Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, once known as Decoration Day, began in 1866 as a way to remember the dead of the Civil War. One of the earliest towns to establish the holiday was Carbondale, Illinois. Today the holiday commemorates all U. S. men and women who have died in military service.

At the Iles House, we are flying the flag today and also completing our wood fence, which along with the laid sidewalk give finishing touches to the Greek Revial house, built in 1827--nearly 180 years ago.

Please celebrate history, and enjoy the national holiday with your family and friends.

1 comment:

Larry Stevens said...

I just now this very moment have returned home from the christening of the premier exhibit of The Farrell & Ann Gay Museum of Springfield History, "Time to Remember", in the basement of The Elijah Iles House. "Time To Remember" features the wristwatches & other memorabilia of the Illinois Watch Company from Mr. Gay's collection.

It was the christening of a museum in a city that seems to be becoming a museum capitol. (I wonder how Springfield's museum floor area per capita compares to Chicago or New York or Paris?) This latest of Springfield's many museums is the first ever dedicated to the history of Springfield herself. It is a rich history indeed.

A facet of that history is the Illinois Watch Company which set the standard for timepieces during the late 19th Century and early 20th. Mr. Gay's collection of fine Illinois watches sets a high bar for future exhibits in this new museum named for him and his wife.

He gave a touching speech at what must have been for him a peak moment in his life. He mentioned that it was his "less collectible" material, the company letters, letters of employees to employees, and especially the photos and the faces in the photos that he found so fascinating. He's planning a special presentation soon for the descendants of those employees, who will no doubt be thrilled to make such a connection to their own family heritage and to each other.

The exhibit is about so much more than watches. The Illinois Watch Company was a model employer in the industrial era. As one of the displays relates, a former employee remarked that the watch factory was the ideal place of employment because you couldn't manufacture precision instruments in a grimy, unlit place. The factory featured its own observatory so the company could measure the accuracy of its watches with its own data. Besides watches, the exhibit features the original factory signage that stood above its front entrance for decades, great block letters spelling out "Illinois Watch Co" in a beautiful font.

For museum afficianados, the presentation of the exhibit is first class. The curators of the exhibit are Ed Russo and Corrine Frisch.

Although there is limited floor area in the museum, the space is open and nicely lit. The new, finely crafted wooden display cases almost overwhelm their contents. The place was filled with people yet it was suprisingly easy to navigate.

Three cheers to the Gays and their wonderful gift of a museum to our town!