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Chippewa County has a rich and interesting history, told in the voices of our fur traders and European immigrants, our town builders, and our region’s Ojibwe, Dakota, and Ho-Chunk nations. Please join us in creating the new Chippewa Area History Center — a place to preserve and share our many stories. Click the link below to see three ways you can make a donation.
Exterior architectural rendering
by CBS Squared, Inc. of Chippewa Falls
Interior architectural rendering
by CBS Squared, Inc. of Chippewa Falls
The Chippewa County Historical Society was established in 1969 by an enthusiastic group of volunteers who were committed to ensuring that Chippewa County’s rich and colorful history would not be forgotten. The Chippewa County Genealogical Society was established in 1980 with the mission to gather historical documents and local family histories. Both Societies are 501c3 non-profit organizations. These organizations work together to provide a glimpse of the area’s history and its impact on past and current generations. The current Area History Center houses the two societies, and is located in the former convent of the Notre Dame Catholic Church in Chippewa Falls. From a modest beginning with its first exhibit, the museum has seventeen exhibits on four levels, including the library of the Chippewa County Genealogical Society.
By 2006 the museum was experiencing increased interest and attendance as the collection continued to grow. Seeking solutions to space problems, the History Center volunteers secured a grant from the American Alliance of Museums. The grant identified improvements that would greatly enhance the museum experience and preservation of the collection. It became clear that making recommended changes to the convent, which neither society owns, was not practical. Members began exploring the feasibility of building a larger History Center, designed to maximize space and include 21st Century technology and energy conservation.
In December of 2015, an ideal location for the proposed History Center became available next to Irvine Park’s south entrance. The location also is close to other local tourist attractions such as Leinenkugel’s Brewery, the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, and historic downtown Chippewa Falls. The board of the Historical Society secured donations to purchase the property at 12 Bridgewater Avenue in Chippewa Falls for $80,000.
In January 2016, a Campaign Executive Committee was formed, including members of both groups, to oversee all aspects and phases of the project. An architect was hired to provide a preliminary design, floor plan, elevations, and cost estimates. In tandem with the refinement of the building design, the Campaign Committee is finalizing the projected campaign goal. The Campaign Executive Committee would like to achieve the campaign goal by the fall of 2021.
Priorities for a new Area History Center include:
Greatly improved location and access
Preservation of irreplaceable artifacts and documents
New interactive and multimedia exhibits
Long term and flexible short term gallery space
Space for travelling exhibits
Library for genealogical research
Classroom/auditorium, conference room and gift shop
State of the art climate controlled exhibition and preservation space
Projected construction timeline:
Final design completed by 06/01/2019
Public community campaign begins by 10/2017
Construction begins Fall of 2020 or at 80% of campaign goal
Construction completed by Fall of 2021
Grand Opening: Spring of 2022
ABOUT our member groups
The Chippewa County Historical Society was established in 1969 by an enthusiastic group of volunteers who were committed to ensuring that Chippewa County’s rich and colorful history would not be forgotten. The Genealogical Society was established in 1980 with the mission to gather historical documents and local family histories. These organizations work together to provide a glimpse of the area’s history and its impact on past and current generations.
Building a new history center in Chippewa Falls offers the opportunity to provide new educational programs to tell the story of this area’s impact locally, nationally and internationally. This includes exhibits, seminars, lectures, group discussions and family history research. There will be a combination of long term, short term, traveling, and multimedia exhibits. This variety will keep the history center experience dynamic and interesting for visitors.
Exhibits will tell the historical stories of Chippewa County’s communities, including Bloomer, Boyd, Cadott, Chippewa Falls, Cornell, Jim Falls, Holcombe, Lake Hallie, New Auburn and Stanley.
Planned Themes and Exhibits
The People. The story begins with the Native Americans, then the fur traders, quickly followed by the immigrants from Europe. What each generation brought to the Chippewa area provides many fascinating stories.
Timber. Having one-sixth of the world’s white pine led the area into supplying the growing Midwest with the lumber needed to construct buildings. Our extensive collection of artifacts from the lumbering era and our new mobile lumberjack museum will enable us to tell the story of the impact of lumbering on this area of Wisconsin.
A River. The Chippewa River and the role it played in the Chippewa area provide many stories. They range from carrying logs to the largest saw mill in the world to using large dams and the river’s elevation drop to create electric power and lakes to provide recreation opportunities.
Farming. Agriculture has been an important part of the Chippewa story. Early crops included tobacco, sugarbeets, and vegetables. Each crop had its specialized equipment and processes. Farming was the summer occupation of many lumberjacks during the lumbering era. Agriculture today is still a major part of the area’s economy.
Made in Chippewa. From the lumbering era to the present, many products have been made in the Chippewa Area. All require people, tools, materials, innovation and a market to buy these products. The story of the changes and development over the past century will provide easily altered exhibits.
In addition to the above, other themes will be explored and exhibited.
123 Allen St. / Chippewa Falls / WI / 54729
12 Bridgewater Ave / Chippewa Falls / WI / 54729