The Preservation and Conservation Association, in partnership with the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, began the Kids’ Building Fair in 1992 to introduce and interest children (and, in turn, their parents) in the building trades as they relate to historic preservation. Using the National Register-listed Orpheum Theatre as a backdrop, the annual Fair occupies half of the block-long city parking lot in front of the Theatre. The Fair is a ”hands-on” activity where kids of all ages participate in carpentry, painting, plumbing, electrical work, plastering, tiling, brick laying, landscaping, and much more. The Fair is also geared to support the children’s museum by illustrating to the community how children’s educational activites are vital to the health and preservation of our community.
The Kids’ Building Fair is held during Historic Preservation Month, traditionally the third Saturday in May from 11-4. By engaging children in hands-on activities with building tradespeople, we hope to increase their appreciation for the skills that contribute to the preservation of our built environment. In addition, we emphasize the creativity involved in creating a children’s science museum in the Orpheum Theatre. The building, a 1914 Rapp and Rapp design, is itself an architecture exhibit – teaching children that old buildings can be put to new uses, that old buildings can be fun places, and that old buildings don’t have to be torn down. The Kids’ Building Fair educates our local community about a fabulous historic building, about the excitment of the building trades, and how historic preservation, conservation, and education work together for the strength of our community.
The Kids’ Building Fair was a recipient of a 1994 Richard H. Driehaus Preservation Award for Educational Programs from Landmarks Illinois. For further information, visit the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum.