Via the always-informative Theatre Historical Society blog I learned about a new exhibit focusing on the great American drive-in theatre. Opening February 1 in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, Illinois (maybe cruise along a bit of 66 while you are there?), “Movies in the Moonlight: The Life and Times of the American Drive-In Movie Theatre“ sounds like it might very well be worth the trip! It is even held in Elmhurst’s York Theatre, itself a gem of a place built in 1924. According to Kathy McLeister’s post,
Movies in the Moonlight: The Life and Times of the Drive-In Theatre February 2013 – January 2014 2013 marks the 80th anniversary of the Drive-in theatre. Movies in the Moonlight traces the rise and fall of the Drive-in theatre from the first (opened June 6, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey), to the peak of their popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s (with some 4,000 drive-ins across the United States), to their decline into a quasi-novelty status. The exhibit will explore their popularity, technology, and why they became (and continue to be) an American cultural icon.
As you can see, the exhibit runs ’til this time next year, so there are plenty of weekends to fill with a quick trip to Illinois. And if you’re making the trip…well, what else is there to see in Elmhurst (Route 66 in Chicago aside)?
Unsurprisingly, there are several museums, including the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art. Now, ‘lapidary’ is not the most glamourous-sounding word, but don’t be deceived! Here you can drink in the beauty of cut and polished gemstones of all types. Namesake Joseph Lizzadro’s collection began with an exquisite hanging vase made of carved jade; he’d intended to cut it into smaller pieces to make jewelry (a common practice at the time), but was so impressed by the ability of the original carver found he didn’t have the heart to do so. Now more interested in the beauty of lapidary works than carving them up, Lizzadro began to build a collection of carved and polished ivory, amber, amythest, and more, hoping to one day share the beauty with others.
In 1962, this came to pass when the Lizzadro Museum was opened, sharing these interesting results of very skilled workmanship—some dating to the Ming dynasty—with the public. You may read about their collections here; there’s even an 18K gold castle! I suppose this interests me most because I’ve always, for some reason, been fascinated by cameos and, as a lover of soft greens, like jade, too; the Museum apparently has large collections of both—and really, we can all use more beauty in our lives, don’t you think?
The city’s calendar is full of recurring events it might be worth planning a trip around: a Memorial Day Parade, Art In the Park and Elmhurst Museum Day in May and a car show, pet parade, and garden walk during the summer months.
The Park District has a lot to offer, though most interesting to history buffs may be the old Chicago Great Western Railway Depot. Built in 1887 and in service for 80 years, it is now a small museum on the Illinois Prairie Path that occasionally hosts small local programs. It’s a pretty spiffy looking little building, though, isn’t it? Garden lovers will find the Wilder Park Conservatory, not far from the Lizzadro Museum, appealing as well. The conservatory greenhouses have a rather sad genesis; they were built in the late 1860s by Seth Wadham to help nurture his grieving wife, who was mourning the death of their son. They were maintained and landscaped around during the decades; now they not only contribute to the Park gardens, they host flower shows and other Elmhurst events year-round while also being home to several rare plants.
Fans of architecture won’t be disappointed in Elmhurst, either. In addition to the handsome local historical museum, Elmhurst can boast of the Prairie School F.B. Henderson House—one of just a handful Frank Lloyd Wright was involved with during his brief partnership with Webster Tomlinson. More significantly, it is considered the first real example of the Prairie style of home. There are more photos of the home’s exterior here—but it is also on the market, so sneak a peek at the restored interior! Indeed, not far from Elmhurst is Wright’s very own home. To be honest with you, there are quite a few historic homes in Elmhurst itself, ranging from the charming to handsome, for your viewing and photographing enjoyment—another reason going during the garden walk might be a great idea!
No doubt there’s much, much more to explore in Elmhurst, but I thought I’d pull a few interesting-looking things and add them to this quick little post. If you’re going to the “Movies By Moonlight” drive-in exhibition, you might want to enjoy a couple of days in the area, and I hope this is helpful!
You’ll find more information about the exhibit (such as exhibition hours) at the THS blog or their Facebook page; for more about the Theatre Historical Society of America, do visit their website. And if you make it before I should, please do give us the scoop!