With the help of this mini-grant awarded by the Illinois Humanities Council, the Melrose Park Library will document the history of the area’s mail-order houses by partnering with four area libraries/historical societies to conduct town surveys, create an informational database, and present public programs at each individual library discussing the findings.
All five communities involved will benefit from a permanent, publicly accessible database that will include photographs of the newly discovered mail order homes along with the original catalog images. Since many of these communities are losing architecturally significant structures due to the popularity of teardowns rather than restoration, documentation of these homes will act as a method of preservation, and the creation of a database such as this one will be a valuable contribution to the permanent architectural and historical record. Just last year, a historic Sears Vallonia mail-order home in nearby Berwyn was destroyed to make room for a parking lot. At the very least, this program will raise awareness and pique the curiosity of residents about the unique history of their town. Ideally homeowners will recognize the historic nature of their homes and be inspired to actively preserve these links to their town’s heritage.