hoping to be able to create a replica of the Bishop General Store in one part of the museum. We also want to digitize some of our collection, maybe putting photographs into digital photo frames."

The book idea was inspired by Worth's upcoming centennial celebration in 2014, McElroy said.

"I found drawers and drawers of photos, and I thought it would be a nice project," she said. "I wanted to create a book so people could see and share the photos, instead of having them locked away."

McElroy was moved toward the project by a friend's documentary on LaPorte, Ind., which started from a photograph.

"He found this restaurant that used to be a photo studio, and there were a bunch of portraits in the back," McElroy said. "He managed to track down some of the relatives of the people in the portraits, and the documentary is their story."

The book contains more than 200 photographs ranging from those of school classrooms to the Bishop Store founded in 1881, to milestones in Worth history such as the opening of the Worth Park District's Terrace Centre and the Water's Edge Golf Club. The book is divided into five chapters including Transportation, Parks and Recreation, and the People of Worth - long known as the "Friendly Village." The nickname was given to the town by Bill Schneider, who while running for election to the Village Board in 1957 said, "Visiting the houses in town, Worth has the friendliest people around."

The book also features photos of historic homes - from the Victorian ornate to madeto- order dwellings that could be purchased through the Sears catalogue. At least 40 of the homes photographed are still standing, McElroy said.

McElroy's favorite photograph in the book is from 1906, when a "posse" of men wearing top hats and ties met before attempting to track down a convict who had escaped from the Illinois State Penitentiary. Another photo shows people riding a Barnum & Bailey circus elephant during a village festival in 1956.

The book ($21.99) and will be sold at the museum, 11500 S. Beloit Avenue, and at amazon. com, and arcadiapublishing. com. McElroy will be selling signed copies at this year's Worth Days Fest in August. There will be a bicycle tour in June featuring some of the village's historic homes, a program this summer at the museum during which McElroy will give an overview of the book and sign copies.