History Research Guide

In Honor of Carol Wandschneider

Carol WandschneiderThis Downers Grove history research guide is dedicated to Carol Wandschneider (1944-2020). Carol was a valued and much-loved Historical Society director and local historian. She also spent many volunteer hours at the Downers Grove Museum. She was dedicated to preserving the history of Downers Grove in every way possible and always strived to find a way to help others get the information they needed, whether for genealogical research or finding a little-known fact about Downers Grove. Her decades of research created a legacy of lasting impact.


Downers Grove Historical Society

The main items of research interest from the Downers Grove Historical Society are on our two websites. Most notably, the book Downers Grove 1832 - 1932 is now available here. This main website also includes newsletter archives, biographies for Historian of the Year, Montrew Dunham Award, and Founder of the Year, and information on various historic buildings and sites in the village. The second Downers Grove Historical Society website, https://mainstreetcemetery.com, includes biographical information on nearly every individual interred at the downtown Main Street Cemetery. The Downers Grove Historical Society does not have a physical repository or library.

Research Libraries

There are two main facilities for researching Downers Grove history in the area.

The Downers Grove Public Library

Local History Section. The Downers Grove Public Library has organized its local history resources into a separate section of the library to simplify use by local history researchers. The local history section is located in the northwest corner of the second floor of the library. Most of the collection is reference materials, so they are always readily available in the library.  This section features 30 feet linear feet of shelving of books and other materials including:

Newspapers. The library also has the following local newspapers on microfilm:

Obituary Index.  The library also has an obituary index of over ten thousand deaths in the Downers Grove area deaths dating back to the 1800s. This index was developed by Carol Wandschneider, the former Downers Grove Historical Society board member. The index can be accessed at https://dglibrary.org/genealogy-services/ 

Additional information on the local history holdings at the library is available at http://www.libraryaware.com/949/NewsletterIssues/ViewIssue/cb22c453-3c90-4b06-aaa7-6ef775c20a0a and additional genealogy-focused resources are available at https://dglibrary.org/genealogy-services/.

The Downers Grove Museum

The Downers Grove Museum is of particular interest to the history researcher for: 

No materials from the museum are available online. More information on the collection is available at https://www.dgparks.org/downers-grove-museum-research-collections.


Numerous books and pamphlets are available that highlight the history of Downers Grove. 

Downers Grove 1832 to 1982. This 300-page book is the most comprehensive book about the history of Downers Grove. It was written by local historians, Montrew Dunham and Pauline Wandschneider, the founder of the Downers Grove Historical Society.  This out-of-print book is now available online here. Bound copies are also available at the Downers Grove Public Library and the Downers Grove Museum. Occasionally, the Society has limited used copies available for sale.


What You Didn't Know About Downers Grove and Didn't Know Who to Ask.  This 41-page booklet was written by local resident Bartle R Herrick. The book is now available online here. The book includes many pictures from the early years of Downers Grove. It is written in a conversational style with sections starting with "Did you know..." Copies are also available at the Downers Grove Public Library.


Downers Grove RevisitedThis book by local historian Montrew Dunham, is a follow-on to the original Downers Grove 1832 to 1982. This book provides updates on the village since the printing of the original book. The book also features numerous pictures from the Downers Grove Museum.  This out-of-print book is available in the local history section of the Downers Grove Public Library. 

Historic Downtown Walking Tour This village-produced pamphlet features, 23 properties around downtown Downers Grove. The village has copies of this pamphlet available. This pamphlet is also available on the village website.

Walking/Driving Tour: Sears Catalog Houses. This village-produced pamphlet provides a walking tour of Sears Catalog houses around Downers Grove. The village has copies of this booklet available. his pamphlet is also available on the village website.


Five cemeteries can be found in the Downers Grove area.   

Additionally, DGHS and the Downers Grove Museum routinely run educational programs, including Living Cemetery, where local citizens and children take on the personal of our pioneering citizens who were buried here. Check the DGHS Facebook page or subscribe to our email list for the current event schedule.


Numerous printed maps and atlases, and online historical maps are available for Downers Grove and DuPage County.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps - These maps generally cover just downtown Downers Grove and some nearby residences as they were developed for business fire insurance purposes. The maps contain detailed property information including building and roof material, number of stories, and the location of the "hoosegow" in the police station. 

DuPage County GIS Viewer - These maps from the county include maps that show the location of existing buildings. Satellite maps as early as 1956 can also be overlayed against the maps of today. These maps can be viewed at: https://gis.dupageco.org/parcelviewer/.

Map Gallery - Village of Downers Grove - This collection of interactive maps includes a diverse set of maps include of all trees on the village parkway and property, centennial homes, landmarked homes, and foursquare homes in the village. These maps can be viewed at https://vdg.maps.arcgis.com/home/index.html.

Atlas and Map Books - A large collection of local maps is available at the Downers Grove Public Library in the local history section of the library.  



Downers Grove Historical Society and the Village of Downers Grove both have a collection of videos online that highlight different aspects of Downers Grove history. The Downers Grove Public Library also has videos on DVD in the Local History section. 



The Downers Grove Museum has a collection of thousands of historical photos. The highlight of the collection is the photo archives donated to the museum by the Downers Grove Reporter.  As of 2021. the museum is engaged in a long-term project to scan those pictures. Contact the museum for information about reviewing the pictures.  

The Downers Grove Historical Society website has a photo gallery featuring over 40 images from the earliest days of Downers Grove. Many downtown businesses and organizations honor the history of Downers Grove by displaying historical photos of their property or other scenes from Downers Grove's past.  The Village Hall has a display case with a picture of nearly every mayor (and president) of the village in the hallway outside the council chambers.

Many businesses of Downers Grove embrace the history of the village by displaying old photos of Downers Grove, often of their own building. A partial list of businesses with such displays includes the Downers Grove U. S. Post Office, Tivoli Theater, Maximum Printer, Downers Grove Community Bank, and Anderson's Book Store.