Business Hours: Tuesday – Thursday, 10:00am – 3:30pm (closed Mondays and Fridays)
Tour Hours: Please call the museum to make an appointment
Disabled-Accessible Education Center – by appointment
101 South Maple Street | Mount Prospect, Illinois 60056-3229
Telephone: (847) 392-9006 | Fax: (847) 577-9660
Edward Johnson III
Jane Winters, BookkeeperExecutive Director
History of Mount Prospect Historical Society
Imagine it’s 1898 and you’re walking through Mount Prospect heading north in the area of Route 83. Today’s hustle and bustle certainly makes it difficult to envision a village with a population that is rapidly growing from 1893’s count of 35 residents. By the late 1800’s Mount Prospect boasted several stores, a post office and a new train depot.
Beginning as a German farming community, our town founders chose to build a town on land that had a somewhat higher elevation than surrounding areas. Early residents believed developer Ezra C. Eggleston when he proclaimed Mount Prospect was a town that showed great promise.
Eighteen daily trains to and from the city was considered quite a feat in the early 1900’s. Wouldn’t today’s commuters be amazed, if they looked out the train’s windows and saw the many truck farms with their onion drying sheds lined up along Central Road instead of tall buildings and traffic.
Yes, Mount Prospect has certainly changed. Today we are a combination of many nationalities, award winning schools, churches, local commerce, shopping and business centers, several park districts, a library, many local organizations, and a highly rated fire and police department. Our mayor and trustees guide us into the future with the redevelopment of the downtown area. Our village employees and services are the best. And yet with all this progress, we are still a village who’s old fashioned slogan continues to ring true, Where Friendliness is a Way of Life.
The Mount Prospect Historical Society is a combination of yesterday, today and the promise of tomorrow. As President, I’d like issue you an invitation to revisit yesterday by visiting our museum, explore our exhibits and enjoy the good old days at our events. The Mount Prospect Historical Society will not allow our village to forget it’s humble beginnings. We are a presence in our village that always encourages a partnership between history and progress.
The objective of this Society is to advance the discovery, preservation and dissemination of historical and current information related to Mount Prospect, Illinois, and the surrounding area.
Goals and Objectives
Collection: the primary objective of the permanent collect of the Mount Prospect Historical Society is to preserve, organize, and make available materials which describe, illuminate, or demonstrate the history of Mount Prospect. This material will be presented or made available to advance the understanding of regional history.
Building Preservation: the primary objective of building preservation is to preserve and make available buildinghs of significant historical meaning to the residents of Mount Prospect.
Education: the objective of providing educational opportunities through programs, events, classes and exhibits is to disseminate historical information related to Mount Prospect.
Funding: the objective of sufficient funds raised annually to support efficient and effective operations including staffing, building maintenance and programming by solicitation of direct monetary donations, in-kind donations and fundraising events.
Management: the primary objective of managing the Society is to maintain a fiscally sound and responsible organization administered by trained and competent staff under the direction of an informed and active board of directors.
Membership: the primary objective of membership is to maintain a viable, renewable membership to support the endeavors of the Society through dues, attendance at events and volunteer work.
In 1967 four people gathered around a kitchen table formed the Mount Prospect Historical Society. They believed the community needed an organization to document the history of Mount Prospect. From these humble beginnings, the organization has grown into the full museum, archive, education center, and professional staff that the community knows today. It operates fifty-two weeks a year and offers a rich and varied schedule of activities and events for members and the community.
The first home of the Historical Society was found in 1968 when the Village of Mount Prospect gave them a small space in the Municipal Building that stood at 112 E. Northwest Highway. From this location the Historical Society developed a small office and began its collection of artifacts. In 1976, with the excitement of the national bicentennial and a growing interest in local history, the Historical Society moved to its first full museum. This was housed in the 1901 Saint John Lutheran Schoolhouse, at 1100 Linneman Road. This site was an important part of the Mount Prospect Historical Society’s operations, however the Society never owned the site and began to look for a more permanent location. This was found at a site downtown in 1987 and, over the course of the next 13 years, the Society completely shifted its operations to this location.
In 1992, after five years of restoration, the society opened its downtown museum, the Dietrich Friedrichs House at 101 South Maple Street (map). Built in 1906, the frame house of Lena and Dietrich Friedrichs is typical of many of the midwestern farmhouses of the early 20th century. Situated in one of Mount Prospect’s oldest neighborhoods, this building was the thirteenth house to be built in town. The site has now been restored and refurbished to reflect life in the early twentieth century. Its beautifully restored garden also replicates vegetation of the era.
Aware of the difficulties that a house museum can pose for individuals with physical and environmental-challenges, the Society looked for possible solutions. Modifications to the house would have severely compromised the historical significance of the site, so a solution was created that would both accommodate individuals with restricted movement and advance the Society’s mission. An ADA-approved Education Center was built in 1995. This center provides wheelchair accessibility, a video tour of the museum, and a site for programs and temporary exhibits. With the construction of the Education Center the Society created a small campus for historical activities in downtown Mount Prospect.
Most recently, the Society has purchased the first public school in the community in 2002. The one room Central School was built in 1895 by William Wille and served as the only public school in Mount Prospect until 1927. Also used as a meeting place, the Central School was the first home to the Public Library, the Women’s Club, the Fire Department, Saint Paul Lutheran Church and a host of other organizations. In 1917 the Mount Prospect Improvement Association met in the schoolhouse and signed the papers that officially incorporated Mount Prospect as a village. In 1939 the school was sold to Saint John’s Episcopal Church and moved three blocks. In 2001 the church and the Society began discussing the fate of this building. The church’s needs had changed over time and the schoolhouse was no longer appropriate. Concerned with the preservation of the building, the Society and Saint John’s worked out an agreement in early 2002 in which the Society purchased the building for $1 with the agreement that they will move the building off of its current location. The Society plans to move the building within the next three years and open it as a multi-use community facility.