Lizzadro Museum patrons say goodbye to Elmhurst location
Steven Ravanesi was 7 years old when his dad first brought him to the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art in Elmhurst.
The 60-year-old Carol Stream resident remembers how seeing the museum's large collection of jade and hard-stone carvings helped him appreciate the natural beauty of rocks and minerals.
So when he learned the museum was closing Friday to prepare for its move this fall to a new and larger home in Oak Brook, Ravanesi wanted to make a final visit to the building that has been a landmark in Wilder Park for 57 years.
And he knew who he wanted to bring.
"Now that it's the last day, I'm bringing him here," Ravanesi said as he stood near the museum entrance with his 82-year-old father, Ralph Ravanesi of Wheaton. "We're here to get one last look."
They weren't the only ones.
Dozens of people, some from as far away as Sycamore, visited the museum during the first few hours on Friday. Some, including Caroline Stauber of Glen Ellyn, hadn't been inside the building since they were young.
"I wanted to bring my kids out here," said Stauber, who had her three young children with her. "They haven't been here yet. I wanted to come back one last time."
The museum, which opened in 1962 near downtown, has long impressed visitors from across the region and the world.
Its collection of lapidary art includes everything from a miniature castle made of gold, to an ivory puzzle ball with 24 carved spheres, to pictures made entirely of stone.
Even a portrait of the museum's founder, Joseph F. Lizzadro Sr., that looks like an oil painting is actually a Florentine mosaic containing more than 1,300 pieces of cut and polished stone.
While the building at 220 Cottage Hill Ave. was specifically constructed to house the museum's unique collection, officials announced two years ago they had outgrown the space.
"We need to increase our space -- and not just exhibit space," Museum Director Dorothy Asher said Friday. "We have no amenity space at all."
In addition, Asher said the building has flooding issues and would need to be brought up to code.
By moving into a two-story office building at 1220 Kensington Road in Oak Brook, the museum will have state-of-the-art facilities for exhibits, educational activities and special events.
"The new location will allow us to explain the exhibits better, to do some new programming and to rotate special exhibits," Asher said.
Still, Asher said it's "bittersweet" to be leaving Elmhurst.
"I'm excited about moving forward with the museum," said Asher, who has worked at the museum in various capacities for 30 years. "I think it's long overdue.
"But by the same token," she said, "I hate to leave this beautiful setting and all the wonderful people, especially the residents of Elmhurst that have shared our love for gems and supported the museum over the years."
Museum officials now will have to coordinate the move of thousands of display pieces, including uncut mineral specimens.
Asher said it's going to be a big undertaking.
"That's why being down for the whole summer is very important," she said. "It's not something you can do quickly. It's something that takes time and care."
Because of the move, fans of lapidary art will have an opportunity to buy select pieces from the museum during a sale scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 21 and June 22. Furniture, cabinets and fixtures from the museum also will be available.
The event will give the public one more chance to view the building at the Elmhurst location.
Once the museum moves, control of the structure will be handed to Elmhurst Park District, which plans to raze the building and likely turn the site into open space.
In the meantime, Steven Ravanesi says he's looking forward to seeing the collection in the Oak Brook location in the fall.
"I'm going to be there the first day it opens," he said.