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Barry Schrader


I have been writing a column for the Chronicle most of the time since December 2007, with two breaks, one in 2016 and the other in 2017 when my wife Kay suffered a stroke. They are all archived here.


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New history center is a dream come true

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist....................................May 17, 2019

DeKalb County has needed a countywide history center for decades and the dream finally became a reality with the opening of the new $1.5 million, 7,600 square foot complex last weekend. More than 300 people attended the donors’ night preview and then the grand opening last Saturday.

“There is so much to see you can’t possibly do it in an hour,” Michelle Donahoe, executive director and the driving force behind the project, said. She and County Historian Sue Breese, who heads the Joiner History Room that relocated there, have spent countless hours over many months pulling this all together and the result is a dream come true. When so many small museums and local historical attractions are disappearing due to economic reasons or lack of support, building this new center is a real boost for DeKalb County.

DeKalb County History Center board member Bill Lenschow speaks at the ribbon-cutting last Saturday. At back from left are US Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville), former State Rep. Bob Pritchard, and Orrin Merritt from the Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society in Genoa. (Schrader photo for ShawMedia)

Combining the local history component to mesh with the Smithsonian traveling exhibit “Crossroads —Change in Rural America” provides the depth to the history of small communities and farm life you wouldn’t see in one part alone. The stand-alone exhibit in the center of the room is all Smithsonian, while the display cases and wall mountings are those done locally. People should realize this exhibit will only be open for viewing here for a little more than 30 days, then moved out on June 22. At that time the local history exhibit will be expanded to fill the space left in the center of the room. Michelle already has those plans in place so artifacts from around the county will be brought in at that time. That will be a good reason to return for another tour later in the summer. The local exhibit will remain in place until the end of March 2020.

Besides the big display area and the Joiner History Room for research and genealogy, there is a large meeting room at the other end of the building where clubs and others can rent space for meetings and receptions. This should attract even more attention to the history center.

History center board member and lifelong farmer Bill Lenschow said it so well at the ribbon-cutting when he commented “I have never seen a county with so much foresight and willingness to work on a project together like DeKalb County. It’s more than the fertility of the land and farming that makes people want to raise their families here…”

Just a thought: Bill and wife Kathy would make great figures to pose for a sculpture of the Great American Farm Couple. Sycamore already has the Great American Coach sculpture of Pete Johnson and the Great Mr. Pumpkin in Wally Thurow. So why not another statue at the history center!

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115