Visitors to the Heritage Center will enjoy never-seen-before artifacts and historical displays, many in storage for years but virtually unseen until now. The exhibits will focus primarily on the 20th century and military. Displays include a World War I aid station as well as the many different types of naval ships that used the Illinois River during World War II. Military artifacts range from the battlefields to the home front and cover the time period from World War I to Desert Storm. Other displays will feature coal mining, the mining of silica sand and limestone, local jobs programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Public Works Administration during the Great Depression, and the area’s numerous breweries and bottling plants. The county’s historic events in transportation and communication are a topic of another display, and full-sized carvings of native fish created by Elmer Tarr of Leonore are also displayed in the Heritage Center.
One new and unique display focuses on a number of notable individuals who were born in La Salle County. These local VIPs include several baseball players, who starred on major league teams, an Illinois Supreme Court judge, a general who played a major role in the Gemini and Apollo manned space programs, the authors of Hopalong Cassidy and Zorro books and movies, and a famous astronomer, who discovered Pluto and was featured in a recent edition of National Geographic magazine.
Two of the newest La Salle County VIPs who were recently added were Burt Baskin of Baskin-Robbins fame, who was born in Streator and Edward “Zez” Confrey, who was born in Peru and became a noted composer of novelty ragtime scores in the 1920s and 1930s.
Nearly completed in the building’s basement is a coal mine exhibit, which has now been enhanced with the addition of lanterns, mining tools and carbide and safety lamps along with other mine equipment from a donation by a former mine inspector from Wedron.
Visitors are encouraged to board the museum’s elevator “mine cage” for a simulated trip 400 feet underground to enter a typical coal mine room to hear the tragic story of the Cherry coal mine fire disaster of 1909 when hundreds of men and young boys lost their lives.
The Heritage Center is the newest addition to LaSalle County Historical Society’s Museum Campus, located at 208 Clark Street in Utica, IL. In keeping with its tradition of preserving and procuring LaSalle County’s rich history, the Historical Society purchased the old Utica Co-Op property in August 2012. The Co-op building was fully remodeled and brought up to code, transforming it into today’s Heritage Center. The Heritage Center reflects the building’s original splendor, including a fully restored tin ceiling, with modern touches that will allow for enhanced display space and improved storage for society artifacts, expanded programming, and a location available for rental for community events.
Admission price : $3 for adults, $2 for students and children 10 and under are free. Gets you in both The Canal Warehouse and the Heritage Center.