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Found in Collection blog

Follow our new weekly bloHans-Christian-Andersen-The-Tallow-Candle-Manuscript-Found-2012g! Found in Collection highlights the interesting stories behind some unique artifacts in the historical societies holdings.

The Kenilworth Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the materials that document the people, events, and organizations of the small North Shore village. During my time as curator at the Society I’ve found a variety of fascinating and peculiar artifacts that tell the story of Kenilworth. We’ve recently begun an inventory of the entire collection, which has uncovered a plethora of interesting artifacts. I hope you find these museum relics as intriguing as I do.

I was inspired to write this blog one afternoon as I was combing though a box I found in our collection room. In a single box I found a prescription bottle of prohibition era whiskey, a death mask, a piece of the White House and much more. It’s no secret that the vast majority of museums’ collections never see the light of day. For example, The Field Museum in Chicago only has 1% of it’s collection on display at any given time. Museums just don’t have the gallery area (or budget) to display all the wonderful things we have. This project will shed light on the hidden treasures in our collection while exploring the captivating history behind them.



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2016 Illinois Association of Museum Awards

This summer the Illinois Association of Museums conferred two Awards of Merit to the Kenilworth Historical Society. Our exhibit Focus on Violet Wyld and our annual Joseph Sears School Educational Program were recognized. Both honors were presented at the awards luncheon during the association’s annual conference on Thursday, September 29th in Oak Park. Directors and staff accepted the awards on behalf of the historical society. img_0956

Our exhibit Focus on Violet Wyld features dozens of her photographs and multiple original artifacts. Violet photographed countless homes and families in Kenilworth during the 1940s through the 70s. Stop by the historical society to see if your family is highlighted in the exhibit. Our annual Sears School program, now conducted in May, introduces 2nd graders to the fascinating past of their village. The program includes a field trip to the historical society where the children participate in a presentation about the village’s history and learn about the different functions of the museum. A historical trolley tour around the village, guided by historical society volunteers is the program’s first activity.  Thank you to all the volunteers who worked on these two projects, we hope you continue your service in the future.

wyld-award school

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Kenilworth - The suburban Ideal

A vision of a country home with the conveniences of the city prompted Joseph Sears to move his family from Chicago’s Prairie Avenue to the undeveloped woodland north of the city on the shores of Lake Michigan.  The story of the realization of that vision and the founding of his ideal village – Kenilworth – is told in the Kenilworth Historical Society’s new film.

Written and produced by award-winning filmmaker John Newcombe, Kenilworth: The Suburban Ideal is an authentic historical account of the early village, detailing Joseph Sears’ vision for creating his idyllic community.  The film includes many recollections from early residents, including excerpts from the extensive hand-written diaries of Joseph Sears’ daughter, Dorothy.


“As an early planned suburban community, Kenilworth has a particularly interesting history,” recounts KHS past-president Tim Miller who chaired the KHS film committee. The project was first initiated in the fall of 2014 when the KHS board approved the funding to develop a script for the proposed film. Subsequently, acclaimed filmmaker and Winnetka native John Newcombe was selected to script and produce the film.  “John spent 6 months creating the script.  He immersed himself in the history of the village, studying mass amounts of historical documents, reviewing chronicles, and completely internalizing Joseph Sears’ rationale for why and how he developed the village,” explained Miller. “John then spent the next 12 months bringing the script to life through the production of the film.”

The resulting documentary contains historical images expertly blended with new aerial footage provided by Kenilworth resident and pilot Brad Savage.

“Our objective was to create an accurate and interesting film documenting the history of Kenilworth for our current village residents and for future generations,” explained Miller.  “Additionally, our hope is that it will be the carrot that entices people to come into the Historical Society to see our rotating and permanent exhibits and to learn more,” added Ginny Anderson, KHS executive director.

Although John Newcombe’s efforts have been paramount in the creation of this film, twenty people were involved in its making, from those who reviewed the scripts to those who researched the historical data to ensure its accuracy. Special acknowledgement goes to the members of the Kenilworth Historical Society’s Film Committee (Tim Miller, Steve Crawford, Mary Glerum, Jean Patterson, Ginny Anderson, Bill Hinchliff), and KHS curators Melinda Kwedar and Kyle Mathers, as well as Brad Savage for his outstanding aerial footage, David Jeremiah for his engaging film narration, and Frances Newcombe for her eye-catching graphics, enhancements and colorations.

The film will be introduced and available for purchase at the Historical Society’s Biennial Dinner on October 21st. John Newcombe will be speaking on its production and showing clips from the film.

The film will be available for purchase in DVD and Blu-ray format for $20 at the Kenilworth Historical Society, 415 Kenilworth Avenue, starting October 22nd.  Kenilworth Historical Society hours of operation are: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, Mondays and Thursdays.

For more information about this film visit

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Kenilworth Flag

The official Kenilworth Flag


In the summer of 1987, Matthew Duffy was one of twenty Boy Scouts selected from Illinois to attend the World Jamboree to be held in Australia in 1989. As was the custom at Jamborees, the boys were asked to bring materials so that they could build something that represented their home area. The boys from Illinois Troop 1824 decided to build a replica of the Willis (then Sears) Tower.

It was also decided that each boy should bring a flag from his home city that would fly on the top of their tower. At the time, Kenilworth did not have an official flag. Searching for an Eagle Scout project, Matthew decided to design an official flag for Kenilworth and sell them to raise money for Troop 13.Flag Drawing

Matthew’s original design included : twenty-two stars for the Kenilworth service members lost in various wars, the George Washington Elm tree, the Kenilworth village script logo, and blue stripes bordering the top and bottom to represent the sky and Lake Michigan. The colors blue, green, and white were chose as they are also the colors of Joseph Sears School and New Trier High School.

Matthew’s Eagle Scout project required the Village Board’s approval, which he easily obtained. Working with Navy veteran and long time Kenilworth resident, Harry Kelso, Matthew reviewed his design and colored the stars gold. Matthew also obtained permission to use the Kenilworth script logo from the original designers great-grandson.

The design complete, Matthew contracted with a local sign maker to create 100 flags. The flag was first flown over the 1988 Memorial Day weekend. He sold all 100 flags and shortly after the Village Board declared the flag to be official. Matthew dedicated the flag to his grandfather, Kenneth E. Duffy, who lost his life during World War II.

In 2003, the Village Board again voted without objection to declare the flag permanent.

In 2014, the Kenilworth eighth grade Girl Scouts were seeking a fundraising project. They decided to reissue the flag around Memorial Day, 2015. They used the raised funds to purchase a new flagpole for the Village.

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