With more than 700 historical snap shots in his dossier, Thomas Milschewski has amassed quite the collection of special moments in time since he began his mission to preserve them.
The lifetime Yorkville resident, and creator of the Yorkville Then and Now Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/yorkvillehistory/ Milschewski uses his accumulated historical photos to paint a picture of what life was like for Yorkville residents 100 years ago, compared to present day.
Milschewski takes the historic photos and seeks out their exact location throughout the city. Then, he superimposes the old photos over sections of current photos to provide contrast.
The photos, along with the stories Milschewski tells about them, have since reached an audience of tens of thousands.
“I think people like it because they can relate to it,” he said. “When I post a photo, they can really see how much has changed.”
And, it’s not just Yorkville residents who are enjoying Milschewski’s nostalgic endeavor. His page has more than 5,000 active followers from many cities, villages and towns in the area.
In April, with still a modest following, Milschewski’s mission caught the eye of WGN producers who did a segment on the Yorkville Then and Now journey.
“I received so many messages and so much love,” he said of the news spot. He was shocked by how well his pictures were capturing the attention of the public, just as they caught his own attention years ago when he began collecting them.
Milschewski lives in an old house on Heustis Street in Yorkville. The home, built in 1849, is rich with history.
“I really just wanted to find old photos of my house,” he said. “That led me to finding pictures of other houses on the street, and I just wanted to continue to learn more.”
Realizing that, in addition to houses on his street, he also had a gold mine of photos featuring popular and once popular downtown buildings, Milschewski expanded his endeavor to find out everything he could about those snapshots as well.
“I’m always asking for photos from people, and I always get people who are willing to give them,” he said. When Milschewski arrives to scan the old prints, he comes armed with pen and paper to jot down any stories the owners might have about the captured memory. He hopes to compile the pictures and stories into a book someday.
“It’s not me writing the book, it’s everyone I talk to who is writing it,” he said of his labor of love.
Through his research, Milschewski learned that his old home used to be a funeral parlor, and that many of the homes on his street are apparently haunted. He’s also found out how just how much his city has grown over time.
“A lot of people don’t take the time to look (at how the area has changed),” Milschewski said. “It’s cool to hear and see the old stories, but it’s also upsetting because it will never be like that again.”
— Fans of Yorkville Then and Now Facebook page become local historians . —-