On a cool, overcast November day, we were lucky enough to catch up with Janice Hack, executive director at the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society, for lunch at Egg Harbor Café.
“I don’t know about you,” says Janice, “but I love this place!”
With a Door County Melt and Barrington Benedict (Janice’s favorite as Barrington is her hometown) between us, we wasted no time before debriefing about Richard Marx’s appearance at the Historical Society’s annual fundraising event, Local Legends.
“People have literally been stopping me to tell me how much they enjoyed hearing Richard Marx’s story,” says Janice. “For such a high-profile celebrity, he manages to run pretty far below the radar here in town. I think it was fascinating for people to hear from him about his career and why he chooses to make Lake Bluff his home.”
Local Legends is just one of many programs Janice oversees at the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society. On staff for more than 14 years, Janice is the first permanent director of the society’s collections. “I’m so proud of what we’ve built,” explains Janice. “I feel fortunate to have watched it grow from one staff person to the tremendous board we have and all of the programming we offer today.”
The Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society is a not-for-profit organization with 500 members and a history museum in downtown Lake Forest. For more than 40 years, they have collected and preserved the history of our area. With a robust collection dating back to 1860, the Historical Society is the place to research and discover the people, places, and events from the past. The award-winning exhibitions, publications, and programs offer a chance for people of all ages to remember and celebrate the heritage of the community.
“There are always ideas of what we want to do and there’s never enough time to implement them all,” she says.
One initiative well under way is the second edition of The Gazette, the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society’s award-winning newspaper. This spring, all local households will learn about Lake Forest in 1926. “It was a fantastic time for Lake Forest. Many estates were being built, as this was before the Great Depression. The North Shore Interurban Line had just opened. It was the year that Howard Van Doren Shaw passed away. And it was when Everett was annexed to the city. So much was going on,” Janice explains.
The Historical Society will then host a corresponding exhibit about west Lake Forest. “We hoped to launch this last fall, but we’re right in the middle of cataloging our inventory,” Janice says. “We have thousands of photographs, maps, and diaries—and now because of the inventory, it will all be at the curator’s fingertips.” The next step will be to make as much of this material as possible available online.
To be considered for preservation at the Historical Society, an item or article needs to somehow tell a story of Lake Forest or Lake Bluff. “Last week, we had a woman stop by who wanted to donate her father’s World War I uniform. He was from Lake Forest and she wanted to have it preserved. This is a perfect example of the types of things you might find in our archives,” Janice says.
Other valuable resources are the old phone books that Janice’s team has catalogued. “A lot of people are curious about genealogy. Now, if they come into our offices with a name, they can easily look up an address and advance their search,” she says. “What we do here is so much fun. The history here is very rich. It’s all about making connections,” Janice says.
In light of Forest & Bluff celebrating its 150th issue, we couldn’t help but be a little self-indulgent and ask Janice what kind of impact she thought a magazine like ours has on the community. “Forest & Bluff creates an important record…a permanent one because it is printed. The biography features, in particular, are a wonderful view of the interesting contributions residents have made, and continue to make. After all, it is the people that make this a community,” Janice says.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
To learn more about the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society, visit lflbhistory.org.
-Ann Marie Scheidler // Illustrations by Kirstin Ulve