CHILLICOTHE, Ill. — A new agriculture museum dedicated to the history of local farming represents the next step in the continuing evolution of Three Sisters Park, developed from former farmland at 17189 N. Route 29 south of Chillicothe in Peoria County.
The Burt Hasselberg Ag Museum, located near the park chapel just northwest of the main pavilion, was dedicated with a ceremony honoring the local philanthropist on July 10.
"It’s been Burt’s dream since the start of Three Sisters Park and the dream of the SLG Cohen Foundation to have an ag museum here. Thanks to Burt’s generosity we have the museum today," said Chris Cassidy, supervisor of the SLG Cohen Foundation, which has managed Three Sisters Park since its 1991 inception.
Exhibits in the new museum are scant so far: an antique Avery steam engine manufactured in Peoria, a small buggy and a working model of a self-propelled plow are scattered around the building. But when the structure is completed next spring, museum organizers expect it to be filled with antique farming equipment donated by Hasselberg, Dick Herm, and other area visionaries who shared the knowledge that farming equipment and practices of the past should be embraced and preserved for future generations.
The dedication of the museum represents a great day in the park’s history, said David Miller, SLG Cohen Foundation president, at the museum’s christening, which was attended by Hasselberg, members of his family and close friends.
"Our mission is dedicated to the history of farming. There was no one who has been as supportive or integral to our mission than our good friend Burt Hasselberg," Miller said of the man of honor, whose donations of antique farming equipment helped bring the museum to fruition.
"I want everyone to know that it is persons like Burt that have made all of this possible by the dedication of their time, their interest and energy."
Miller noted when the concept for Three Sisters Park was envisioned, the construction of an agriculture history museum was considered a centerpiece of the living history park’s development. As one of the park’s original advisory board members, Hasselberg’s input was key to development of the park and, eventually, the museum.
"We didn’t know at the time that we’d have a splendid museum in which to house a collection, so that people could look at the marvelous equipment and wonder over the manufacture and fabrication of it, and consider how the times have changed and the equipment and the people who operate it have evolved, and how farming has changed – yet, stayed the same," Miller said.
"Twenty years from now we can visualize Burt’s building as bustling with people who are interested in looking back at the equipment that will be well over 100 years old."
Three Sisters’ events and grounds Supervisor Jack Morgenstern said the Hasselberg Ag Museum is a "labor of love" that started with a phone call, followed with a sketch of Hasselberg’s vision. Staying true to Three Sisters’ and the museum’s concept of honoring local culture, park officials were diligent in hiring local contractors who bid on the museum’s development. For instance, J&J Manufacturing of Chillicothe is responsible for the museum’s signage, Morgenstern noted.
The museum is far from complete. In coming months, a museum committee will announce fundraising endeavors to raise money to complete lighting and wiring work. Other features, such as glass display cases, were provided by the Illinois Assoc. of Museums.
"Hopefully, a year from now we will be open. Our goal is to open April 30, 2015, during our spring planting and have the whole park open. By then, the museum should be furnished with most of the collectables Bert helped secure," said Morgenstern.
"Thank you to the contractors, the volunteers and those that have helped make this possible."
When completed, the museum will house two steam engines, threshing machines, farm implements, tools and utensils. The former farmland comprising Three Sisters Park was donated by three Chillicothe sisters who never married or had children. The sisters also willed a sizable amount of money for continuing property management and development of the park, which is home to a number of special events throughout the year.
To learn more about Three Sisters Park, visit www.threesisterspark.com