Des Plaines History Center
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Past Exhibits

Past Exhibits

2017: "My Muse, Des Plaines" and "Images of the Kinder House" 

During the opening, you will also be able to view the recently completed "You Will Like Des Plaines" touchscreen display and "The Paintings of Joe Stanek," featuring the work of a Czech immigrant who worked at the Benjamin Electric factory in Des Plaines and taught himself how to paint in enamel during his lunch breaks. The Stanek exhibit will be on display through May 2017. Call 847-391-5399 or send us an email at to RSVP by Friday, March 10. This event is free and open to the public.

You Will Like Des Plaines

If you are looking for an overview of the history of Des Plaines, you will want to start here. An interactive touch screen guides you through these topics selected by the History Center's curator: geography, native peoples, farmland, railroads, suburb, and Kinder House.

The Paintings of Joe Stanek

in the wall gallery, on exhibit through May 2017

The group of paintings in the exhibit were created by a Des Plaines resident, Joseph F. Stanek, Sr.  

Stanek painted some of his artwork on enamel panels during work breaks while he was employed at Benjamin Electric Manufacturing Company in the 1930s. According to a letter written by a former Des Plaines mayor who donated one of the paintings in 1970, "After he made the paintings, [Stanek] would give them to fellow employees at Benjamin. Consequently, there are many in the Des Plaines area, but I have never seen any at any other places."

My Muse, Des Plaines

Coming soon, on exhibit through December 2017

"My Muse, Des Plaines" is a collaborative project curated by volunteers on topics of their own choosing. The exhibit includes sections that reveal the history of the Northwest Highway S-curve, examine the unique features of the Lustron homes in Des Plaines, portray a history of the Meyer family of Des Plaines, and compare photographic images depicting Des Plaines "then and now."

Images of the Kinder House

on exhibit through December 2017

The Kinder House was built in 1907 for the Benjamin F. Kinder family, and it has been a museum since 1969. This year, as the Des Plaines History Center celebrates its own 50th anniversary, the house itself is a stately 110-year-old Queen Anne. Inspiring artists, needle crafters, and illustrators of all ages, the Kinder House serves as an iconic emblem of Des Plaines history. The 2017 exhibit, "Images of the Kinder House" displays several creative interpretations of this unique structure in Des Plaines.

Past Exhibits

2016: Des Plaines architecture exhibit at History Center

“Des Plaines Architecture: An Exhibit about Our Homes and City.” 

Curator Philip Mohr decided to create this particular display because “people are interested in why their homes and neighborhoods look the way they do.” As guests browse the exhibit, Mohr hopes they become familiar with the most common housing styles in the community and deepen their knowledge of local architecture and history.



2016: Des Plaines Fire Department pumped up for exhibit at the History Center

The Des Plaines Fire Department has partnered with the Des Plaines History Center to create an exhibit in honor of its 125th anniversary. The display includes firefighting gear, dozens of photos, videotaped interviews, and a life-size statue of a fallen firefighter.

“This anniversary confirms my belief in this tradition-rich job,” said Des Plaines Fire Department Battalion Chief Ken Palenik, who recently celebrated 30 years of service. “It really hasn’t changed much. Firemen are family.”

Palenik volunteered to coordinate anniversary activities for the fire department and approached the History Center late last year. Shari Caine, executive director of the History Center, supported the idea of hosting an exhibit. Maine West High School senior Nathan Spero has been actively involved in the project to fulfill his internship program requirements. He has spent hours scouring the archives and conducting interviews with a half-dozen retired and current fire personnel. His work is incorporated into the exhibit.

“Commemorating the history and service of a long-standing community institution such as the Des Plaines Fire Department is a great subject for an exhibit at the History Center,” said Caine. “We're delighted to have this opportunity and to welcome not only the fire department but also all of the community to gather and talk about the achievements of the courageous firefighters and the good works that they've done.”

Palenik credits ongoing training as the force behind the department’s success.

“Training is our priority,” he said. “We stand out. We’re a well-trained and well-respected department.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public. Palenik encourages residents to come and view and touch the equipment that will be on display. He and other fire department personnel will be available to answer questions. The exhibit will run through September.

A firefighter will also be on hand at the History Center Wednesday, August 3, from 1-3 p.m. to present a summer program called “Blazing Good Time!” to children, ages 5-12, attending with an adult. Red firefighter hats will be given to the first 24 children.

The Des Plaines History Center is supported by the City of Des Plaines, the Des Plaines Park District, its members, and other local business and community contributors.


2015: World War II theme set at Des Plaines History Center

Exhibit: “World War II: Des Plaines and the War against Fascism”

James Radlein and five of his brothers served during World War II in various branches of the military. James is featured in the History Center exhibit.    
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James Radlein and five of his brothers served during World War II in various branches of the military. James is featured in the History Center exhibit.

The Story of World War II-era Cargo Plane, "the Maine Flyer", IS featured in a 12-minute student-produced documentary

In December 1944, students at Maine Township High School combined forces with their teachers, school administrators, and community members to sell war bonds. The drive succeeded, raising $551,000. As a result of their efforts, the students were invited to a dedication ceremony at the local Douglas Aircraft plant, where C54 Skymaster cargo planes were built for the war. The students named one of the planes the "Maine Flyer" and came up with the motto, "Faster and Higher, That's Maine's Flyer." In August 2015, a special commemorative celebration of this event will be held. More details will be coming soon.

"Faster, Higher, That's Maine's Flyer" -- Watch The Maine Flyer story, video made by students of Maine East and Main South High Schools.

Recently, group of 20 students from Maine Township High School District 207 produced a documentary about the "Maine Flyer", a World War II C54 cargo plane funded by a student-led war bond sales effort during the school year of 1944-45. Go to the links below for more information.

Wartime Memories, Park Ridge Historical Society

WBEZ interview about the Maine Flyer documentary

"Documentary celebrates Maine High School students' WWII feat," ABC 7 News Report

Past Exhibits