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Article updated: 11/14/2012 2:31 PM

Des Plaines pictorial history book releasing Nov. 26

By Madhu Krishnamurthy

A pictorial history book with more than 200 vintage images of Des Plaines is set to release Nov. 26 in time for the holiday shopping season.

The book is the latest in the "Images of America" paperback series published by Arcadia Publishing, which reached out to the Des Plaines Public Library to commission the book.

Author David Whittingham, a readers' adviser at the library, collaborated with the Des Plaines History Center for two years on the book, 95 percent of which is photographs, some never seen or used before, from the center's archives.

"They've been trying to find somebody to do a book on Des Plaines for a while and nobody was really interested," Whittingham said.

When library officials sought a staff volunteer to write the book, Whittingham immediately stepped up. Though he has never written a book before, Whittingham said he writes as a hobby and was inspired by his late father, Richard Whittingham, who wrote a couple of nonfiction books, including a pictorial book about Skokie.

"It's really a fun experience," he said.

At $21.99 a pop, the Des Plaines pictorial history book will be available for purchase through the History Center gift shop, local Walgreens stores, area book stores and online at amazon.com.

Whittingham said though he has worked at the Des Plaines library for 13 years, he discovered many fun facts about Des Plaines' history that he didn't know before he began researching the book.

"It was very interesting to find out how much Des Plaines has changed over the years and also how much interesting early history there is," said the 44-year-old who lives in Chicago. "Early Des Plaines was a tourist town. It was a destination."

Visitors from Chicago and all over the area flocked to Des Plaines to fish and swim in the Des Plaines River, while others congregated at the Methodist Campgrounds and downtown hotels, he said.

"There were bands that would play right in downtown" at the Northwestern Park bandstand, Whittingham said. "There was a lot going on and it was a very different sort of town than it is today."

Among the highlights of the book are images of the town when it was home to a prisoner of war camp housing Nazi German soldiers captured during World War I and II.

"It's a good keepsake," Whittingham said. "They (the History Center) have a great collection of materials. They have great programs. You can learn about different aspects of the town."

Whittingham will autograph copies of the book at the Friends of the Des Plaines Public Library book sale, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 1 at the library, 1501 Ellinwood St. A book release party is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14 at the library.

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