Downers Grove Museum
How to Find Us
We're easy to find. Downers Grove is located 25 miles west of Chicago, near Interstate Highways 55, 88 and 355. Just follow the brown and white signs posted on major Downers Grove roads to The Museum grounds at Wandschneider Park. We're just 2 1/2 blocks east of Main Street near downtown Downers Grove.
The mission of the Downers Grove Museum is to provide educational and leisure opportunities for the community by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting materials that explain and document the history of Downers Grove and its relationship to local, state, regional, national and global history.
Downers Grove was settled in 1832 by Pierce Downer, a Rutland, Virgnia native. Downer moved to Ellisburg, New York where he met and married his wife, Lucy. They were a farming family and eventually had five children. Downer's son, Stephen, moved to Fort Dearbon in Chicago to help with the construction of a lighthouse. Following the departure of his son, Pierce Downer decided to also move west in the pursuit of a new future. He reached Chicago and eventually traveled down the DuPage River and settled in an area that would become Downers Grove.
Pioneer Blodgett HouseThe Pioneer Blodgett House was built by Israel and Avis Blodgett in 1846 and is one of the oldest houses in Downers Grove. Israel and Avis came to Downers Grove in 1835 from Amherst, Massachusetts. The family first settled in a small, one-room log cabin while Israel worked as the town's blacksmith. In 1846, the family resided in the pioneer home that is part of the Museum Campus. The members of the Blodgett family held abolitionist beliefs, and it is believed that the Blodgett's provided assistance to runaway slaves during the Civil War era. The house is currently closed due to renovation.
Victorian Blodgett HouseThe Victorian Blodgett house was the home of Israel and Avis's youngest son, Charles, and was built in 1892. Charles was a member of the DuPage County Board of Supervisors and was instrumental in the development of the roadway system in Downers Grove. He lived in the home with his wife, Emma, and their four sons. The permanent exhibits in the Victorian Blodgett house illustrate life in Downers Grove in the 1890's. The house also contains the offices of Museum staff, archives, collection storage and a research library.
Victorian Living: Explore period style rooms in the Victorian Blodgett house that represent what life was like in Downers Grove in the 1890's! Rooms include a front drawing room, back sitting room, kitchen, child's bedroom, and an adult bedroom.
Downers Grove Hall of Fame: Located on the second floor of the Victorian Blodgett house, learn about notable figures who have connections to Downers Grove!
Homestead BarnThe Barn is home to our temporary exhibits as well as a permanent exhibit celebrating the history of the Downers Grove Fire Department, including their 1920's original fire engine.
1921 White Pumper Fire TruckOn permanent display is the first motorized fire truck the Downers Grove Fire Department owned. Learn about the different parts of the truck and fun facts about the early days of the Department. Try on one of our firefighter outfits and take a picture with the truck!
Ashlee has Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees in Anthropology from Northern Illinois University. She specialized in Archaeology and also received a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies. Ashlee was the Collections Manager at the Downers Grove Museum for one year before becoming the Museum Supervisor in 2014.
Ashlee is originally from Southern California, is a big Disney fan, and loves baseball, hockey, Harry Potter and Doctor Who. She is married to a fireman, has a little boy, and two dogs, Charlie and Luna.
Contact Ashlee at:
Sarah has a Bachelor of Arts degree from North Central College and a Master of Arts degree in History from DePaul University. She interned and volunteered at Naper Settlement for three years before coming to the Downers Grove Museum as the Curator in 2014. Sarah is a collector of antiques and has a passion for historic property research.
Sarah loves candy, antique furniture, and Victorian architecture. Sarah is a dog-mom and has two furbabies: Tundra the husky and Kahlua the Jack Russell Terrier.
Contact Sarah at:
The Downers Grove Museum is always looking for enthusiastic individuals to join our team. Opportunities are available in the following areas:
Collections: Go behind the scenes and work directly with the objects
Exhibits: Help staff curate and install an exhibit
Programs: Assist in DGM programs and summer camps
Tours: Brush up on local history and give tours of the DGM Campus
Research: Help answer research inquiries and conduct exhibit research
If you're interested in becoming part of the awesome DGM team, contact the Museum at 630-963-1309, or email Museum Supervisor, Ashlee Grude, at email@example.com.
Satisfy your thirst for knowledge while having fun at the same time! The Downers Grove Museum offers history-related, week-long summer camps of varying topics to appeal to all ages and interests. Learn about interesting aspects of history or acquire a new skill through fun and engaging activities.
The Downers Grove Museum offers a variety of year-round educational and entertaining programming for all ages. Museum programs include exhibit-related workshops and events, craft workshops, holiday programs, and annual free events. Participants can explore local history while interacting with knowledgeable staff and volunteers.
Bring your group to the Downers Grove Museum! Programs are 1 or 2 hours in length depending on the program and can be tailored for adult and kid groups. Call 630-963-1309 to book your program today!
Museum Methods: 2 hour program, $40 for up to 10 people; $3 per person over 10
Get an inside look at the Downers Grove Museum while learning how museums preserve and exhibit their collections! Find out what happens after an object is donated and learn about object handling, cataloging, and preservation.
Archaeology 101: 2 hour program, $40 for up to 10 people; $3 per person over 10
Do you 'dig' the past? Then come explore the techniques archaeologists use to uncover the past at the Downers Grove Museum! This program is taught by Museum Supervisor, and archaeologist, Ashlee Grude.
Victorian House Walk: 2 hour program, $40 for up to 15 people; $3 per person over 10
Enjoy a guided walking tour of the Victorian homes along Maple Avenue while learning about Victorian architectural styles. Please dress for the weather.
Go Behind-the-Scenes! : 1 hour program, $25 for up to 10 people; $2 per person over 10
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the DG Museum! Follow the Museum Curator through public and private museum spaces learning about our collections and exhibits.
Main Street Cemetery Walk: 1 hour program, $25 for up to 15 people; $2 per person over 10
Enjoy a stroll through Downers Grove's historic Main Street Cemetery while learning about some of the prominent people buried there. Please dress for the weather.
Victorian Downers Grove: 1 hour program, $25 for up to 10 people; $2 per person over 10
Explore what life was like in Downers Grove in the 1890's! Take a tour of the historic Victorian Blodgett House and complete a trivia scavenger hunt.
Bring your class or group to the Downers Grove Museum! Learn about the pivotal beginnings of Downers Grove through the story of the Blodgett family. Learn about settling in Downers Grove, interacting with local Native Americans, and living in the Pioneer and Victorian periods. During your guided tour, you'll visit the foot print of the Blodgett family cabin, discuss the 1850's and the Pioneer Blodgett House, and learn about the 1890's inside of the Victorian Blodgett House. Tours are one-hour in length. Call the Museum at 630-963-1309 to book your tour today!
School Tours: One class per one-hour tour, $45 per class
Tuesday - Friday : 9 am - 1 pm
Group Tours: $25 for up to 10 people; $2 per person over 10
Tuesday - Friday: 1 - 4 pm
Saturday: 10am - 1pm
Rotating exhibitions are displayed in the Museum Annex, and are open to view during Public Tour Hours Monday through Friday from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Exhibit opening Saturday, August 6th 12-3pm
Education has been important to Downers Grove residents since the town's settlement. By 1846, Downers Grove had an established school district and a small frame schoolhouse located at Maple and Dunham Roads. Learn about the evolution of Downers Grove schools, from textbooks to tablets, in this new exhibit.
Explore period style rooms in the Victorian Blodgett house that represent what life was like in Downers Grove in the 1890's! Rooms include a front drawing room, back sitting room, kitchen, child's bedroom, and an adult bedroom.
Researchers interested in Downers Grove history are welcome at the Downers Grove Museum. The Museum offers a Public Research Library that contains birth and death certificates, cemetery surveys, census records, telephone directories, school yearbooks, genealogies, and newspaper articles. The Downers Grove Museum's photographic collection is also available to view upon request. The Public Research Library is open to visitors during open hours.
For individuals unable to visit the Downers Grove Museum, or those in need of research assistance, you may submit a research request to the Museum Curator, Sarah Konzen, by phone at 630-963-1309 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.A research fee of $10 will be assessed for research inquiries submitted to our Curator. Please allow up to two weeks for a response to a research request.
Associated Research Fees
Document photo copies - $0.25/copy
Digital Photo scans - $1/photo
Research Request - $10
*Research Disclaimer* -
Research request fees are non-refundable and applicable regardless of research results. The fee covers the cost of our Curator's time conducting the research and is not based on the outcome of that research.
Payment of research request fees is due to the Museum prior to research taking place.
The Downers Grove Museum is home to thousands of objects pertaining to Downers Grove history. The Museum contains a large textile collection of clothing, uniforms, and quilts, an archival collection of photos, books, letters, and documents, and a three dimensional object collection containing furniture, memorabilia, dinnerware, toys, and tools.
It is the mission of the Downers Grove Museum to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret materials that explain and document the history of Downers Grove and its relationship to local, state, regional and national history. All objects accepted into the collections must have a direct connection to Downers Grove, or be able to help tell the story of the community.
If you have something that you think is of interest, contact the Museum by calling 630-963-1309 or by visiting the Museum. The staff will be able to tell you whether or not the object(s) would be considered for it's collection.
Donated objects accepted by The Museum are given one of three designations: Permanent Collection, Education Collection, or Property. Items are placed in the appropriate category based on a variety of factors, including provenance, intended use, availability, and condition.
YES! Under the terms of the Federal Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, charitable gifts of appreciated property are fully deductible. Contributions of $250 and over will require a receipt for all donations, including property and cash.
NO. The value of an object donation must be appraised by a qualified person. The staff is prohibited from providing appraisals of the monetary value of materials offered as gifts, brought in for identification, or submitted for any other purpose. Therefore, the donor is responsible for obtaining the services of an appraiser.
The Downers Grove Museum and the Downers Grove Historical Society are proud to present the Downers Grove Historic Home Program. This program aims to preserve the history and integrity of Downers Groves' homes and educate the community about research and preservation. The application packet below describes the requirements that need to be met in order for a home to be recognized by the Museum and the Historical Society and for a plaque to be purchased
The Downers Grove Historic Home Program is not affiliated with the Village of Downers Grove's Historic Landmark Program. The Downer Grove Historic Home Program is strictly honorary and does not limit the homeowner from making alterations to the home. Additionally, the Program does not qualify homeowners for any type of financial incentives such as property tax assessment freezes or tax rebates.
Application packets for the program can be downloaded from the link below or picked up at the Downers Grove Museum during open hours. Inquiries about the program can be sent to HistoricHomes@downersgrovehistory.org.
Photos of already recognized homes can be seen on the Downers Grove Museum's Facebook page. This album will be updated as new homes are recognized.
The Downers Grove Historic Homes Program is operated in partnership between the Downers Grove Museum and the Downers Grove Historical Society.
Mix up the traditional birthday with a party at the Downers Grove Museum! Choose a unique and fun theme geared specifically towards your child's interests. Each party includes a themed craft or activity and time for opening gifts and eating cake. Parties must be booked at least two weeks in advance.
American Girl Doll: Have your guests bring their dolls for a doll-themed craft or activity. The craft or activity can be customized to your child's doll.
Fairy Tales: Hear a selection of classic Grimm fairy tales including Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, and Cinderella and complete a tale-themed craft.
Alice in Wonderland: Compete in an Alice-themed obstacle course for a fantasy-filled party!
Historic Games: Spend your birthday playing classic games like marbles, hop-scotch, sack races, horse-shoes and more!
Firefighter: Learn about the Museum's 1920's fire truck and dress up in fire gear before enjoying cake and presents!
Victorian Tea Party: Dress up in Victorian-attire and play Victorian-era parlor games before enjoying tea with your cake! Museum will provide dress up clothes, tea set and linens.
Time Lord: Have an adventure with a certain bow tie and fez wearing master of time and his big blue box!
Archaeology: Do you 'dig' the past? Then explore the techniques archaeologists use to study the past with this hands-on party!
Aviation: Be a master of the skies! Learn about Downers Grove's connection to aviation history then build and race different types of paper airplanes.
Be a Pioneer! : Learn about pioneer-era Downers Grove and test your hand at pioneer skills like candle-making or butter-making!
War Time: Are you a military history enthusiast? Then pick between American Revolution, Civil War, World War I, World War II, or Vietnam-themed activities for this history-filled party.
Scavenger Hunt: Compete in teams to finish a Downers Grove history-themed scavenger hunt in the Victorian Blodgett house!
|# In Party||Fee|
|Up to 10||$100 R/ $150 NR|
|Each Additional (max 10)||$5
Call the Downers Grove Museum at 630-963-1309 to book your party today!
Wandschneider Park is a beautiful setting for your next special occasion. Complete with gazebo, gardens, walkways and open space, the Museum Campus offers a private sanctuary of nature and history in one. For more information on events and rentals, contact 630-963-1309.
The Downers Grove Museum is now home to Chicagoland's first seed lending library. Vicki Nowicki, an award winning organic gardener and co-owner of the Land Office, has stocked the library with a collection of thousands of seeds sourced from the Seed Savers Exchange and The Pepperfield Project, including several rare and endangered plants.
How it works
To join the library, residents must attend an orientation event, held in spring and fall. After the orientation, gardeners will be able to pick out up to five varieties of heirloom seeds, including beans, peas, tomatoes, and lettuce, to 'borrow' and plant. Members will also make a commitment to bring back some of the new seeds in the fall, to restock the library for the next season.
Pauline Wandschneider was a long time resident of Downers Grove and was the founder and leader of the Downers Grove Historical Society. She dedicated her life to collecting, preserving, displaying and interpreting the history of Downers Grove. In addition to this, she also aided in finding a permanent home for all of these materials. In 1977, in honor of her contribution, the Park District named the site of the Park District museum Wandschneider Park. Pauline died in 1993, but the park carries on her name and contribution to the Downers Grove community.
This 4-acre park contains the Downers Grove Park District Museum, including the 1892 Blodgett House (main museum and offices), the 1846 Blodgett House, and the Annex Building, which houses special collections and featured exhibitions. Other amenities include a gazebo, Wildflower Walk perimeter pathway, and a "Heritage" Vegetable Garden.