Mattoon ribbon cutting

 In the left photo; Residents wait in line Saturday morning to enter the new Mattoon Area Museum. The building, a former hospital and residential property, was remodeled to house area artifacts. 

In the right photo; Laurel Collins cuts the ribbon Saturday to mark the opening of the Mattoon Area Museum. The opening was part of a three-day Labor Day celebration that included a flea market, live music and fireworks.

 Two years of hard work paid off the past weekend as members of the Mattoon Historical Society held a ribbon cutting and three-day celebration to mark the open house of the renovated museum.

“Mattoon took a 65-year nap after the last train left town,” said Dick White, of Antigo, president of the historical society. “Now it’s coming back to life.” 

The museum, once used as a hospital, is located at 611 4th St.

Weekend activities included the ribbon cutting, farmers market, flea market, church services, unveiling of a wall mural, music, fireworks, parade, cookout and, of course, tours of the museum.

The historical society purchased the building in December 2018, shortly after the organization itself formed.

“It was in terrible condition,” White said. “We renovated it from the ground up.”

The building, most recently used as residential property, underwent the massive remodeling, including new plumbing and electrical as handicapped accessibility, only retains the original foundation and shell of the building.

More than $100,000 was raised to pay for the renovations. Much of the work was done by volunteers.

Historical displays center on several themes, including churches, logging, hospital, military, schools, businesses, farming and people.

White also has a personal connection to the building. Like hundreds of others, he was born in the hospital.

“There was a Doc Partridge who delivered some 3,000 babies. He came to Mattoon in 1910,” White said. “We will be honoring him with a display of some of his original furniture provided by a great-granddaughter from central Illinois.”

White grew up in the village, graduated from Mattoon High School and then moved away. Years later, after returning to Antigo, he received a call and was asked to join the historical society.

White praised village officials for their support in the historical society’s work.

“It took a lot of work to get this far, but it was worth it,” Village President Jim Zahn said.

White also recognized several other community groups, notable the American Legion.

White is also proud of the 100-foot long wall filled with murals opposite the building.

“Half of the mural is a train – an old stem engine train – coming into Mattoon and passing some well-known buildings of a hundred years ago,” White said. “The other half was hand-painted by a local artist and shows deer grazing by a stream.”

The Mattoon area was settled in the early 1800s when loggers cleared the land for lumber. Following the loggers came the mills, following the mills came the farms and then the village to provide the services needed by the growing population.

Today’s population is about 425.

Open hours have yet to be established, but tours by appointment can be made by calling Kathy Zarda at 489-3647.