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Worth’s history is on display behind park district doors

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Worth residents can view a sewing machine from a century ago, clothes from the early 1900s and old typewriters from 1910, and a replica of the village’s post office and general store.

All these relics can be found at the Worth Historical Museum, located at the Worth Park District Terrace Center, 11500 S. Beloit Ave.

The museum was first opened in 1995. Chuck Templin said initially the museum was a combination of items that developed over the years. Templin, whose grandfather, Perry Bishop, was the first owner of Bishop’s Store, said Colleen McElroy has updated the museum over the years.

“It was all Colleen’s idea,” said Templin. “It’s really nice. Our family donated a few items and they did a great job on the Worth Post Office and Bishop’s Store. Colleen knows the history and can tell you a lot about how the town developed.”

McElroy, who was not available for an interview, serves as the museum’s curator and can often be found at the museum in the middle of the week. Templin had lived in Worth for many years before leaving in the mid-1970s.

He was present at the re-dedication of the museum and was impressed with the replica of the Worth Post Office and Bishop’s Store.

“They got a pot belly stove where a lot of people would gather around and hold court, so to speak,” said Templin. “The store was kind of a center where people would talk about what was going on. It was the center of the town.”

Like many older stores dating back to the early 1900s, the post office could be found in Bishop’s Store, which opened for the first time in 1880, according to Templin. The store was located at 111th and Depot along a dirt street.

“My family lived up over the store,” said Templin. “A stable could be found next door along with a blacksmith.”

Templin’s father, Vernon W. Templin, served as a village president for Worth in the 1960s. He said that his father helped prevent state transportation officials from having the interstate go through 111th Street. He and other local officials were able to persuade state officials to have the interstate entrance and exits go through 95th Street.

“My father and others knew that having the interstate go through 111th Street would have ripped Worth apart,” said Templin.

Visitors to the museum will also see a treadle sewing machine from about 1910. The sewing machine belonged to a Mrs. Anthony Zygmunt. Information provided at the museum stated that she used the device to mend torn sequins and raised or lowered skirts, depending on the fashions of the time.

Palmer’s Ice Cream stood at 111th and Deport dating back to 1904. First Methodist Church opened in 1880, about the same time Bishop’s Store came into existence. Information on the church at 7111 W. 111th St. can be found at the museum.

Photos of the first village board from August 1914 are also present at the museum. A photo of George Plahm, from one of the pioneer families of Worth, appears in the museum. He was born in 1902 in Worth and served as a clerk for 27 years. He was instrumental in the Worth Lions Club, the fire department and other civic organizations.

A rundown of the history of the Worth Race Track is also available at the museum. The race track was built along Ridgeland and Central avenues, 111th to 115th streets. The state gaming board closed the track in 1905. It was converted into a stockade for sheep and dogs for a time. The ground was consecrated by the Chicago Archdiocese on July 4, 1923 and later became Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

John and Jane Crandall became the first permanent settlers in Worth, dating back to land purchased in 1858. The Crandalls promoted expansion of the village into subdivisions and encouraged settlement. They donated land for the Worth School at 111th and Oak Park Avenue and provided land for the Wabash Railroad in 1880, according to information provided at the museum.

Tenplin said the moniker for the town, “The Friendly Village,” was a fitting label.

“Kids went out and had their own fun,” he recalls. “They didn’t need TV.”