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Arts

Local Author and Historian

Leone

Leone Schmidt is a well-known name in Warrenville. Having served as the City Historian and as the first curator of the Warrenville Historical Museum, Schmidt knows the area and its history quite well. She has written five books and is currently working on her sixth, Warrenville Comes of Age . . . A Historian’s Memoir, which is slated for publication in 2008 — to coincide with the city’s 175th anniversary.

Being named a “Friend of History” by the Illinois State Historical Society in 1991 is only one of many honors that Schmidt has received. The City Council made the decision to name the Warrenville Hall of History after her in 2001, and it is now called the Leone Schmidt Hall of History. In addition, the Illinois Humanities Council has presented her with a Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award.

Ms. Schmidt shares some thoughts about Warrenville and her life as a writer:

Q: What is it that intrigued you about Warrenville so much that you were moved to write about it?

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A: When I moved here — I saw right away from the buildings and especially the old Methodist Church on Second Street that Warrenville had been around quite a while. There was a country-like atmosphere — gravel roads, no sidewalks even on the main road, no apartment buildings, no cookie- cutter houses — all of which together gave me the feeling that Chicago was a long way off.

Q: Do you have a particular routine that you utilize to get into the “mood” to write?

A: I get up very early every morning, six days a week and I start writing or organizing material to get in at least two hours’ work before dressing and eating breakfast. Afterwards if possible I try to write another hour or two.

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Q: Is there creativity involved when writing about history?

A: I don’t see creativity in my work — in my field, I see myself as a reporter, reporting what happened. I do acknowledge that the research I have had to do (very important and very pleasurable) is somewhat like detective work and often requires ingenuity as well as persistence.

Q: Why should other residents consider learning about the history of Warrenville?

A: I would only say to others that learning about your city’s past will certainly increase your interest in your surroundings and help to give you a sense of belonging. And that could lead to a number of rewarding possibilities. The best way to start would be to visit Warrenville’s museum on Second Street.

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Q: Do you have a favorite place in Warrenville, and if so, why is it a favorite?

A: I live near “old Warrenville”—the area Colonel Warren platted as his village — and I often enjoy walking down Fourth Street. It is a quiet, short three blocks which have a concentration of eight 19th-century homes from 1845 on. Even though the road is recently paved, it has “the feel” to me of an old neighborhood.

Not very many places can claim to have their own historian — much less one that is an author as well. Over the years, Leone Schmidt herself has become a part of the fabric of Warrenville’s history, and she has worked hard to preserve it for many generations to come.

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