Lake Villa Historical Society to focus on new building, discontinue Civil War Days

The cannons won’t go off this year at Lehmann Mansion in Lake Villa. Dresses from resident Ainsley Wonderling’s 1860s collection will remain in her closet at home, and President Abraham Lincoln won’t show his face.

Lake Villa Historical Society officials have decided to discontinue Civil War Days, a nine-year tradition in the village.

Society President Sue Cribb said the decision to call off the event was financial.

“It was a big event, and it was becoming more costly every year for us to do,” Cribb said. “We were trying to do it as a fundraiser, and our profit margin was getting smaller and smaller every year.”

The society is preparing to take over the old Lake Villa Rescue Squad building at 212 Lake Ave., while still paying rent at its current location, a storefront on Cedar Avenue, she said.

“Our money and energy are all going toward renovating that building,” Cribb said. “It’s a big growing step for us to be able to move into our own building, so that’s what we really have to focus on right now.”

Civil War Days, at the time of its birth, was actually just one Civil War Day. The Lindenhurst-Lake Villa Fine Arts Council originally created the one-day event. It has since grown to a weekend festival consisting of a variety of events, including receptions with actors portraying President Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, medical demonstrations from the period and as always, battle re-enactments.

“I was very sad (to hear the event had been canceled) because as a commander of the event, I saw a lot of potential for the event to grow,” said Steve Fratt, former battlefield coordinator. “It gave the community something unusual ... not a parade, not a lecture series, but something that was out of the ordinary that they could look forward to.”

Cribb said last year, for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, about 3,000 people attended the event and 400 participated in re-enactments.

“It’s really been a great event; it brought a lot of people into the community,” said Lake Villa Township Supervisor Dan Venturi. “It’s disappointing, but I can understand.”

Cribb said the society will be creating new events related to the history of Lake Villa, but Civil War Days will not be coming back “in the foreseeable future.”

  Jim Rush of Mount Prospect demonstrates the telegraph used during the Civil War during last year’s Annual Lake Villa Civil War Days at the Lehmann Mansion. Rush was acting as George “Lightning” Ellsworth who was a famous telegrapher of the Confederate Morgan’s Raiders. Gilbert R. Boucher II/
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