Men portraying Civil War soldiers putting on a bayonet demonstration in front of the Home for Soldiers Widows at the corner of First Avenue and Lake Street last Saturday. | Below: Gerry Bliss, who portrays Capt. Lindsey Carr, shows the crowd a piece of historical ammunition.| Michael Romain/VFP
Those multiple booms that some residents of Maywood may have heard last Saturday afternoon were the sounds of blanks fired from the muskets of soldiers in Company H of the 10th Illinois Regiment.
A group of reenactors conducted what’s called a Civil War living history at the corner of First Avenue and Lake Street on May 14. The demonstration, replete with pitched tents, a smoldering fire, decorated soldiers and an army hospital, took place in the shadow of the old Home for Soldiers Widows.
The Georgian Revival building was constructed long after the Civil War in 1924 by prominent local architect Francis E. Dunlap, but it nonetheless exuded the spirit of America’s wartime past.
Gerry Bliss, who narrated the demonstration, portrayed Lindsey Carr, the company’s first captain who never lived to see the war’s end.
“He was lighting up in the evening and Confederate sniper got him,” Bliss explained. “The sniper saw the glow of his match and honed in on that.”
For Tom Kus, a former Marine himself and chairman of the Maywood Historical Preservation Commission — the entity that, along with the Friends of the Home for Soldiers Widows, hosted the weekend demonstration — the event was a way to pitch the future while celebrating the past.
Kus said the Commission wants to see the historical Home, which has been derelict since a 2003 fire, renovated and put back to use. In 2012, the building, located at 224 N. First Ave., was listed by Landmarks Illinois as one of the state’s 10 most endangered historical places.
Last year, the village approved allocating nearly $70,000 from the now-expired St. Charles Road TIF fund to repair the 92-year-old building’s porch. Kus said he’s hoping that the improvements can help market the property’s potential to prospective developers.
“We nominated it to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” said Kus. “We’re trying to get this revitalized. It’s a magnificent structure and there aren’t many like this anymore. Let’s take our assets and try to revitalizes the community. There are even tax incentives to help fix this up.” VFP
Below: Maywood residents Gordon Hanson and Dr. Mary “May” Larry with Civil War actors.