The demolition of the railroad depot on Oak Street was the “last straw” event to prompt Nelda Marr Nusbaum to react to Manteno’s evident lack of concern for its history. After her letter to the Kankakee Daily Journal in 1986 stated that “old things have never been valued in Manteno,” residents were spurred to form an historical society. A tentative executive board was elected and plans were made to incorporate as a not-for-profit organization. The group said its purpose was “to preserve anything pertaining to Manteno’s history and illuminate our little corner of the world.”
The opening of the Skinner House as a Museum took place in 1994. The first floor of the building has display areas of early 20th century living in the area. Of special interest is the medical display of items from the offices of Drs. Rouleau, Phipps, Malott, Thomas and Echevarria as well as the Manteno State Hospital. Articles from Dr. Gagnon’s dental office and pharmaceutical items from Hilsenhoff Drug Store have also been donated. The lower floor includes exhibit space, a kitchen and collections of archival materials. The upper floor presently houses a room commemorating Manteno war veterans featuring uniforms and memorabilia from WWI to the present.
The restored and rebuilt buggy of Dr. Zephirin Rouleau was donated to the Museum by his grandson, George Rouleau. The buggy is displayed in the glass-sided shelter under the original porte cochere adjacent to the kitchen door on the east side of the Museum.
In 1991 the one-room Bloom School House from Blue Gill Road in Rockville Township was moved to the Museum grounds and restored. Each year the collection of photographs, histories, documents and artifacts continue to be the focus of the Society’s endeavors. Gifts to the Museum are still being accepted.
The Museum and Bloom School House are open the first Saturday of each month from 1:00-3:00 p.m. or by appointment.
The mission of the Manteno Historical Society shall be to bring together those people interested in the history of the Manteno and Rockville area; to discover and collect any material which may help to establish or illustrate its history; to provide for the preservation of such material and for its accessibility; and to disseminate historical information and arouse interest in the past.