Founded in 1906, The Kankakee County Museum is the home of the Kankakee County Historical Society, which is Illinois' oldest incorporated local historical society. The Main building boasts of 85,000 artifacts, 20,000 pictures, and contains seven permanent and temporary exhibit galleries, as well as a museum store, archival research library, offices, and support facilities. The campus also is home to the 1855 Dr. A. L. Small House, the 1904 Taylor One-Room Schoolhouse, Column Garden and Outdoor Exhibit Area.
Beginning in 1912, the Kankakee County Historical Society displayed artifacts and documents in its Kankakee High School location, near the Kankakee County Court House. However, In 1935 extensive renovations at Kankakee High School forced the Society to seek new exhibit space. In 1936, exhibit space was donated to the Society in the Kankakee County Court House, which housed the artifacts until 1944 when it was moved back to the High School location.
Finally, in 1945, inroads were made to create a permanent home for the oft-moved museum site when the Illinois State Legislature appropriated funds to create a memorial to Governor Lennington Small. The Small family had donated twenty-five acres of land and the historic Dr. A.L. Small Memorial Home to the Society. The Kankakee County Historical Society’s new museum was dedicated and first opened to the public on October 17, 1948.1
In 1972, The museum doubled in size in 1972. The one-room Taylor School House, built in 1904, was moved to Governor Small Memorial Park in 1976. In 2007, the Museum’s building extension project added new professionally designed support facilities including: climate-controlled collection storage areas, an archival library, and exhibit preparation spaces.2
Today, visitors can see such artifacts as the U.S.S. Kankakee, which operated during WWII, old water wheels indicative of the importance of water power, as well as rivers, to Kankakee, as well as more than 20 sculptures of famous WWI sculptor, George Gray Barnard.3