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Friday, June 7, 2013

Aurora: David L. Pierce Art & History Center

Summer has officially begun, which means we are already planning our free days with help from our summer handbook: the Passport to Adventure. Since so many of its suggestions are local history museums and so many of our towns owe much of their early success to the railroad industry, I can sneak in some summer learning while my train fan thinks we're just looking for more train stuff.

Roundhouse model 
Aurora's David L. Pierce Art & History Center second floor exhibit provides a walk through the city's history, including the role of railroads in the community's development. My kids' favorites included the model of the Roundhouse, a real handcar and an engine's bell. There are also numerous pictures of trains that once traveled through town. For my toddler, it's enough to see the choo-choo on the wall. My older guy knows enough train history at this point that he can now tell me more about the steam engines, Zephyrs, etc. than I can explain to him.

Since we are in the middle of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie, seeing artifacts from the pioneer era interested my kids, too, and they asked about several other older items, like clothes, stoves and phones: "Did Laura and Mary have this in their house?" Often the answer was no, but we talked about who could have used it, both famous and in our own family.

Since I was so happy the museum prompted my kids to ask questions about history, I was willing to be talked into buying a few items in the gift shop. The staff there was very nice and helpful about pointing out things in the museum and the shop that would interest the children.

And for the drive home, simply taking Illinois 25 past the Roundhouse restaurant, Metra station and along the tracks made for happy travelers.


The David L. Pierce Art & History Center is at 20 E. Downer Place, Aurora. 

Quiz your kids on local train history
or stand back as they tell you what they already know.  

Small hands can't resist ringing this old bell. 

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