Vault home to village's earliest records

Series: Hinsdale 150 | Story 52

Last updated 12/27/2023 at 3:16pm | View PDF

Jim Slonoff

Early minutes of village board meetings, like this specimen, show the personality of the clerks who recorded the proceedings by hand. (Jim Slonoff photo)

Imagine a cross between a room-sized safe deposit box and the corner of a basement. That's "the vault" at Hinsdale Village Hall.

Part storage area for village documents and part holding area for items that need to be thrown away (think village vehicle stickers from 2017), the vault is located inside the administrative wing of the Memorial Building.

Village offices originally were in the center part of the building, where there were three vaults, said Jim Piontkowski, building maintenance supervisor. When the new library addition was built on the west side of the building, village offices moved to the library's old space on the east side. One of the original vaults remains upstairs near the old board room.

"One of the vaults was taken out and put here," Piontkowski said. "What happened to the third one, I don't know."

Actually only the front door of the vault was moved to the current location, and a concrete room was built around it.

The vault serves to protect documents critical to village operations, assistant village manager Andrianna Peterson said.

'It's actually storage for all of our official records of the village, from the beginning to the current day," she said. "We also keep financial records and other important documents regarding village business."

One shelf is lined with bound volumes of village board meeting minutes, handwritten by village clerks. The first page of the first volume begins with the words "The Village of Hinsdale" decorated in such a way as to evoke an illuminated manuscript.

"It's what it looks like, right? I think it's really neat," Peterson said.

The language is equally ornate.

"Best remembered that on the day of (left blank), the citizens of the township of Downers Grove, in the county of DuPage, in the state of Illinois, petitioned the honorable county board of said county, praying that a village organization be granted to the petitioners herein, and that an election be ordered for the requisite offices to make such organization; said village to have corporate powers and so known as the Village of Hinsdale in the township, county and state aforesaid."

Deciphering the minutes is not always easy, between the old-fashioned language and handwritten text.

"Over the years, you can totally see the different clerks - their handwriting, how flowery the language was," Peterson said, noting how critical the position is. "The clerk has an important duty to faithfully keep that historical record for future reference."

The minutes also include lists of bills to be paid, with one sum totaling $123.81. (For reference, bills presented at the December meeting totaled $3.85 million.)

Also stored in the vault are copies of contracts, tax levies and ordinances. Two large boxes contain the initial request from Continental Cablevision for franchising in the village.

"It's like a collector's edition," Peterson quipped.

Some items are a bit of a mystery, such as a box with a note that reads "Disco air fresheners" taped on it. Intriguing, but not accurate, Peterson discovers as she pulls the box off the shelf.

"You're right - there's no air fresheners," she said.

Author Bio

Author photo

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean


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