Ethnic Heritage Museum celebrates 25th anniversary

By Susan Johnson
Copy Editor

The Ethnic Heritage Museum will celebrate its 25th anniversary from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 5, on the grounds at 1129 S. Main St., Rockford. A special flag ceremony and program will be a highlight of the event, observing the second anniversary of the museum’s new addition. Ethnic food and music will be featured.

The Rock River Times spoke with Sue Lewandowski, board president of the Ethnic Heritage Museum.

TRRT: Who started the Ethnic Heritage Museum?

Sue Lewandowski: “Menroy Mills, an area druggist, was instrumental in starting the organization. He was head of the South West Improvement Corporation. The corporation acquired the house through a Build Illinois grant from Springfield. It was acquired in 1987 and opened as a museum in May 1989. Mills felt the house could represent the culture of southwest Rockford. It had little rooms. Way back then, there was a shoe store attached to the front of it.”

TRRT: When was the new addition opened, and what does it encompass?

SL: “The new addition was opened in October 2012. That’s the Lockwood addition. That was one of our initial funding sources from the foundation. The new addition is a big room, and we have a basement underneath where we can store things, and there is an office in the addition. The office also has a library and a little kitchenette area. We have two restrooms. When the addition was added, we had to have two bathrooms, one for men and one for women. We tore down the annex behind the house. It was used for many, many years for the storage of things as well as Girl Scout events. Girls would work on their patches. But it was torn down because it was in bad shape, and not much space to store things.”

A special highlight of the anniversary celebration will be a flag ceremony. Lewandowski explained: “We have an American flag but will be adding six flags, one for each gallery. Music groups will be playing cultural entertainment for each gallery. We will have musical instruments and dance costumes for the Polish, Irish and Italian galleries that will be on display. The African-American gallery has a Literary Fair from local authors.”

She added that the maps and historic photographs and clothing pertaining to each culture and special exhibits are a regular feature. They also have new cases to display artifacts. Tours of the galleries are welcomed. The galleries are African-American, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian and Polish.

Special guests have been invited. The mayor and his family will attend, as well as Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) or a representative from his office. Ald. Venita Hervey, D-5, will stop in, and state Rep. Litesa Wallace (D), who replaced state Rep. Chuck Jefferson. Lewandowski was pleased to announce that former board president Shirley Fedeli and her husband Gene, who moved to St. Clare Shores, Michigan, will be returning to Rockford to attend this event. The couple were active supporters of the Ethnic Heritage Museum.

For more information, call (815) 962-7402 or visit

From the Oct. 1-7, 2014, issue

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